Positive Thinking aims to encourage and inspire positive teaching and learning. A SEAL teaching resource, it explains the benefits of a positive approach to educational thinking and outlines relevant activites

Written by Tony Pryce

Positive Thinking: Exercises and activities for mental and emotional development is an exciting resource brought to you by Teach to Inspire that is designed to prepare young people to positively take up challenges that lie ahead of them.

The introduction of SEAL into schools has illustrated how important it is for pupils to be emotionally supported as, obviously a child’s self confidence and emotional mood will affect their ability to work. You will know from your own experience that if you enter into a task thinking that you will fail it, you inevitably do.

So how can you change pupils negative thought patterns and get them to channel their energy in more positive ways? This is where Positive Thinking can help you, providing you with practical advice on how to encourage pupils to view the challenges they face as positive opportunities rather than yet another set back.

How do we prepare young people to:

  • positively engage with all of life’s difficulties
  • see these difficulties as challenges rather than problems
  • confront negative mindsets such as ‘I can’t do that’?

Even with the best of intention, insight and care in the world, it is not always possible to remove hurdles that children have to overcome. We know it is not enough to tell young people to be positive, they need to be shown a way to be positive. Being told without the ongoing teaching and support is like offering a pair of shoes that, no matter how beautiful, don’t fit.

Help the young people that you work with to feel positive about life’s challenges

With the help of this essential resource, you can encourage young people to face challenges such as:

  • how to be around others they don’t necessarily get on with
  • making friends
  • academic demands
  • peer pressure
  • learning
  • coping with their developing bodies
  • working out who they are
  • developing their confidence
  • negotiating separation, loss and bereavement
  • decision-making
  • growing and changing.

Positive Thinking encourages young people to alter the way they see problems – as challenges that can help to develop and bring out the best in them, rather than hinder them – and encourage them to turn setbacks into opportunities.

This resource is suitable for the use with a variety of groups and settings from standard sized classes of 30 to smaller set-ups: for example, it can be found in non-mainstream settings such as pupil referral units or in other organisations where pupils are taught outside of mainstream education. Young people within the age range 10-14 will probably find the activities of most benefit.

The content is extensive and fits into a number of curriculum areas, topics, issues and concerns such as biography, ability and disability, diary writing, black history month projects and anti-bullying week. Additionally, as well as being part of a theme, the activity pages and activities could be used as standalone activities.

Positive Thinking will:

  • provide a mental and emotional template for taking challenges on board and seeing the benefits inherent in them
  • help young people to find ways to turn disappointments into opportunities
  • offer a conceptual and metaphorical framework for framing a vision of personal growth and development
  • facilitate the realisation that they have the potential to gain from many situations
  • empower them to face positively all the challenges that life offers.

The structure of the book

This resource includes: 15 different units with questions that are designed to encourage the pupils to explore and think about the issues related to the learning aims and objectives, the units tackle the following issues:

Unit 1: Becoming a Mental Athlete

Unit 2: Rising to a Challenge

Unit 3: The Benefits of a Challenge

Unit 4: Developing Resilience

Unit 5: Developing Tools for Expressing Feelings and Experiences

Unit 6: Developing Inner Strength and Resourcefulness

Unit 7: The Challenge Posed by Change

Unit 8: Drawing on Goodness to Build Wellbeing

Unit 9: Thinking Independently

Unit 10: Celebrating Success and Achievement

Unit 11: Weakening Mental Muscle

Unit 12: An Exploration of Bullying

Unit 13: Managing Angry Feelings

Unit 14: Taking Responsibility

Unit 15: Being Part of a Team

Each unit contains an overview of the theme dealt with in the unit, a list of learning intentions.

Short stories
These can be used to guide discussion and as a tool to give an extra emotional dimension to the particular issue under discussion. The stories are normally accompanied by questions.

Mental Athletes Study
Another important component is the mental athletes study, in which people drawn from many areas of cultural and sporting life are highlighted in order to offer inspiration and act as a model for the qualities and features that constitute a good mental athlete.

Circle Time Practice
If the bulk of discussion is going to take place during Circle Time, the pupils should be encouraged to adhere to good Circle Time practice. The principle that everyone has an equal voice would be a sound principle upon which to constitute the circle.

Code of Conduct
This can be agreed by asking the pupils to either remind themselves, of or come up with, rules for good Circle Time cohesion.

For example, the list could include listening to others, only talking when they have an object in their hand, keeping issues confidential to the circle, not putting others down or laughing at or ridiculing their suggestions.

Warm-up games can be played, such as Chinese Whispers, where the pupils are asked to send a story round the circle by whispering it in the ear of another. This, and other games of this nature, can provide a light-hearted means of encouraging the children to focus, as well as hone their listening skills.

Activity Pages
All of the units are followed up by activity pages that are designed to further individual learning about the topics investigated or those that are closely related.

A plenary is added to consolidate, reinforce and offer a brief review of what has been learned. In most cases, at the end of the unit, mention will be given to how issues might be further explored and developed under the heading of Follow-up Activities.

Drama Activities
Links are offered to drama activities in order to give children a chance to practise thinking through some of the issues that they are learning about.

Mental Athletes Game
This is a progressive-style board game that is intended to further highlight all the principles that lead to the building of mental muscle and therefore greater emotional balance and wellbeing.

Interactive Whiteboards
Interactive whiteboards (IWBs) could be a useful and supportive tool, from the point of view of calling up images, finding additional resources and projecting the stories for whole-class access.