Math = Love: Good Things is a Great Thing!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Good Things is a Great Thing!

Teenagers will never cease to surprise me!  Just when I think I finally have them figured out, they shock me by hating something I was sure they would love and loving something I was sure they would hate.  

For example, last Thursday was International Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Every day, I post whatever holiday it is on my dry erase board below the date.  I get my holidays from this site

Pirate Day Bellwork for Algebra 1

So, on International Talk Like A Pirate Day, my students entered the classroom to find pirate-themed bellwork.  Were they impressed?  No.  Could they care less?  No.  Did anyone try to talk like a pirate?  No.  My third hour has the tendency to be a little unruly, so I was able to quiet them down rather quickly by exclaiming, "Avast!"  Of course, they told me the only reason they stopped and listened to me was because I sounded ridiculous.  Whatever it takes...

In late August, my district brought in an elementary school principal from another school district to talk to the entire district on classroom management and building classroom culture.  I was skeptical about the training because the same presentation was being given to all the faculty from pre-K through 12 at the same time.  After introducing herself, the presenter put up a slide that read, "Good Things."  It was subtitled, "Personal or Professional."  The presenter modeled how Good Things works by (briefly) sharing something good that had happened in her life recently.  Then, she asked for a few volunteers from the audience to share a good thing that had happened to them.  Some of the things shared were funny.  Others were serious.  Some were school-related.  Others were personal.  I instantly fell in love with this activity.      

Good Things
I know I've read about this classroom routine somewhere before, but I had never tried it.  I feared it would take too much time, but the good thing about Good Things is that you decide how many students share.  If you only have three minutes for this activity, you only let three students share before moving on.

I'm going to be honest.  The first time I tried this out in my classroom, it was kinda awkward.  I modeled how to share a Good Thing.  And, there was dead silence.  On top of that, my principal was in my classroom observing.  Now that we've been doing this every Monday for almost a month, the students know exactly what to do when I put up the Smart Board slide that says "Good Things."  Hands are raised, clamoring to be the first one to share their good thing.  I'm learning things about my students that I would have otherwise never learned.  Students who won't speak up in class will raise their hand to share a good thing that is going on in their life.  Students get to see a different side of their classmates, and it's exciting to see them realize that they have shared interests with others.

I'll put it this way.  My students LOVE Good Things.  One class loves it so much that they've decided that Wednesday should be dubbed, "Bad Things Day."  They told me that sometimes they just need an opportunity to vent.  I'm just not so sure about whether that is a great idea or not.  I'm thinking it's not a good idea.  The goal of Good Things is to build a climate of positivity, caring, and sharing.  And, hopefully, students will realize that I care and will know that they can come and talk to me about anything.  

I've decided that Mondays are the perfect day for this activity.  First of all, it's easy to be negative on a Monday because most everyone wishes it was still the weekend.  And, most of my students get their inspiration for Good Things from their weekend activities.  Not only am I getting to know my students better, but my students are getting to know me better.  Last week, I asked for Good Things for the first time without first sharing my own good thing.  My weekend had been less than exciting, and I just really couldn't think of anything noteworthy to share.  After the students were done sharing, one table of students was quick to point out that I hadn't shared anything, and they wanted to know how my weekend was.  It was a nice feeling to know that my students cared enough to want to hear about my weekend.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though.  This is the same group of students who took it upon themselves to write me an online dating profile description...    


  1. I think you could leverage their desire for "Bad Things." They could earn a "Bad Things" Friday for unanimous homework completion, or for successful group work. You could limit it to 5 minutes, but extend it to 10 if it's working well. I think it would likely be entertaining, and groups can really bond over sharing painful experiences as well as positive ones, and it seems like this is an opportunity to give them a carrot. Having said that, you likely know your kids well enough to know whether this might be a bad idea.

    1. I went to a workshop the other day that talked about letting kids earn rewards for the entire class. I think I might throw "Bad Things" in as something they could earn. This would make it more special/novel. And, I think it would help keep "Good Things" more upbeat!

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. In my classroom, I have a lot of students (30-34), so it gets loud and crazy very quickly and it is VERY challenging to get to know each child, especially the quiet ones. I had not heard about Good Things, but my children have like playing High/Low at home since they were little and still do it. I decided to use that concept. Every Friday on their bell work, I may give a math question or not, but I also ask "what is the best thing that happened this week" and "what is the worst thing that happened this week." When I read them, I may write a reply or short comment, or just draw an emoticon, but I find that it is really helping me to learn more about their lives and keep perspective on what goes on in their lives. Perhaps something similar could give your students a place to vent but allow it to not drag down the whole class.

    1. Oooh! I've never heard of High/Low before, but I like it!

  3. I use to do highs and lows with my algebra 1 kids and they really loved it. The lows were just as important to them because sometimes they just needed to know people knew what they were going through. I tried in another year with just good things and it wasn't the same for them. I'm glad the process works for you, and it says a lot about your skill that the kids want to open up in your class.

    1. I like the idea of highs and lows! I think I'm going to try this next year!