Starting Class With Good Things

Feb 01, 2024

On the first day of every school year, I always started class with “Good Things.” I’d play a little snippet of the song “Tell Me Something Good” and then give students 3 seconds each to share something positive happening in their lives. Common responses included: “I won my soccer game last night,” “It was my mom’s birthday” (kids loved to tell you when it’s their mom’s birthday), ”I ate waffles for breakfast,” or “I won Fortnight last night.” 

And then on the second day of the school year, we did Good Things again. When we had exams, I started class with Good Things. On the day before the holiday break, we started class this way. When there was a school assembly and shortened class periods and a limited time to cover all of the class content, this was how we started class. No matter what was on the agenda or how much we had to cover, every day began with students getting the opportunity to identify and share something positive happening in their lives.

Developing Routines to Build Culture

It was a routine; students knew that this was how class started in Mr. Muir’s class, and whether work was hard or not that day, the lesson was exciting or boring, whether they were having a good day or a bad one, there would always be three minutes dedicated to positivity.

From the outside-looking-in, starting class with Good Things might have seemed to just be something we did for fun. Some might have even considered it frivolous as it was not connected to learning targets or class content. “In a 55-minute class, how can you dedicate 3 of them to talking about Fortnight and soccer games?!”

I get it: time is limited and it’s hard to justify using any of it just for the sake of having fun. But starting class this way was not just to have fun, and if I'm being honest, it wasn't because I was that curious about every single event in my students' lives (No offense, but truly don’t care if a student beat Fortnight).

It was because this routine reinforced positive affirmations at the start of every class. Every student gets an opportunity to be reminded of the joy happening around them. In a time of constant negativity and bad news, sharing joy is necessary. Beyond that, research conducted by UW Medicine shows that regular positive affirmations can have a measurable effect on a person’s “well-being, stress level, and academic performance.” Having fun routines that are disconnected from content standards or curriculum are not frivolous, but essential, if they serve the purpose of binding a class together. 

Culture Building is Rooted in Student Success

“Good Things” was a calculated way for students to get the most out of every class period. Like many teaching approaches, while not always obvious, there was a method to the madness. It was a routine to help establish classroom culture, a shared set of values that unified the group and created a sense of cohesion. These collective values formed the foundation for all of the learning that happened in the classroom.

Whether you are asking students at the beginning of every class to share a positive aspect of their lives, or greet students at the door with a special handshake, or play Taylor Swift as they show up for class, or share pictures of your dogs with them, or have a ball you toss around signifying who’s turn it is is to speak, or use something fun like Kahoot to review content, or dress up as a character when teaching a certain unit, or anything else that looks frivolous from the outside but builds cohesion and culture on the inside, know that it is usually worth the time spent. 

Stay Connected With Trevor's Work

Join thousands of educators who receive weekly articles, videos, and inspiration from Trevor.

SPAM is the worst. I promise to only send you my best stuff and NEVER to share your email.