Free Lesson Plan/Half-Full or Half-Empty?

The Psycho-Educational Teacher

Content Area: Feelings and Emotions/Social-Emotional Literacy Grade Level: 3+ Objective: To discriminate between a positive and a negative thought Group Size: Adapt for pairs or cooperative groups Time: 40-45 minutes Materials: A transparent container filled with water up to the middle, a copy of sheet Situations List for each pair or cooperative group (attached), pencils or pens for each child or for sharing. Optional: chart paper and markers Social-Emotional Vocabulary: positive thought, negative thought, optimistic thought, pessimistic thought, self-defeating thought, self-doubts, effort, strategic effort Background Information: The difference between optimistic thinking and pessimistic thinking does not lie in having children use positive phrases or see images of success. Although that may help, optimistic thinking is rooted in the belief that the causes for bad outcomes are both temporary (will change) and specific to a single event or situation. When a negative event or a setback happens to the child (e.g., a low grade on the spelling quiz), thinking and talking optimistically (e.g., “This is just a temporary setback. I can work harder and get a better score on the next quiz”) help the child renew his/her effort either to change or to improve the outcome. Optimistic children are effort-oriented children that believe that with strategic effort (using strategies and a plan) they can improve negative outcomes. Pessimistic children, on the other hand, believe that the negative outcome is their fault, and that there is little that they can do to change a bad outcome. Because they blame themselves, pessimistic children tend to do little to improve the situation, and sometimes, they do not even try. Negative thinking (e.g.,

“I’m so dumb! I will never get this right!”) makes children feel self-doubts about their ability to cope effectively with bad events or to solve social problems. Procedure/Steps: 1. Show students the container with water and ask for a show of hands of how many children believe the container is “half-full.” Total the number on the chalkboard. Then, ask how many children believe the container is “half-empty.” Write the second total next to the first number. Next, ask which group “got it right,” the “half-full” group or the “half-empty” group. Use the background information to discuss with the class the fact that, even though they all saw the same container with the same amount of liquid in it, they perceived (saw) and interpreted the same information (fact) differently. Help children conclude that it is not a matter of being right or wrong; it is just a matter of how they perceive, interpret, and evaluate the information. It happens to all of us at one time or another; this is normal behavior. Sometimes, we see things half-full or more optimistically, but on different occasions, we see things half-empty or more pessimistically. It is important that children develop the habit of checking and keeping in balance the way they perceive and interpret the things that happen to them, so that they do not become all gloomy and pessimistic about their chances of succeeding. 2. Elicit from children examples of situations when they had either an optimistic or a pessimistic thought. List some examples on chalkboard or chart paper. 3. Divide the students into partners or cooperative groups. Give one Situations List to each pair/cooperative group, and have students work together to identify each response as a negative or a positive thought. 4. Bring the class together and discuss children’s answers. 5. Have different children summarize the activity, including what they have learned. Help children conclude that they remain optimistic and more positive when they believe that they can do something to change the outcome or to solve the problem. Help children change a self-defeating thought like, “I give up! I will never get fractions right!” into a

positive thought (e.g., “Giving up now will only make things worse. One-step at a time will take me there. Okay, how can I fix my mistake?”). Evaluation: You can evaluate the lesson using an 80% proficiency level for each group/partners, but it is more important that the class reaches consensus on the right answers, and that all children cooperate and share ideas within their groups. Answer Key: 1a. Positive, 1b. Negative 2a. Negative, 2b. Positive 3a. Negative, 3b. Positive 4a. Positive, 4b. Negative 5a. Negative, 5b. Positive 6a. Positive, 6b. Negative 7a. Positive, 7b. Negative 8a. Negative, 8b. Positive 9a. Positive, 9b. Negative 10a. Negative, 10b. Positive

Situations List 1. One of your classmates calls you “stupid jerk” in the lunchroom. You think: a. No big deal. I don’t like it, but it is just his opinion. (Negative, Positive) b. I’m such a loser! Everybody hates me. (Negative, Positive) 2. You make four mistakes on your fractions worksheet. You think: a. I give up! I will never get fractions right! (Negative, Positive) b. One mistake less than last time! I’m on a roll! (Negative, Positive) 3. Emilio, your best friend, says that he doesn’t want to play with you. You think: a. I’m so clumsy that not even Emilio wants to play with me. (Negative, Positive) b. Oh well, let me find something else to do. (Negative, Positive) 4. In the basketball court, you slip and lose the ball. Everybody boos. You think: a. Stay calm! I need to keep my concentration. (Negative, Positive) b. What an embarrassment! Now everybody will blame me for losing. (Negative, Positive) 5. Your dog, Spots, has been missing for two hours. You think: a. Spots must be feeling so lonely and scared out there. What if a car hit him? Will I ever find him? It is my fault that he is lost. (Negative, Positive)

b. Spots must be feeling so lonely and scared out there. He’s counting on me to find him, so I am going to keep searching until he is home safe. (Negative, Positive) 6. Your nerdy cousin is coming from New Jersey to spend the weekend with you. You think: a. My friends are going to be impressed when they see how fast my cousin fixes things. (Negative, Positive) b. Where can I hide? My friends are going to tease me forever! (Negative, Positive) 7. It is summertime, and your grandparents are taking you to Disney World. You think: a. I didn’t know my grandparents were fun people, but if they can have fun, so can I. (Negative, Positive) b. My grandparents are so old-fashioned. I’m going to be miserable with them. (Negative, Positive) 8. You get a C- on the science test. You think: a. I got a C- on this test because I’m stupid. (Negative, Positive) b. I got a C- on this test because I didn’t study hard enough. (Negative, Positive) 9. Your teacher finished the lesson and you still feel confused. You think: a. I did not pay attention when my teacher was talking. (Negative, Positive) b. What a moron! Only a moron won’t get this. (Negative, Positive) 10. You can’t find your jacket, and the school bus is already waiting for you. You think:

a. Where are you, stupid jacket? Because of me, everybody is going to be late. Everybody is going to be so mad. (Negative, Positive) b. Chill out; there is still time left. Be cool and think; I will find my jacket if I stay calm. Where was the last place I saw my jacket? (Negative, Positive)

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