Before and after big school schedule transitions (such as breaks), excitement and anxiety are flowing more than usual through schools. There’s also usually all sorts of “extra” stuff going on, both at school and in our own lives. This combo calls for no-prep counseling lesson activities that are more ‘fun’ than usual.
I’ve tried a few different things in the past several years but this year, right before winter break, I landed on a lesson that I would absolutely replicate before or after other breaks, too! I broke the lesson into three quick activities, zero prep required.
1. A Warm Wind Blows
Relationship building is always a priority no matter where you are in the year and this activity focuses on that, specifically through identifying commonalities. I learned about it years ago at a Responsive Classroom training and it has always stuck with me as a non-threatening way to build community. It goes a bit like musical chairs. You set it up by arranging the space so that there is one fewer chairs than there are people playing.
One person begins, standing, and says “a warm wind blows for anyone who…” and finishes with something that applies to them. It can be surface like “A warm wind blows for anyone who…loves the color blue” or deeper like “A warm wind blows for anyone who…knows they’ll miss school during break” or “A warm wind blows for anyone who…sometimes cries at super sad or super happy shows”. Any person that the statement applies to stands up and walks to a new seat. The person left standing (the person who can’t find a seat) leads the next round.
I tell the students that they are like leaves on the ground and the wind blows them up and around. In the winter, this becomes “a cold wind blows” and I tell them they are snowflakes.
Depending on the grade, you may want to consider providing them some sentence stems or scaffolding for when you turn over the lead to them. This could look like writing things like “anyone who likes…”, “anyone who doesn’t like…”, “anyone who has ever…”, “anyone who is excited/sad/happy/worried about…” on a white board. I also highly recommend doing some modeling at the very beginning. Do a practice round with just two students (“A warm wind blows for anyone named Jeremiah or Kenzie” and ask their classmates to identify what they noticed they did (voices off, walking feet, arms at sides). Then begin!
Bonus: This absolutely works for faculty meetings, as well! It’s not cheesy, it doesn’t put anyone on the spot, and you can tailor it to include as much or as little sharing and processing as you’d like.
2. Conga Line? Speed Dating?
Okay, I don’t know the name of this but I’ve seen similar activities called a conga line or speed dating. My students don’t know what either of those things is so I think I called it the very uninspired title of “line up questions”. Basically, you have the kiddos set up their chairs in two long lines facing each other. You can also do this standing, but my students haven’t done “standing while talking and learning” activities in literally years so I stuck with sitting – this prevented complaints about getting tired standing and helped them maintain more control over their bodies.
Once they’re in position, you ask a question. Then, they share their answers with the person in front of them. If the question is a little meatier, I give some think time before saying “share’. After about a minute, you ring a chime, clap, whistle, whatever to signal it’s time to turn their voices off. Last, instruct ONE line of students moves down one seat (with the end student having to walk to the other end). Continue until you have asked all the questions you want!
You can stop after some of the prompts to ask students to share out their responses. If students get a bit wiggly, I’ll switch things up and ask the other line of students to move (but in the opposite direction!).
For my most recent lesson, right before winter break, I used lots of the prompts from my Positive Psychology Flipbook. It served as a quick resiliency booster by giving students the opportunity to share about social supports, gratitude, and goals. I printed a copy to have so I could remember the questions I wanted to ask and this became extra helpful in a class where a student wasn’t quite ready to engage in the peer-to-peer activity and instead needed an independent option.
3. In the Manner of the Emotion
This activity is like a super-specific version of charades. It is an adaptation of an activity called ‘in the manner of the adverb.’ Together with the class, you’ll brainstorm a list of emotions in adverb form (ex. angrily, happily, nervously, sadly, etc.). Then, make a list of verbs with them. I recommend specifying “action words that are things we can safely act out in this classroom without props” because…you know.
Next, pick a student to step out into the hallway. While they’re gone, ask another student to come to the board and point to one of the emotions. Invite the hallway student back in. They will then pick and say out loud one of the verbs. The class acts out that verb, using the emotion. Examples: dancing nervously, building excitedly, cleaning angrily, etc.
Last, the hallway student guesses the emotion! I like to process it a little further with them by asking the guesser to share HOW they knew – what body language and facial expressions gave it away.
This format worked really, really well for my last lesson before break. What’s extra wonderful is that you can easily adapt these activities to your specific students, their needs, and the time of year!