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  • Writer's pictureErin Mckenzie

Teach Students to Shift to a Positive Mindset

Updated: Jun 6

A story of how a mom was able to shift her perception of an experience to a positive mindset and how we can teach our students to do the same

Boy pretending to be a super hero
One Activity to Teach Students to Shift to a Positive Mindset

As adults, we know that reality is only about perspective, but thinking this way is easier said than done.

How do we teach students to shift their perspective to a positive mindset?

How do we practice what we preach and live in a positive state of mind versus focusing on the negative?

An afternoon ski trip I planned with my boys one day taught me a powerful lesson in mindset and helped me discover that how we tell our stories completely dictates our mindset.

The two stories I share here demonstrate how drastically one's perspective can completely shift your mood and mindset. You can have your students do the same thing! You'll find instructions for a student writing activity following the blog. You can also check out my TPT Lesson: Teaching Students the Power of their Thoughts for more fun mindset activities!

Story #1 (Not so Positive Mindset...)

Why I make the commitment to take the boys skiing after their hour-long physicals, immunizations, and all…I don’t know.

As soon as the promise impulsively escapes my lips, I regret it. This means leaving the comfort of my peaceful, childless home an hour earlier to retrieve their skis from their dad’s.

That’s not all. The parking lot of the ski area contains potholes that only ropes and ice axes could rescue you from and the suspension on my Jeep leaves much to be desired.

We park what feels like 3 miles away from the lodge, in the last spot available. The boys decide the best approach is to change into their ski attire in the Jeep.

I navigate through snow bags, full of wet clothes from recess, to salvage the dry pair of socks I am hoping is still lurking at the bottom. Taco bell wrappers litter the floor of my Jeep (yeah, bad mom), along with the small brown shards of lettuce that had escaped my oldest son’s taco minutes earlier.

I hate the mess. I hate the cold. I hate the wind.

The tips of my fingers turn red as blood rushes to them, while trying to pull out the tongue of the ski boot that, I swear, shrinks about an inch every time I try to squeeze it onto the overgrown foot of my 8-year-old child.

Finally, we are dressed and ready to go. Ooops, back to the Jeep, I forgot to lock the console. I reach in to fumble around with my keys in the console and in the process, I hit a button that I later regret.

At the summit, the wind is whipping.

All I can do is smile and silently recite “I’m doing this for my boys, I’m doing this for my boys, this is the last time this year”.

The third time up the lift, I say, “are you guys almost done?” Both reply “No way mom!” Cool. I try to remind myself that this is only a very small chunk of my life and that before long I’ll be in a hot shower.

They decide that since the “Glades” are open, we will make our way through the moguls and trees.

The confidence I feel as we head onto that small trail in the woods quickly fades as I remember that I’m out of shape and not really cut out for black diamonds anymore.

I flounder my way through the trail of death while my young boys gracefully swish back and forth in front, taunting me. I exhale a sigh of relief as I see the exit and make damn sure to tell them that the glades are not for me.

Finally, the end of the evening is in sight and we make our way back down to the Jeep to do it all again in reverse.

Boots off, helmets, goggles, cold gloves, once again strewn about. I’m chilled to the bone, the thought of turning on the fan, impatiently waiting for the heat to come wafting out is too much to bear. Ugghhh, all I can think about is how I still have to go grocery shopping.

Finally, kids buckled, key in ignition, I turn the key…nothing.

I glance down to see that button I accidentally hit before leaving the Jeep, is lit up. My KC lights had been on. The. Whole. Time.

My battery is dead.

Deep breath, I have my phone. My phone battery is only at 8% and fading fast.

I’m done. I don’t know where the calm presentation comes from truthfully, but through clenched teeth, I gently tell the boys we need to go into the lodge. I step out of the Jeep and hear two doors slam behind me.

A hand slowly reaches up to grasp mine and a small voice says “Let’s look at the positive side! Mom, I learned that from you.” My wise little man begins to tell me all the positive things that he sees right now, in his world. He begins with the potholes on the ground beneath us.

My eyes suddenly fill and through my blurred vision, I see my day through different eyes.

Story #2 (Shift to a Positive Mindset)

I’m so blessed that I have the afternoon to take my boys skiing one last time before the snow disappears!

Luckily, I was able to get them in for their physicals early enough to get some ski runs in well before dark. It was very kind of their dad to leave their skis out for us to pick up, on the way by.

We sail into the parking lot of the ski area and notice that we’re not the only ones enjoying the slope one last time. As we move across the potholes, we pretend we're in bumper cars.

The boys point out that since we’re so close to the slopes, we should just get ready in the Jeep, eliminating the long walk to the lodge.

The air is crisp and cool and it’s then that I remind myself that Spring really is right around the corner.

Thank goodness the cold stuck around to keep the snow on the slopes. Not only that, but the Glades are open!

As I follow my boys down through the beautiful birches, I feel the burn in my thighs and realize how much exercise I am getting. I also quickly discover that my boys have become very good skiers. I can’t seem to keep up with them and I think they enjoy it.

We hit the summit countless times, until finally, we are all worn out and ready to head home. We make our way back to the Jeep and look forward to the warm ride home.

As I turn the key in the ignition, I notice that my engine doesn’t make a sound.

My battery is dead.

I glance down to notice that my phone battery is at 8%, thank goodness! I’m so lucky I’ll be able to make the one call I need to make.

Since we’re stranded at the ski lodge for a while, I come to the realization that I don’t have to worry about grocery shopping tonight. I can get the boys a meal right in the lodge as we wait for our rescue.

Student Writing Activity:

  1. Have students think of a recent situation that occurred that created a bad day for them or that they perceived as a negative experience. I would steer students away from events that are heavy with grief. I've provided some examples you can share with them below.

  2. Have students write out the situation in detail and draw a picture (optional). Having them create an order of events will be helpful for the next step.

  3. Next have them re-write the story in order. Encourage them to imagine that the events actually brought them joy. Give them examples of how they might do this. For example, if a student wrote about a time they woke up with a sore throat, they might wake up and think "Yes! I get to stay home today!". That would be #1 in the order of events.


  • Had to go along to run errands with a family member

  • Woke up not feeling well

  • Was disappointed about exciting plans being cancelled

  • Had school when you were hoping for a snow day

  • Had to do a lot of chores

  • Struggled with a school subject or class

  • Didn't make the sports team you were trying out for

How are the stories you are telling affecting your mindset? How could you shift your story to create a more positive mindset about the experience? Please share in the comments below!


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