We continue to look at practical activities that can be used to help young people explore the idea of ’emotional resourcefulness’, that is, the capacity for self-knowledge and understanding – and the ability to make the best use of that understandingpdf-2622660

Positive Pyramid.pdfpdf-2622660 Confidence Wheel.pdfpdf-2622660 Gift cards.pdf

This e-bulletin continues our focus on developing ‘self-managers’ – one of the six areas of the QCDA’s Personal, Learning and Thinking Skills framework.

We continue to look at practical activities that can be used to help young people explore the idea of ’emotional resourcefulness’, that is, the capacity for self-knowledge and understanding – and the ability to make the best use of that understanding.

The activities shared below focus on another key element of emotional resourcefulness, namely, building a positive self-concept by learning to recognise your abilities, qualities and potential.

Positive Pyramid
When our confidence and self-esteem are low, we tend to remember selectively – our thinking gravitates towards the negative things that have happened to us: disappointments, rejections, slights, perceived failures. When these recollections are allowed to accumulate unchallenged, they can trigger a habit of ‘catastrophic thinking’, where we automatically fear the worst case scenario and replay it in our heads again and again, suffering all the consequent bad feelings, loss of confidence and negative self-concept. The Positive Pyramid activity helps to prevent this gradual slide and redresses the balance of our thinking. Download a pyramid template here.

Activity tips

  • Go through the levels of the pyramid with your students, perhaps using yourself as an example to illustrate what they might record. Reassure them that writing down successes is not ‘showing off’ or bragging.
  • Emphasise that the pyramid is not about other people’s opinions, but what you think about yourself. Explain that thinking honestly and positively about our qualities and achievements can help us feel positive about ourselves, build confidence and allow us to achieve even more in the future.
  • Once the group is busy with this reflection tool, look out for individuals whose feelings of self-worth are low. Help them to recall past achievements and successes, and perhaps offer your opinion about qualities you have noticed in them.
  • The Positive Pyramids can be revisited and added to at key points during the year. Through discussion you may decide to display the results, or students may want to file their reflections in a personal development folder.

Exploring Confidence
Where students have begun to label themselves and/or others as ‘confident’ or ‘unconfident’, you can use the following activities to help them question the validity of these labels. The activities will help students to explore and develop a more nuanced understanding of the nature of ‘confidence’, and generate their own suggestions and strategies for building their own confidence and that of others.

Activity tips

  • Create a class set of Confidence Cards – one set for each group of students working in fours. Each card should display a different ‘type’ of confidence:

The confidence to CHANGE The confidence to TAKE RISKS The confidence to FAIL The confidence to DREAM & THINK BIG The confidence to LEAD The confidence to LISTEN The confidence to MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND

The confidence to BE FRIENDLY

  • Ask the students to sort and display the cards in any way that makes sense to them – the way they display the cards on the table will give a picture of the connections and relationships that they are finding between the different cards, and perhaps also their relative importance. Ask one pair of ‘ambassadors’ per group to remain with their cards, while the other pair visits a different group to explain, then compare and contrast, their different responses. Interesting ideas and insights can then be shared as a whole class.
  • Some of the less obvious confidences will need to be discussed in pairs then as a whole class prior to this activity. For example:
    • What does it mean to have the ‘confidence to fail’?
    • Why would you need ‘confidence to listen’?
    • Do you agree that you need ‘confidence to be friendly’?
  • Once the students have made sense of the cards in this way, challenge them to think of a recent situation when: 
    • either, they felt supremely confident in what they were doing
    • or, they felt that their confidence levels were low.

Working in pairs or ‘story circles’ of three or four, invite them to share their stories in turn, then figure out together which of the ‘confidences’ they were either displaying, or being most tested on.

  • You might like to share a story of your own first – a story that illustrates a loss of confidence is particularly powerful. It shows your students that all of us struggle with issues of confidence at times; models the honesty and self-reflection that the activity requires; and will also open up a possible discussion about the different strategies we can adopt when we are finding something challenging and difficult.
  • Before the students form their ‘story circles’, warn them that you will invite them afterwards to talk about what they found most interesting, what they had in common, what the stories made them think about, etc. After gathering comments and ideas, invite your students to generate their own questions in response to what they have discussed so far. Questions generated by year 7 students with whom I have worked have included:
    • Can you give someone confidence even if you don’t have much yourself?
    • Why do some people find confidence in a crisis that they don’t normally have?
    • Do you have to be confident to take risks?
    • Why can you do something confidently in one context but not in another?

The open discussion that follows will allow students to build further on, or refine, their current understanding.

  • At a relevant future point, you could return to the eight Confidence Cards and use them as Gift Cards. At the end of a particular session or extended project – one where students have been collaborating in groups – provide them with a set of the cards and ask them to take it in turns to pick up a card and ‘gift’ it to someone else in the group who they feel has displayed that type of confidence. Make sure that they offer reasons for their ‘gift’ – recounting a specific moment that they have observed and remembered.

This ‘gifting’ activity can also be used with a range of different ‘learning qualities’ or dispositions. See Success in teaching thinking programmes: 7 key classroom strategies for a set of ‘learning dispositions bricks’ that you can use along with an activity sheet with suggestions for their use. Alternatively, you could create your own set of Gift Cards – here are a few examples.

  • You might also like your students to work with the related Confidence Wheel. The download includes instructions for students explaining how it can be used. Completing the wheel helps students to explore and reflect on their current confidence ‘profile’. They are able to note which of their confidence levels are particularly high or particularly low and how this might affect:
    • their performance at school
    • their relations with other people
    • their outlook on life and the future.

Students will prefer to talk these issues over within a friendship group. The Confidence Wheel could even be filled out in private before the session, or with a family member.

My own students have commented that the wheel has helped them to see that they can be and are confident in some ways, even if they are not yet in others. They have also gained insights into how different contexts and relationships can affect levels of confidence. Because of the connection making encouraged by the activities above, many students also come to realise, for themselves, that if they manage to build confidence in just one area, it can have a knock-on effect on other areas too.

  • To round off your students’ enquiry, you could ask them to think about what would help them to build up any of the confidences that they have rated particularly low: can they think of someone – a parent, carer, family member, friend or teacher – who is particularly good at making them feel confident about themselves? What is it that they do or say?
  • Invite them to draw up a list of recommendations for each other and for their teachers by completing the following sentence:

‘My teachers, family and friends can help to build my confidence by…’

Share your students’ recommendations with colleagues and find a place to display them in the classroom.

[Illustrated Confidence Cards plus other practical activities of this kind to help students explore learning and what it means to be a learner can be found in Thinking Through School, Chris Kington Publishing, 2006 – a narrative-based learning to learn programme.]

Future Diary
This activity can be used to complement and support any goal-setting work that you are doing with your students. Its particular impact lies in the fact that students are encouraged to associate with their ‘future self’, which leads to clearer insights into the personal resources already available to the individual. This, in turn, clarifies and focuses goal-setting, leading to a more complete understanding of the steps and qualities needed to achieve future goals. The act of writing a future diary scenario anchors the impression of a future self powerfully in the mind and gives positive future projection an extra dimension and power.

Activity tips

  • Explain to your students that they are going to pretend to be themselves on a particular day in the future, writing a diary extract as if they were their future selves. Have them decide on a particular age, though this does not need to be the same for everyone in the group. Emphasise that this is a game of the imagination: on that future date individuals can be just who they want to be. A certain amount of wishful thinking is allowed, though the real power of the technique comes from visualising realistic intentions, expectations and goals.
  • Some students will be happy to ‘free write’, letting their ideas flow naturally and freely, as they explore their future goals regarding, for example, work, leisure, personal qualities and relationships through an imaginary scenario. Others may benefit from a guiding structure or some preliminary brainstorming in preparation.
  • An alternative option is to offer your students a specific future event to explore, such as ‘your first day at college’ or ‘your first day in your dream job’, or a scenario where personal qualities will be the focus, such as ‘a day when someone needs your help’ or ‘a day when you are courageous’.
  • It’s an idea to let your students know in advance that they will be doing this activity. This will allow some pre-processing to occur, when the mind consciously, and especially subconsciously, gathers up information relevant for the task.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in November 2009

About the author: Anne de A’Echevarria is the author of the award winning ‘Thinking Through School’. Previously a teacher, PGCE tutor and head of ‘Thinking for Learning’, a research and development team partnered with Newcastle University, she now works as a freelance education consultant and writer.