A bunch of years ago, back when I was a college student majoring in creative writing, my favorite poetry teacher gave us this journaling assignment: Make one list of 100 things you like, and another list of 100 things that you hate. I remember it being fun and challenging. It starts out easy: I like parks and sunshine and the color purple. But as you get closer toward the end and start running out of general ideas, your likes get really specific: I like people-watching while sipping iced coffee on park benches on humid August afternoons.
Recently, while going through my millions of old notebooks, I came across those lists, and they made me smile. I thought I’d like to try to bring this idea into my ESL classes. I like the idea of it because it really gets students thinking about things that are important in their own lives, and should help them find a way to describe the things that are interesting to them. It’s will definitely take students away from the textbook language that they may be used to. And since it’s nearly April and everyone is starting to get into a springy state of mind, I think that now is a good time to start listing things you love.
So here’s my somewhat vague, super-happy lesson plan:
This lesson plan is pretty adaptable, but I would probably suggest using it with Intermediate through Advanced students. Even as a native speaker, it’s a challenging task, so you’ll definitely need to adapt it if you plan to use it with students at lower levels.
- On the board, write:
___________ makes me happy.
- Give students a minute to complete the sentence. Then go around the room, and ask everyone to share what they wrote. You might want to list their ideas on the board. Another option, if you want to get your students moving, is to invite students to come up and write their own idea on the board.
- Pick out a reading or two or five from 1000 Awesome Things, a website which has a long, long list of posts about specific awesome things that will make you smile. (High fiving babies, the smell of crayons, when the subway doors stop right in front of you…)
OR: Have your students browse this Top 1000 list, and choose one favorite to share and chat about with a group.
- Give students this assignment for homework: Write a list of 100 things that make you happy. Tell students that they can either type their lists, or write them by hand, journal-style on a loose sheet of paper. (Not in their notebooks.)
- When the assignment is due, plan for a gallery walk in your classroom: Tape each student’s list to the wall. Give each student the same number of post-it notes. Then give your students time to walk around the room and look at all of the lists on the wall. When something stands out to them, tell them that they should write a note to the author about it on a post-it, and stick it on the wall.
Thoughts and Suggestions:
- Before doing this activity with your class, I’d highly suggest making a 100 Things That Make Me Happy list of your own. You might even want to share it with the class.
- For lower level students, you might have students make a list 0f 25 things that make them happy. For Intermediate, maybe try 50?
- A list of 100 really is challenging. If you do ask for this many, students will almost definitely ask you if they can write less than 100. Tell them no. It has to be 100. The more challenging it is, the more creative their ideas will be.
- Make sure to give your students enough time to complete it. A single night definitely won’t be enough. A week would be good.
- I would suggest telling students that you won’t be grading their grammar, spelling or punctuation. Tell them to try their best, but to focus more on finding new vocabulary and communicating their ideas than on choosing the perfect verb tense.
- Tell students to make sure that the ideas that they write are all ones that they are comfortable sharing with their classmates.
What do you think?
- Do you think you might try this lesson plan?
- If you tried it, what are some of your favorite ideas that students wrote on their lists?
Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section at the bottom of the page!