By Patrice Palmer
60 Positive Activities for Every Classroom by Teresa X. Nguyen and Nathaniel Cayanan is a fun-filled resource with activities that can easily be used as fillers, enders or energizers.
I wanted to review this book because I’m a huge fan and student of positive psychology. Although the book does not explicitly mention the science of this fastest growing form of psychology, the activities are designed to engage students in meaningful experiences individually and with others.
The Importance of Positive Emotions
Positive emotions, like awe, surprise, pride, hope, inspiration, love, joy, and gratitude promote new and creative actions, ideas, and strengthen social bonds. When students experience positive emotions, their minds broaden and they open up to new possibilities and ideas. (Frederickson, 2009). There is fascinating research on laughter too so the activities in the book that elicit laughter induce warm fuzzy feelings in our students as well as other health benefits (Stambor, 2006).
If you still need to be convinced that positive emotions are a good thing for your students, here are more benefits: they help students to envision goals, take on new challenges, open their minds to problem-solving, foster resiliency, create attachments to others, lay the groundwork for individual self-regulation and guide the behaviour of group behaviour (Pekrun, Goetz, Titz, Perry, 2002). In addition, many schools are implementing SEL (social and emotional learning) curriculum as it is an important factor in helping students develop crucial life skills beyond academic skills (Mulvahill, 2016). The activities in the book nicely supports SEL.
Let’s get back to the book!
Some of my favourite activities in the book are:
#17 Happy Message in the Sky
#46 A Letter to Someone – an activity where students express gratitude (see Grant, 2010). Extension activities could include reading the letter in person (significantly increases positive emotions for both parties) and designing a gratitude wall.
#45 Design a T-shirt for each day of the week (I liked the creative aspect of activity)
#47 An Act of Kindness (have students perform acts of kindness all year)
#51 A Goal I Accomplished (accomplishing goals gives students a great sense of achievement. Share successes – big and small!
There are many more creative ideas in this book (with both written and oral applications) that students will love.
Nguyen says at the beginning of the book “creation can be its own reward” so teachers may wish to think about how to bring the activities off the page.
This must-have book that can be adapted to different levels and ages and is absolutely loaded with new ways to engage students in activities that increase positive emotions. At first glance, the activities may seem like they lack substance but don’t underestimate the power and value of these 60 positive activities.
The book can be purchased at
https://www.alphabetpublishingbooks.com/book/60-positive-activities-for-every-classroom/ where you can also download some free samples of some of the activities.
If you teach young learners, there is a perfect edition for young learners https://www.alphabetpublishingbooks.com/book/60-positive-activities-for-kids/
Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive. New York, NY, US: Crown Publishers/Random House. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2009-03516-000
Grant, A. (2010). A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude Expressions Motivate Prosocial Behavior,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol. 98, No. 6
Mulvahill, E. (2016). 21 Simple Ways to Integrate Social-Emotional Learning Throughout the Day. https://www.weareteachers.com/21-simple-ways-to-integrate-social-emotional-learning-throughout-the-day/
Pekrun, R., Goetz, T., Titz, W. & Perry, R. (2002). Positive Emotions in Education. Beyond coping: Meeting goals, visions, and challenges / ed. by Erica Frydenberg (Ed.). Oxford : Oxford University Press
Stambor, Z. (2006). How laughing leads to learning. Research suggests that humor produces psychological and physiological benefits that help students learn Monitor Staff. Monitor Staff. Vol 37, No. 7 https://www.apa.org/monitor/jun06/learning