THINK Before You Speak Lesson

The theme for most of the year in 4th grade’s Life Skills lessons is positive communication. We’ll tie many of our lessons back to the idea “think before you speak”. A couple weeks before I started the lessons, I crafted what I thought what an awesome lesson. I was pretty proud of myself. Did I live up to my own hype? Nope. Did the end result turn out great? Yup!
think before you speak lesson

First mistake was trying to use the “our words are like toothpaste” metaphor with an incredulous and opinionated cohort (see here for my account of this fail).

Second mistake was trying to do something involving centers/rotations: A center for each THINK rule! Students work together to learn about the rule and sort examples and come up with their own! Sounded great! But it was too early in the year. Classes hadn’t established class norms, learned positive groupwork habits, or remembered how to follow directions yet.

Third mistake was trying to replace the toothpaste metaphor with the wrinkled heart activity using Chrysanthemum – only to find out the teacher had read the story to them the previous week and that the students couldn’t handle listening to a story while simultaneously interacting with a piece of paper immediately following recess (rookie mistake).

This class is SO full of energy and spirit and personality. I love them. They also need much more structure and scaffolding than I originally was providing them.

At this point I was feeling pretty rough, though there were two parts to the lesson that were going ok. My second “hook” if you will was to do Stand Up/Sit Down. We sat in a circle and I asked them to:

School counselor "Stand up if" activity poster used when teaching a "think before you speak" lesson.

This proved to be all the intro I needed and was also a great way to have some movement in the lesson since they were no longer going to be rotating.

For my last 4th grade homerooms, I made a PowerPoint to walk us through each of the components. I showed a slide explaining the “rule”, then some relate-able examples for them to think about. While the answer of “which example fits the rule” was usually pretty obvious, my students still loved writing their answer (with a number or an arrow) on a white board to put up in the air for me. They also loved when, before the examples when I was explaining each rule, I did another example by “picking on” one of them and using them. (Side note: I get more participation when I ask “Who can I pick on for this next example?” than I do for anything else).

By the time I finally got these two parts figured out, I was on my last lesson which I knew was going to get cut short due to a fire drill. I ended it by having the students do a self-reflection exit ticket where they told me which THINK rule is the hardest for them to follow and which THINK rule is the easiest for them to follow. I used a similar exit ticket in the other homerooms and found that most kiddos could self-identify that they struggled with the “true” and “necessary” rules. For my super pro-social students, “inspiring” was their challenge. In some ways, this also functioned as an informal needs assessment to help me identify which THINK rules I need to hit harder and more specifically throughout the rest of our curriculum.

Example of a student's exit ticket, self-identifying that Necessary is the morst difficult part of THINK for him.
“Necessary is hard for me. I like to talk a lot”

When I get the real do-over of doing this lesson next year and have it down better, I’d like to incorporate either a more comprehensive self-reflection processing sheet (probably will save that for a review of the THINK rules in the spring). This is a foldable I made for doing the lesson in the future, that I got the chance to use in some small groups recently:

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17 Responses

  1. Hi Harrison! I am so sorry for my delayed reply. It's actually a PPT that I made into movie format in order to post on the blog. I can't technically share it as is because it involves clip art I don't have rights to. I am working on a version of the PPT I can upload to TpT and I'll reply to your comment again once it's up. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful yet!

  2. Thank you for sharing this lesson idea. I used your “stand up if” questions and they were a great introduction to thinking about positive ways to communicate.

  3. Hi Sara,

    Something could be true but not helpful or kind. Maybe in the right situation, and certainly in private, and with lots of prayer before hand.


    1. Yup. When we teach the THINK acronym, we don’t tell the students that they should/can say something just because it is true or helpful or inspiring or necessary or kind. The acronym is simply questions to think about when deciding whether or not to say something. Best, Sara

    1. I’m sorry you’re experiencing an error. What you’re describing sounds like what happens if someone tries to open up one of the PowerPoint files in Google Slides instead of using the link on page 2 of the PDF for the Google Slides version.

      If that doesn’t help, please email us so we can help you troubleshoot.


  4. I recently purchased this material – very cute – with the intention of using the Google Slides version. However, when I tried, it came back with an error stating that the site had been deleted. Please help.

    1. H! I just downloaded it and couldn’t replicate that issue (it linked correctly for me). There was a problem with the link but it was several months ago (maybe over a year ago). You’re clicking the link on the second page of the PDF, correct? Please reach out via email (help@theresponsivecounselor.com) and we’ll help figure out what’s going on.


    1. “I Can’t Believe You Said That,” “Taste Your Words,” “Trouble Talk,” or “Being Frank!”

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