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Positive Psychology

7 Habits of Happy Children

The positive psychology leader in me.

Source: Stephanie

Instead of a time out chair, how about a positive psychology happiness learning center?

Sean Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Happy Children, and Stephen Covey's book, The Leader in Me, inspire a classroom positive psychology happiness learning center. The habits speak to emotions, strengths, friendships, meaning, and accomplishment.

The Leader in Me Process is a holistic, whole-child literature-based experience, preferably school-wide, for elementary school children.

The process develops the essential life skills and characteristics students need to thrive in the 21st century. Designed to be integrated into a school’s academic core curriculum, this is a simple 'everyday' approach' so that this project is not just "'one more thing" teachers and administrators have to do.

The process is used to teach the curriculum that is derived from the 7 Habits of Happy Kids book. The 7 habits book showcases lively animal characters and positive psychology characteristics that align with key positive psychology principles:

1. Be Proactive - Manage feelings and stay optimistic.

2. Begin with the End in Mind - Anticipate the good, persist, and be resilient.

3. Put First Things First - Prioritize positive choices, plans and accomplishment.

4. Think Win-Win - Adopt a growth mindset.

5. Seek to Understand and Be Understood - Manage feelings and be empathetic.

6. Synergize - Focus on strengths.

7. Sharpen the Saw - Take care of self and others and find meaning and purpose.

The Happiness Learning Center

  • Make space in your classroom to house the happiness learning center with a corner area ideal.
  • Create learing agreements or contracts that structure and guide the use of the learning center. Make access to the center as simple, autonomous, and self-initiated as possible.
  • Create a sign-in/sign-out sheet. Have a timer for children to set. Insure all children get regular time in the center individually or collectively. Make sure children who need it the most are given the most time there. Do not use the center as either a reward (conditionally give) or a punishment (conditionally take away)​
  • Decorate the learning center with positive pledges and affirmations as well as positive habit posters, and your student's own drawings. Perhaps, add bean bags, a soft rug, a wishing well. Make the center a happy, restful, colorful place.
  • Master the 7 habits of happy children curriculum. Use each of the 7 habits as the basis for the themed lessons developed: each habit taught using a variety of engaging, independent, and partner activities that include art and music and that incorporate project-based learning.
  • Assemble materials including the 7 habits board game, copies of the 7 habits book including audio books, 7 habits posters, books from the 7 habits recommended reading list, and 7 habits video (another video link) and a video player. Include supplmental materials such as: a paper covered 'drawing' wall, graphic organziers, songs (more songs here), an audio player, digital apps, coloring sheets, student activity guides, and more.
  • Educators should put on their creative thinking caps and come up with other materials, both traditional and digital, needed for the learning center menu of happiness lessons and activities. There should alwasys be many books that complement the learning center lesson and much free time to read ensured. TAn I-Pad should be available in the center so children can play the in the virtual Student Schoolyard found on The Leader in Me website.
  • Purchase plenty of legos of all sizes and colors to use as currency. Children earn legos for completing activities in the center and demonstrating any of the 7 habits in the classroom. The teacher is generous with handing out the legos to encourage the shaping of the 7 habits. Students are also given legos to give to peers who demonstrate the 7 habits. Students use their legos to build individual lego objects, or share legos with others, to build a collective object in the center. The number of legos accumlated serves as a formative assessment and indicator of student's progress in aquiring the 7 habits (the more legos the more progress). Building the lego objects is also a concrete metaphor for building the 7 habits. Legos are never taken away once earned. (Thanks to my graduate student, Natalia, for this wonderful idea!).

Positive Psychology Learning Center ideas are only limited by the teacher's imagination.

Teachers will also find it easy to connect the centers to academic curriculum. Learning centers are not just academic centers anymore. Keep in mind that learning centers can be constructed to explore a single emotion (e.g. anger), a signature strength (e.g. courage) or can focus on relationships (e.g. making/keeping friends), finding meaning (e.g. helping others), and accomplishment (goals, dreams). A learning center theme can change monthly or bi-annually.

Teaching the 7 habits of happiness in a self-directed, project-based way is examplary of neuroscience and positive psycholgy in action in the classroom. The more explicit instruction in positive psychology and associated social and emotional learning - the more motivation and cooperation is learned and practiced.

Together we can make time-out obsolete!

Quote of the Day: Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success - Cain.


Thanks to Stephanie for use of her artwork on this page. Check out her wonderful, very good, awesome teaching ideas on her blog Third Grade Thoughts.

As always, A special thank you to Jill H. Anderson of Ann Arbor, Michigan for granting me permission to use her charming artwork. I hope to feature more of her original drawings in future posts and to collaborate with her in other ways, too. Jill is a recently retired university-level science educator specializing in public outreach. She is also a maker of captivating drawings and dolls.

READ MORE IN MY BOOK: Positive Psychology in the Elementary School Classroom (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013) is intended to help teachers build positive psychology classrooms consistent with affective neuroscience.





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