Our TRC team has been investigating how to create psychological safety in the classroom. Our goal is for teams and individuals to feel safe to take interpersonal risks and to feel accepted and respected by their peers. What makes you smile? is a quick and easy activity that any teacher can do to help promote psychological safety at the classroom level. I actually expanded on the idea from Mark Ray (firstname.lastname@example.org) who shared it at the Inspiration and Ideas workshop I went to this summer. This activity brought a sense of togetherness for the teachers in the rooms along with a lot of laughs and smiles. I knew that I could use this same concept with my students.
To begin, I had one of my students create a poster so I could display student responses in the classroom once the activity was finished. The only requirement given to this student was that she needed to use the phrase “What makes you smile?” and some sort of graphic. She spent a few weeks crafting the poster during study hall time. She is an amazing artist as you can tell from the poster below. Together with her graphic, I added the directions to a slide and the activity was ready to be launched. Students followed the directions and crafted their responses. These note card responses will be used similar to the mystery student idea and will be shared with the class every few days.
Here are some of the response cards I received from students.
There were so many more good response note cards I could have included here. I actually smiled a lot when I read these as I thought about the student who wrote it. Some were super funny like Austin’s card above with the spicy and juicy chicken wing with the perfect sauce, and Peter’s card that had a box that said insert dog here. Others were pretty sentimental like Ryan’s memories of his grandfather and Emily’s statement about being lucky to have certain people in her life. I think the students enjoyed sharing on the note card and I even saw a few smiles as they were writing them.
My hope is for students to get to know their classmates more, to realize that many of them share the same things that make them smile, and to realize that we can all do little things for our teammates that can make them smile and to make their day more positive. I have been revealing some of the note cards in class and it has given a positive charge to the atmosphere. There has been laughter, smiles and a few surprises as to who wrote which statement. Students love the challenge of trying to figure out the author of the note card. I am amazed at how well my students do know their classmates! What made me smile was when one of my students asked me on a Monday, “Can we start class with that what makes you smile activity?” The bulletin board in the back of my room holds all the note card responses my students wrote and acts as a great reminder of how we can create a positive atmosphere in our classrooms.