• Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Character Strengths
  • Mindfulness
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Download
  • Translations
  • Self-Regulation - Intermediate High

    Lesson Information

    Positive Psychology Learning Outcomes

    Students will...

    1. learn what self-regulation is and share their experiences with it.

    2. notice the positives about self-regulation and how it can help in their lives.

    Language Learning Outcomes

    Students will...

    1. connect content to background knowledge.

    2. connect context to meaning.

    3. narrate/describe in present tense across a variety of familiar and general topics.

    4. create language based on memorized phrases and formulaic speech.

    Materials Needed


    • Marshmallows or other candy (enough for each student to have two) to do the marshmallow experiment in class. 


    Explain to students that they will be able to define what self-regulation is and identify ways to use it to improve their everyday lives. 

    Activate Background Knowledge

    Ask the students to think about a time that they had to do something before they were allowed to do something fun. For example, if they had to do the dishes before going to play with their friends or had to finish their vegetables before eating dessert.

    • Have them share an experience with a partner. 
    • Explain that those were examples of self-regulation. Self-regulation is being disciplined and controlling your emotions and wants. 

    Activity 1: Vocabulary

    Introduce new vocabulary words that relate to the topic.

    • Such words may include self-regulation, posture, emotion, budget.

    Activity 2: Listening and Speaking

    Have students watch the marshmallow experiment video:The Marshmallow Test | Igniter Media | Church Video


    • Depending on the class, you may want to stop the video after the instructions are given to make sure the students understand the experiment before continuing.
    • Have a student explain the rules of the experiment to check understanding.

    • Discuss with students the following questions:
      • What were the children told when they were given one marshmallow?
      • Why was it hard to wait until the teacher came back?
      • How did some of the children distract themselves?
      • Do you think you could have waited for the teacher to return? Why or why not?
      • Would it be easier or harder to wait with a friend?
    • Optional: Studio C marshmallow experiment. This is a comedy sketch based off of the experiment with much more dialogue for the students to listen to:Marshmallow Experiment


    • Optional Activity:
      • If there are treats for the students to do the marshmallow experiment, explain that you will be doing the experiment. Place a treat on each of their desks, and tell them they can eat the treat now or wait until the teacher gives them a second one. Proceed to activity three.

    Activity 3: Speaking

    Tell the students that they will see a series of pictures, and for each one they will talk about the following questions:

    • What is happening in the picture?
    • How can someone use self-regulation in these activities?
    • Are you good at using self-regulation in each activity shown?
    • For more variation you can have the students switch partners with every picture so that they are talking to different classmates.
    • Pictures topics include:
      • Eating
      • Emotions
      • Posture
      • Exercise
      • Savings
      • Meditation

    benefits of eating salad everyday

    Retrieved from: https://edtechbooks.org/-bjs 

    How to Get In Touch with Your Emotions

    Retrieved from: https://edtechbooks.org/-nsuK 

    Retrieved from: https://edtechbooks.org/-AYXm 

     Inexpensive exercises jumping exercise ball hand weights

    Retrieved from: https://edtechbooks.org/-qmSa 

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     young black man wearing athletic wear sitting in the park meditating

    Retrieved from: https://edtechbooks.org/-RKH 

    Activity 4: Speaking

    Note: This is part of the optional activity using the treats in class. Only do this section if it was part of the lesson. 

    • Give the students that did not eat their treat another one. Have the students partner up and discuss the following questions:
      • It is different for everyone of course, but generally when trying to avoid a certain behavior taking your mind off of it or doing something else instead is a good way to begin.
      • Was it hard to not eat the treat? Why or why not?
      • Do you think it would be harder if you weren’t doing another activity?
      • How does this connect to self-regulation?

    Activity 5: Writing

    Explain to the students that they will each be setting a goal.

    • The goal will be a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Explain that each letter in S.M.A.R.T. stands for a word, which is shown in the picture below, and explain what each word means.

    • Examples of not-S.M.A.R.T. goals:
      • I want to be happy. (not specific or measurable)
      • I want to be able to fly (not attainable or relevant)
      • I want to graduate college in three weeks (good, except the time is not attainable)

    • Explain to the students that they will each be setting a goal.
      • The exact goal that I am trying to accomplish is…
      • I will be able to see that I am making progress by…
      • This is a goal I think I can actually reach because…
      • This is important to me right now because…
      • I think I’ll be able to reach my goal…(set a date/time)

    SMART goals for kids / Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Time-Bound

    Retrieved from: https://edtechbooks.org/-rAn

    • Goals are helpful for us when we want to achieve something, but we can usually change them when we need to. Explain to students that if after working on a goal for a while and they don’t like how it is going, it is okay to change the goal to be easier or harder for them, or to shorten or lengthen the time they need to accomplish it. Sometimes we decide we don’t want to achieve old goals, so we set new ones. 

    Activity 6: Speaking and Listening

    • Ask if the students would be comfortable to share their SMART goals with each other. If a student has written a personal goal that they do not want to share then consider skipping this activity or letting that student sit out.

    • Remind the students that while listening to others goals we must be kind. Things that are hard for some people are easy for others, and they must never be mean about someone else’s goal.

    1. That being said, having someone to support you can help achieve a goal, so it is good to share. 

    • Have the students get into pairs and share their goals with each other. 


    Have students work on their SMART goal this week for a follow-up on Thursday.



    Read or have a student read the following quote:

    “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

    - Henry Ford

    • How does thinking you can do something help you to do it?
    • How can thinking you cannot do something make it harder?


    Read or have a student read the following quote:
    “Self-regulation will always be a challenge, but if somebody’s going to be in charge, it might as well be me.”
    - Daniel Akst

    • What does this quote mean to you?
    • Do you agree with the quote?


    Have students think back on the SMART goals they made on Monday. In pairs, have students share:

    • What was your goal?
    • If you have worked on your goal this week, what progress have you made?
    • Are there any changes you want to make to your goal?

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    Access it online or download it at https://edtechbooks.org/PositivePsychologyintheClassroom/self_regulation_intermediate_high.