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5 Classroom Activities to Develop Positive Attitudes

Janelle Cox

As teachers, it’s never easy to see a student express negative thoughts or be down on themselves. But are negative feelings really all that bad? According to research, it’s quite natural for people to dwell on their negative feelings, especially children. While it’s likely that one would prefer to have a positive emotion versus a negative one, negative emotions can help us deal with certain situations. However, the more negative we are, the more negative we feel. You’ve probably heard of the saying “You are what you think.” Well, research shows that our feelings are in response to our thoughts and beliefs. When we feel stressed out, we think and believe that we don’t have the skills to deal with the situation. However, when we think more positively, we feel good and expect a favorable outcome. It’s not always easy to see the positive, especially for children. Teaching children at a young age to be positive can have a huge impact on the way they look at life. Being able to turn a negative thought into a positive one is an essential coping skill that all children can use for the rest of their lives. Here are 5 classroom activities you can practice with your students to encourage a more positive attitude.

Classroom Activities About Setting and Achieving Goals

Have students try the WOOP approach. New York University psychologist Gabrielle Oettingen came up with the approach that means WOOP: Wish, outcome, obstacles, and plan. Students think about a goal (wish), what is the best possible outcome, the obstacles that may be in their way, as well as a plan on how to get there. This approach makes it easy for students to achieve their goals resulting in a more positive attitude.

Take an Attitude Inventory

A smart way for students to learn about the different attitudes that people have is to take an attitude inventory. Give students a chalkboard and have them answer the questions below one at a time. After each question, allow students to hold up their chalkboards and ask them to discuss their answers. Encourage students to not make any judgments of their peers, and to choose answers that will not hurt anyone’s feelings.

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  • Write down the name of a person that has a good, positive attitude all of the time. After they write a name down, ask them what makes them think that and discuss further.
  • Write down the name of a person who has a negative attitude. Be sure to instruct students not to choose a name that is in their classroom. Then, discuss why they think that person is always negative.
  • What are some things that you would like to change to help you be a more positive person? Ask students to name a few things and allow them to take turns answering the question.

By having students take an attitude inventory, you are allowing them to see and learn how they view themselves and their problems, as well as their peers.

Helping Others

Helping others is a great way to feel good about yourself. It can also reduce stress and increase your happiness. Have students volunteer at a shelter, nursing home, or in the community. Any small act of kindness can help anyone’s overall well-being.

Changing Their Perspective

Show students how they can easily change their negative thoughts into positive thoughts. Have children fold their paper so they have four columns. Next, have them write the following four headings on the top of their paper: Home, Family, Friends, School. Ask students to think about any problems they may have in any of the areas that they listed, and write them down under each column.

Next, have students reframe what they wrote so it will be helpful for them to think of a positive way to turn their problems around. For example, if a student wrote, “My brother always teases me,” they would reframe it to “How can I get along better with my brother?”

After students have made their list, ask them how they think they can turn each of their problems into solutions. Write the following questions on the front board and have students go through each problem that they listed and ask themselves each question on the board.

  • How do I feel about this problem?
  • What will happen if I don’t solve this problem?
  • How can I change my negative attitude into a positive attitude in order to solve the problem?
  • What will happen once this problem is solved?

Be reshaping students’ negative attitudes into more positive ones, you are giving them the tools that will help contribute to their overall well-being.

Practicing Positive Affirmations

The power of positive thinking is a famous phrase. Positive affirmations are a great tool to help children silence negative thoughts. How children think can have a big impact on their behavior. If they are constantly seeing images on TV or social media of who they should be or what they should look like, then some of these messages can become internalized. When children internalize these messages, it can become the way they speak to themselves. However, when children practice positivity, they will have a better outlook on everything. To help start the day off right, have students practice saying positive affirmations every morning. They can say “I love myself,” “I am confident,” and “I am smart.” To get the most out of these positive affirmations, encourage students to repeat them to themselves about 10 times each day.

Trying to be happy all of the time can alienate you from your emotions, that’s why it’s best to have balanced emotions. So if you see a child that is sad or being negative, there’s no need to dismiss these emotions. What you can do is encourage positive thinking and give them the tools they need to make themselves feel better.

How do you develop a more positive attitude in your students? Please share your classroom activities in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.