Suggested Activities for Working With Students and Adults
National School Psychology Week (NSPW) is a fun, easy way to highlight the important work school psychologists and other educators do to help all students thrive.
Suggested Activities for Working With Students and Adults
The NASP annual National School Psychology Week is November 9–13, 2020. The theme for our 2020 National School Psychology Week is The Power of Possibility. With knowledge and competencies in the areas of mental, behavioral, and academic health, school psychologists are advocates for protecting, providing and growing factors for student well-being in order to safeguard the power of possibility that each individual holds within them.
When we think of, hope for, and work towards what we would like to achieve and accomplish on behalf of our students and our stakeholders, we begin by imagining the power of possibilities. Our goal is to highlight how envisioning what is possible can provide meaning and power for moving us toward our ultimate goals of helping our students and even ourselves imagine, set and achieve goals. We can encourage our students as well as key adults to imagine what is possible for defining their values and goals by using resources to build the academic, behavioral and social-emotional skills they need to promote personal achievement, growth, and resilience, as well as a sense of belonging and wellbeing. The power of what is possible can help us remain dedicated to pursuing best practices and best outcomes for all students and to lead activities and discussions to help children and adults create personal road maps from where they are now to where they dream of being in the future. Resources and messaging can be adapted to students and adults, different age groups, and multiple contexts.
Suggested Activities for All Ages
Build social skills. The poster provides some initial ideas for prosocial behaviors that can help students envision the power of possibilities to develop and maintain deep friendships. Discuss the ideas on the poster and consider why they might be good suggestions for the students in your group. Help them brainstorm other activities that will help them build self-confidence and connect with others in order to overcome barriers and understand what’s possible. Have them role-play specific behaviors with you or other members of the group and discuss when would be ideal times to try to engage in these behaviors. Consider sending each student with a homework assignment to try one new or challenging behavior from the list and report back at your next meeting.
Connect with school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports. Consider your school rules and how these behaviors support them. Help students see how engaging in these behaviors will help them meet personal or classroom goals. Encourage teachers to provide intermittent positive reinforcement in the form of verbal comments, thumbs up, or even school-wide tokens (e.g., key, leveling lock, etc.) for engaging in these types of behaviors. Include the words and explanations in the school's morning announcement. Consider using the poster as a kick-off to a year-long focus on positive social behaviors. For example, create a bulletin board that changes weekly or monthly to highlight different behaviors and other aspects of positive school psychology.
Create personal progress steps. Work with the art teacher or individually with students to have them create personal posters depicting how they can activate the power of possibility. These may feature the action words on the poster, a key theme or the steps that they have taken to discover and explore new possibilities.
Perspective taking. Engage students in a discussion or activity about what it would feel like to be on the giving and receiving end of the activities. Use role-playing to help them understand another's perspective. Highlight the potential for empathy and gratitude to create broader understanding, acceptance, collaboration, thankfulness and well being in school.
The Three Good Things Writing Exercise. Teach students about the power of focusing on the positive. Instruct the students to write down three good things that happened each day for a week. The three things students list can be relatively small in importance (‘I answered a really hard question in Language Arts today’) or relatively large in importance (‘The guy I’ve liked for months, asked me out!!!’). Next to each positive event listed, they write a reflection on one of the following questions: ‘Why did this good thing happen?’, ‘What does this mean to you?’, ‘How can you increase the likelihood of having more of this good thing in the future?’ Reference: "Positive Education: Positive Psychology And Classroom Interventions". sas.upenn.edu. N.p., 2017. Web. 5 May 2017.
Individual goal setting. The poster includes behaviors that will help any student or adult discover and explore what’s possible. Help students consider specific possibilities, hopes, goals or behaviors that can inspire them with the power of what is possible, thereby, effecting positive change in their life and the lives of others. If you are using the interactive poster option, you can cut out the words on the cards to let them carry them with them as a reminder and positive coping card.
Build self esteem and confidence. Lead a discussion about what perseverance sustained by hope means. With students' help, list the steps needed to learn a new skill such as riding a bicycle, learning to swim, or memorizing the multiplication table. Have them write these steps perhaps in a game (reference NASP poster and the key words of possibilities) and discuss how they connect to success. Have students write or draw a picture illustrating a time when they persevered and succeeded even though they felt like giving up. Ask them to identify the hope and power of what they believed was possible that got them to persist. Then, discuss the feelings associated with their achievement such as pride, happiness, self-confidence, and self-esteem. These types of lessons can positively impact the classroom environment.
Give out The Power of Possibility bookmarks. This bookmark reflects the School Psychology Week theme as well as key reminders of how students can remember the power of what’s possible for them. A thematic word can direct us into taking steps toward positive change in their lives and the lives of others. These bookmarks are an excellent giveaway for families/guardians attending Back-to-School nights or conferences if hosting those in person. They are also excellent data collection tools for students. Have them tally on an attached paper how many behaviors they engage in during the course of a week. You can order bookmarks for a small cost through the NASP website.
Link to the Gratitude Works program. Identify one of the actions that embody gratitude and select one of the Gratitude Works activities to do.
Start the day in a positive light. During morning class meetings, the teacher can pick some possibilities that can help students set goals or lead discussions to help children create the connections necessary for skill building. Further, teachers can pick one item that represents a positive social interaction. That would be the theme of the morning meeting. As they share, each student takes a turn to do or say something that reflects the general idea.
Classroom lesson. Work with teachers to design a writing, social studies, or health lesson on small acts of positive behavior that can have a larger impact on peers, adults, and students themselves. Have students pick different suggestions from the list or develop one of their own to relate how even small behaviors, particularly interpersonal ones, can leave a lasting impression on others and change the course of your day and that of others. Some suggestions could be, Have students write about the password or thematic word or behavior and why it is important to them or to others. Talk about how kind acts "ripple" and change how everyone is feeling and acting. Work with speech pathologists to include the words in vocabulary and concept formation lessons.
Hold a scavenger hunt. Have students work as a class-wide team to each find someone throughout the day who is demonstrating one of the concepts or behaviors from the poster. See if together the class can identify all of the concepts. Or have students select five concepts to find that day and see if each student can find people demonstrating these concepts. Provide an opportunity to share at the end of the day.
Create problem-solving connections. Help students create leadership groups that focus on areas they are interested in. Topics could include issues portrayed on in the media or on the news (civil unrest, crime, violence, social justice, politics, racism, sexuality, bullying, etc...) Work with students on developing strategies for expression of their thoughts and ideas. Areas to consider: working with others with opposing views, strengthening their public speaking skills, and attendance to events, community social or civil events. These groups can also be used to teach problem solving and conflict resolution skills.
Empower your students. Consider nominating students for the NASP Student Power Award. This award was created to honor students who support others and recognize students for progress toward personal goals, optimism, problem solving, eagerness, resiliency and dedication. This would be a great way to honor students at an awards ceremony that parents can attend.
Bulletin Board Activities
Make it interactive. Print the Power of Possibility template (from NASP website) for students to write down a key word or phrase to help direct them towards what is possible for them to contribute to the classroom or school community. Pin/tape the template on the wall to create a display of ideas for contributing to a positive school community. Have students discuss how all of the positive behaviors and actions help them to reach toward the power of possibilities within themselves. You can also create template images with words on them and put them in an envelope taped to the wall next to the poster along with a large poster board or sheet of paper. Students can pick an action they have taken that week or one that they have seen someone else do and tape it to the blank sheet.
Catch them being good. Praise and positive attention can go a long way in boosting students' positive behavior and can greatly impact school climate. Positive emotions and the sense of success can buffer kids against negative reactions to adversity. This can help children embrace the power of possibilities to grow and thrive. Work with students and staff to identify and reinforce positive behaviors when they are exhibited throughout the school. Write the positive act or behavior on a NSPW image template found online and post on the wall so that students can see the power of possibilities and how to work toward what is possible for them by making positive choices and noticing the progress created by the good things they do. This can be part of a larger school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports program or specific to individual classrooms.
Suggested Activities for Working With H.S. Students
Standing Between the Sunshine of Past Success and the Shadow of What is Yet Possible. This activity is used to review and reflect on personal and group accomplishments. Individually, participants are asked to consider their roles in their groups’ success. One by one, participants are asked to physically “stand in the shadow” (the place in the room) where they felt they contributed most in moving the group forward. For example, someone who helped facilitate a large group discussion might go stand by the board. Participants are invited to say 1 or 2 sentences about their contribution. Following, students are asked to brainstorm what more is possible in the coming weeks and months.
Index Cards. Participants are given two cards with the NSPW image on them (can use the downloadable cards available on the NASP website as alternative). On one card they are asked to write one thing they’ve learned, changed or tried that helped them move toward a new possibility. On the other card they are asked to write one question they (still) have. After writing the question, they should add one person they could ask to brainstorm answers, one thing they could try to answer the question, or one small step toward gaining understanding and power over this lingering question.
Share Videos. Brief videos and podcasts relating to the NSPW theme are posted on the NASP website. These can be viewed with your students in order to foster conversations about personal possibilities and how these hopes and goals can help us grow and thrive. Lead discussions to help children imagine the possibilities that exist for contributing to their growth, learning and well-being. Discussions should include a thematic NSPW word, such as create, listen, learn, be kind, grow, learn, practice, encourage, help, speak up, explore, dream or try. Link viewing these videos with discussion and activity generation. Brainstorm with your students on a range of activities that can be utilized around the theme, The Power of Possibility! activities may be considered for individual work as well as group work or whole school initiatives
If You Really Knew Me… Power of Possibility Group Activity.
Before You Start: Demonstrate what one round will look like
Lead a discussion about attentive listening before beginning the activity. Help students define what “attentive listening” means and what it looks like. It is fully hearing what the other person is saying without interrupting and not thinking about your own thing or how you want to respond while being spoken to. It includes facing the person who is speaking, making eye contact, nodding or other physical responses to what is being said, etc.
Make sure students know if they are A or B.
Set Up: A space for everyone to stand in pairs.
How to Play:
Group student in groups of two and decide who student A is and who is student B.
Student A silently listens to student B for one minute (or shorter for younger groups).
Student B finishes off the sentence, “If you really knew me, you would know that…” What is being shared about themselves can range from
Family information- “If you really knew me you would know that I am the youngest of 4 siblings.”
School information -“If you really knew me you would know that my favorite topic in school is Art.”
Favorite/ least favorite things- “If you really knew me you would know that I hate broccoli.”
Anything else they want to share about themselves.
Student B repeats this sentence over and over again completing it with a new piece of information each time. After a minute the roles are reversed and student B listens while student A shares.
Adults Matter, Too
Recognize colleagues. School psychologists are natural collaborators who work closely with many caring adults to help children achieve what is possible. The “Possibilities in Action” Partner program is a great way to recognize colleagues, either through their own efforts or by encouraging the efforts of others, make an exceptional difference in the lives of students and families by supporting the possibilities within each student. This could be a teacher, administrator, coach, community provider, parent mentor, or any other individual who stands out in your mind as going above and beyond the call of duty to help students achieve their best. Recognize and honor others with the Possibilities in Action Partner Program. The program description, suggested selection guidelines, press release, and Possibilities in Action Partner certificates are available online.
Express gratitude. School administrators, teachers, and other school professionals can promote gratitude in students by modeling it. For example, schools could have periodic gratitude days, during which staff members announce what they are grateful for and ask students to do the same. In particular, it is beneficial for staff members to focus their thoughts and feelings of gratitude to specific people or students in the school and to directly express their gratitude in person. Use the downloadable and adaptable Gratitude Works note card to send gratitude letters.
Treat yourself and others. Write down on downloadable template (available at NASP online) a key thematic word you notice colleagues exhibiting which have had a positive impact on each other and/or students. Tape to it a small candy bar, tea bag or other treat and put them in staff mailboxes, on their desks, or in a basket in the staff lounge. Be sure to keep one for yourself!
Recharge the Power of Possibility. Recharge yourself by allocating a few minutes this week to do something that you enjoy or find relaxing. This will help to relieve stress, build resilience and enhance optimism. Encourage those adults around you to recharge and unlock your potential as well.
Guide leadership. Identify parents and/or guardians who demonstrate an interest in leading a group or organizing family friendly events. Assist them in organizing meetings for the families and community leaders to attend. Events can vary from cultural nights, homework help/tutors, award ceremonies, book clubs, fundraisers etc.
Involve your community. Work with school leaders to identify community agencies that work to create positive school climates. Many agencies are often looking for ways to get involved with schools and reach families. Consider contacting foodbanks, law enforcement agencies, recreation centers, and religious organizations. These organizations often work with families prior to enrolling in school so creation of ongoing partnerships can create a connected and positive environment where all stakeholders are working towards one goal.
Embrace culture. Encourage your school to embrace and honor the variety of cultures that exist in your building. Work with school leaders to infuse cultural lessons throughout the school year. Get your families involved. Reach out and ask about ways they would be interested in sharing the variety of cultural experiences that exist amongst the school community. Create "Show and Tell" opportunities within the classroom that will allow students to highlight strengths or areas of interest and aspects of their culture.
Engage families. Offer families/guardians increased opportunities to access the school building. Offer homework information sessions, positive parenting classes, trainings on alternatives in discipline, computer training courses, accounting courses, award ceremonies for parents etc. These events allow for the school environment to become a welcoming and warm environment that not only offers educational support to its students but also to parents and guardians as well.
Create critical connections. Identify at-risk students and assign a staff member or older student (mentor) to check in with them at the beginning of each day, and again before school ends. This system will be beneficial for the student who is being checked on, but the older student, as well. Ensuring our at-risk students are being supported is a great way to ensure all students are connected to support.
Connect through social networking. Participate in social media campaign through NASP with #SPAW2020. Engage on social media to share your SPAW ideas, highlight creative activities as well as connect with colleagues celebrating SPAW in a variety of ways. Read inspiring posts for additional unique activity ideas. Further, you can stay connected to your colleagues and see what is happening around the country by visiting the NASP website for daily recaps posted throughout SPAW.
Share Your Ideas
A number of these ideas come from school psychologists who created their own activities. We want to let your fellow school psychologists know about your creative ideas so that they can leverage the Power of Possibility, too. Let us know what you did using the NSPW feedback survey.