A Simple but Powerful Class Opening Activity

School isn’t always the most exciting place for most kids. As a teacher, I find it difficult to come up with new, fresh ideas for my classes. This may be the case in your case too. Especially as the end of the year approaches, your day-to-day teaching becomes mundane for everyone. Adding fun new activities at the beginning of class can motivate children to attend school, improve grades, and encourage positive behavior.

At the start of a recent class, my students gathered a bunch of good news: a trip to Ireland, the end of a recent car problem, and an upcoming visit to friends. These are the highlights they shared at the beginning of the class, the rose and thorn sign.

In this quick activity, students share roses( positive things that happened to students that day) and thorns(which were negative, or at least not positive). 

Students can choose how vulnerable they are: a rose can simply mean “it’s nice today”. A low-risk thorn might be, “I feel tired.” However, many students choose to share something more personal: “My rose is that I got all my homework done despite the stress” or “My thorn is My dog ​​is sick and I’m really worried about him.”

Each student walked around the classroom and named a rose and a thorn. I also share mine. The entire process takes five minutes or less. But while this quick activity may seem simple, the rose and thorn check-in is an important part of community building in my classroom.

Benefits Of Check-In

Students Know Every Voice Matters

The Rose and Thorns sign-in brings every student’s voice into the room at the beginning of each lesson. While students can always say “pass” rather than share, every student has the opportunity to be heard every day. Check-ins are also a great opportunity to practice active listening, taking turns, and adhering to team norms.

Students develop awareness of others’ emotions – and how to respond to them

As students share their roses and thorns, they show their classmates a snapshot of their emotional state. When I hear a student say their thorn in their side is “I didn’t sleep well last night” or “I feel like I can’t concentrate today”, I can adjust my interactions with that person accordingly.

Students increase their comfort through a vulnerability

Rose and Thorn Check-ins are opportunities for students to practice emotional vulnerability with their peers. This level of comfort translates directly into the ability to share opinions and take academic risks in other situations.

Golden Tips of Ease

Recognize everyone’s contribution

My colleague John Milton Oliver, who also uses this tactic, suggests saying “thank you,” followed by the student’s name, then moving on to the next person in the circle. This creates acceptance while ensuring movement.

Discuss how emotions affect learning

Before or after check-in, ask students to think about how their roses and thorns affected their ability to attend the class that day. Ask students to think about ways they can support a classmate who shares a big thorn or celebrate a friend’s exciting rose.

Model authenticity

As you remember your role and career boundaries, try to say sincerely, “My rose is my class. I did a good job in one class” or “My thorn is that I’m happy with your feedback at work a little bit. It’s stressful for me to be behind.” Show students, it’s okay to be vulnerable.

Accepting Challenges

Here are some tips to make this event go smoothly:

  1. Keep Practicing:

Depending on your team’s skills and existing cohesion, it may take several attempts to master it. Don’t give up – and make sure you stay fast and consistent.

  1. Monitor Time:

My younger students are often eager to negotiate with me, “Will you give me three roses and two thorns?” Give students time to think about writing or drawing what they will share.

  1. Create a follow-up plan for concerns:

Sometimes, students share some concerns. Make a plan for how you and the class will react. Often this simply means contacting students individually for support. For topics that may require whole-class discussion, consider including opportunities for group work, such as weekly community-building circles.

Help Your Garden, To Grow

If your class is familiar with roses and thorns check-ins, feel free to change them. For example, I taught a group of students and they rewrote it as Harry Potter and Voldemort. Hold your students accountable for what check-in means to them.

As your students improve their ability to share, you can add a third part to your sharing: rosebuds, something they look forward to shortly. Students can also develop other variants or components.

If your group is too large to share all, my colleague John recommends a blitz, where roses and thorns are condensed into two or three words: “Thorns: a sick dog! Rose: sunshine!” Instead, they can form a group consisting of three to Groups of four students who share their full check-ins, not the entire class.

As teachers know, a class is never long enough to accomplish everything we want to do. The roses and thorns check-in might feel like “another thing”, but I think it’s an investment in my class community. Taking the time to listen to each student shows that I value listening enough.

About the article

School isn’t always the most exciting place for most kids. As a teacher, I find it difficult to come up with new, fresh ideas for my classes. This may be the case in your case too. Keeping the same in mind, we have discussed a simple yet powerful class opening activity in this article.

Jack Marque

Digital Marketer with over 15 years of experience. Certified Digital Marketer and Educator by Google, HubSpot, and many other companies. An ex-employee @uber and @zomato

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