Students create a personal definition of happy, define happy in terms of self, others, and environment, and create a class definition of happy and class vision of happy behavior.


Students will be able to:

  1. Create a personal definition of happy
  2. Define happy in terms of self, others, and environment
  3. Create a class definition of happy and class vision of happy behavior


Pen/paper, large post-its or poster paper, markers, and space for groups to brainstorm, materials to create a class vision of happy (mural paper, paint, etc)


Time Activity Notes
4-5 min

As an opening to class, give each student silent and independent time to answer the questions:

  • What is it to feel happy?
  • What does it mean to feel happy in this class and to help others in this classroom to feel happy?
Little or no prompting is necessary before this activity so that students can bring their own ideas to the conversation without feeling like there is a “right” answer. Encourage students to respond authentically. You may want to play music during this time (thematic suggestions: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, “Keep Your Head Up” by Andy Grammer), or ask students for a suggestion for a song about feeling happy that you can pull up online.
2 min
Happy Vision Explanation

Explain to the class that, rather than telling them what happy looks like in your class, you would like them to create their own class-wide definition.

They are going to work together in small groups to create a “happy vision” for the classroom establishing what feeling happy and helping others to feel happy means to them.

Each student already has their own definition, which they will use to work with a small group and create a list of things that they would like to see used in the whole-class vision of happy.

Once the class has created small group definitions, they will take time to examine each group’s definition, take the best ideas from each group, and put them together in one final vision of happy for the classroom.

This will be put up in the room and can be used to remind the class and others what happy looks like in this class.

7-10 min
Small Group Brainstorm

Give students time in a small group to discuss their individual definitions of happy and brainstorm a list of things they can do to feel happy and to help one another feel happy. Consider the following prompts:

  • What does helping oneself to experience happiness look like?
  • What does helping each other to feel happy look like?
  • What about a happy classroom environment–what does that look like?
  • How can each of those be added to the class vision of happy?

These brainstorms can be on large paper and posted on the wall in the room for logistics in the next lesson activity.

Things to consider in guiding student brainstorm
(to the extent that you feel it’s appropriate):

  • Provide t-charts for brainstorming, with “happy” on one side and “unhappy” on the other
  • Ask students to provide examples of actions that demonstrate “unhappy”
5-7 min Every student should have a writing utensil for this phase of the lesson. Once groups are done brainstorming, make sure each brainstorm is posted on the wall or somewhere all students can see it and write on it.

Then, have each student (as an individual now, no longer in small groups) move around the room and read the ideas on the other groups’ papers.

Encourage students to make notes on the other groups’ papers when they agree strongly with another idea and would like to see it in the happy vision (you may want to set expectations for no negative comments).

Students can also be encouraged to ask questions or add more information to other ideas in the room.

This activity should be done quietly and independently to give students time to read and process all of the other ideas.

You can establish a code for writing on other groups’ posters for ease: a star means “strongly agree”, a question mark means “I don’t understand”, etc.
10 min
Group Consensus and Drafting

Lead the group in examining the notes written on the posters and identifying trends in the ideas and the most popular ideas.

When guiding the group to a consensus, aim to hear all student voices, avoid personal biases or their own definition of happy, and honor the students’ vision of happy.

Depending on the developmental and skill level of your students, you may want to step out of this phase of the lesson and allow the group to come to a consensus on the ideas in the happy vision without you.
5 min
Final Draft

The group should establish a means to create a final draft of the happy vision, whether that is selecting a student to write it out, having you create the large poster, or some other means of writing it.

5 min

See the questions under “Criteria for Success/Formative Assessment” below. Have students answer these questions in a format that works for your class, whether that is on paper, in smalls groups, as a whole-class discussion, etc.

2 min

Post the final vision of happy visibly in the room and remind students that it will remain up so that they can hold themselves, each other, and you accountable for the ideas that they have created.

Connections to Other Emotions

Creating a happy environment may also foster the emotions of contented and energized, as happy feelings may help us to feel content and energetic.

Criteria for Success/Formative Assessment

  1. What will our class be like if everyone follows the vision of happy?
  2. Do you think your original definition of happy is captured in the class vision? Why or why not?
  3. What is one specific way (please give a concrete example) that you can help our class live up to its vision of happy?