Looking for the Good during Challenging Times

Students practice identifying and using stress management strategies to better cope with upsetting news.


To the Teacher:

During the past weeks and months, our nation has witnessed an onslaught of upsetting and, at times, triggering events. Students already feeling the impact of the year-long pandemic are being bombarded with news accounts of racially motivated violence; graphic testimony from the televised court proceedings in the Derek Chauvin trial; and continued police shootings of unarmed people and the protests and unrest that follow. Many are feeling heightened stress, uncertainty, and overwhelm.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has outlined a framework for developing social and emotional well-being. They list five skills or competencies that signal healthy social-emotional learning and development:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Skills
  • Responsible Decision-Making

In this lesson, students engage in an activity designed to strengthen their self-management skills—specifically their ability to identify and use stress management strategies to better cope with their strong feelings. This exercise aims to inspire students to find additional ways to manage the upset they feel in response to the chaos plaguing our nation.

Note: The lesson is designed for an in-person classroom, but can be adapted for a virtual classroom. 

Self-Management During Chaotic Times

Effectively learning to manage our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, especially during times of unrest and upheaval, is, for some, a lifelong journey. What follows is a week-long activity you can use with students to help them reframe their thoughts and shift their perspective on things that previously seemed overwhelming or debilitating. 

At the beginning of class (as soon as the bell rings and you’ve settled in), have students stand in a circle.

Let students know that, for the next five days, they’ll take a few minutes at the beginning of class to pay attention to how their thoughts and perspectives about what’s happening in the world around them can impact how they’re feeling and behaving.

On the first day, before students enter, place on each student’s desk a copy of the word cloud below and in this pdf.


As they stand in circle, have students glance at the word cloud.

Tell students: Even though the violence, shootings, racism, lies, and fear jump out at you when you look at this image, there’s so much more going on. Yes, there are lies, but there’s also truth. Yes, there’s hatred, but there’s also love and kindness. Yes, there’s ugliness, but there’s also beauty, hope, inspiration, and more.

Next have each student locate the word “gratitude.” Once they’ve located it, have them put their word cloud on the floor and place their hands gently over their heart to signal that they’ve located “gratitude.”

Once everyone has signaled, you will begin the day’s gratitude circle by stating one thing for which you’re grateful.

Model for students how to succinctly state one thing they’re grateful for, then have each student do the same, going in the order in which they’re standing.

Once each student has shared and the gratitude circle is complete, thank them for their participation. For example, “I want to thank each of you for taking the time to look for the good and for giving voice to what’s good. For me, seeing the good and acknowledging that it’s always there gives me a sense of hope.”

Lastly, let them know that they’ll repeat this exercise during the next four days. On most days, the circle will take no more than 4 to 6 minutes.

Looking for the Good and Giving Voice to What’s Good

Day One: Have students find the word “grateful” and offer this prompt: Name one thing you’re grateful for.

Day Two: Have students find the word “kindness” and offer this prompt: Share an act of kindness you recently showed to someone or an act of kindness someone recently showed you.

Day Three: Have students find the word “inspiration” and offer this prompt: Name one thing that has inspired you, either recently or at any time in your life.

Day Four: Have students find the word “hope” and offer this prompt: Name one thing that gives you hope.

Day Five: Ask students if the “seeing the good” morning activity has helped them see things differently, and if so, how.

Closing Challenges

At the close of the five days, give students a couple of challenges:

  • Have students come up with one additional strategy for coping with upsetting world events. Ask them if they’d be willing to share their strategy with the class.
  • Have students bring in an uplifting, inspiring news story. Once the class has shared and collected several stories, print out copies of the story headlines. Have students work together to make a collage (or some other creative artwork) out of the headlines.


The websites below feature daily uplifting news stories.

Additional Supports

There’s Hope by india.arie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COE6YHIK-pU     

Hands by Jewel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfsS3pIDBfw