Happiness mini-unit: Novice students

This year, one of our central themes was joy and togetherness. With this idea, I decided to ask the question of my sixth graders: what makes us happy? I have to say that a lot of this was inspired by my conversations with Samara Spielberg who has done a lot of work on social-emotional learning. I did this mini-unit right before spring break, so we had about 6 days worth of class time. You could change the timeline as well to make it last longer or shorter based on your students. I will say- this was a great activity to do before spring break. However, I may try it earlier in the year to incorporate some of their feedback on what they enjoyed the most earlier.

I based our activities on this infographic. First, students predicted which activities they thought would make them happy and if there are any that they don’t think make them happy. (Getting up early anyone??!!) Then, each class, students started by rating how happy they felt. They wrote down our activity “theme” for the day. Then at the end they rated/reflected on how they felt after the activity.

Here is the list of activities that they did:

  • Day 1: Smiling: Checking out memes in Spanish and rating them on a scale of 1 to 5 stars about how funny they were. (This was a short day because they were reflecting on their last food unit.). If you had more time, you could also include a funny MovieTalk/Clip Chat.
  • Day 2: Learn something new: we played the game GeoGuessr, then students read short articles from El mundo en tus manos on various topics that they would find interesting and discuss them, and then we tried to make an origami dog! (Another option instead of articles would be infographics like the ones from my last post!)
  • Day 3: Give, receive and be thankful: This was the least amount of Spanish in the original part- but students split up into small groups to help teachers. I emailed our staff and asked if anyone needed help. They helped our librarian shelve books, the art teacher clean up clay, their homeroom teachers to organize the classroom library and helped us go through markers and throw out dry ones. Then, they completed a gratitude journal like they used in November. (Also from Samara!)
  • Day 4: Spend time with others: All of our first graders are also in Spanish. Our sixth graders brought down some bilingual books and read to them in Spanish/English. Then they worked together to pick out the vocabulary that the first graders knew. The sixth graders wrote it down and the first graders drew a picture of it. (This was one of the cutest days!)
  • Day 5: Meditate and listen to music: Students started by doing some Señor Wooly nuggets on any song of their choice. Then, we listened to some of the music from Señor Ashby’s Locura de marzo since we weren’t participating this time. However, we used the same chat mats from the Google Drive to discuss the music. My students were really able to remember a lot of the words from the competition in October. We haven’t done a lot of meditation before, so I put on this video and let some students just watch it and others color quietly.
  • Day 6: Habits: This was the only one that wasn’t really connected with the infographic- but I wanted to do a fun childhood link. We watched a little video of Plaza Sesamo and then students could play with LEGOs, do a puzzle, or play some childhood games that I had like Candy Land for about 15 minutes. Then, they reflected on what their favorite activity was and if they changed their answers in Spanish.

My students and I really enjoyed this activity! It changed up our routine during a time that can be difficult. They felt like classes moved pretty quickly too. They reflected that they really enjoyed working with other people in general. I felt like I can incorporate more of this into our classes. Since many of them really liked helping others, I want to explore that theme more with our next unit. I also want them to reflect on how to work well as a group. I also really like how this unit tied in with our theme of joy and togetherness.

A few other ideas: I would have incorporated eating healthy foods except we are going on a field trip involving food coming up soon after our last unit. I also would have gone on a little nature hike… if we didn’t go to school in the middle of the city! Interstate sounds don’t really contribute to a peaceful hike.

Finally, next year, I want to do more of a write and discuss to incorporate a bit more structure into our writing. Students kept a little journal about how they were feeling and the activity. This helped them with their reflection. I will elaborate this a bit more next year.

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