Don’t Let Things Get the Better of You

Glenn Amon Magee, Gifu Shotoku Gakuen University

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Cognitive based theory, perspectives, speaking, brainstorming, writing
  • Learner English Level: High-beginner and up
  • Learner Maturity: University
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Activity Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Materials: Slides, projector, handouts

Don’t Let Things Get the Better of You is an activity that requires students to reinterpret negative situations by giving positive encouragement. Learners will look at eight negative statements supported with pictures (see Appendix C for examples) and then brainstorm ways to encourage someone by offering a different perspective on a situation. Drawing on cognitive based therapy, the aim is to introduce students to language patterns that aim to improve mental health, social relationships, and emotional regulation.


Prepare 8 slides on a theme using negative statements. Each slide needs a picture (situation) and a statement (an example of negative thinking). If you use the latest version of Microsoft PowerPoint, you can get automatic picture recommendations that are licensed for reuse under attribution. Prepare two handouts: ‘A’ for students to write positive encouragement using a different perspective and ‘B’ with examples of phrases that are used to offer different perspectives. Handout ‘B’ might not be necessary depending on the level and experience of your students (see Appendix A and B for examples).


Step 1: Put students into groups and get them to discuss how they might encourage someone who is unhappy because they feel frustrated, angry, or tense. Elicit answers from each group.

Step 2: Introduce the theme of reinterpreting negative situations through positive encouragement by giving your own example such as, “Yes, but on the other hand other people make mistakes, too. Most people didn’t even notice your mistake.”

Step 3: Get students to brainstorm other phrases that are similar to yours for a few minutes and then elicit answers from each group. If students are unable to produce similar phrases, then provide more examples on a handout. An example of ‘Handout B’ is included in the appendices.

Step 4: Give students ‘Handout A’ and show them a series of pictures and statements. Pause between each picture for about 2-3 minutes so that students can write their responses.

Step 5: As students are writing, circulate around the room giving students advice and help as needed.

Step 6: When all the pictures have been shown, get students to practice roleplaying each situation in their group for about five to ten minutes, or until they feel confident.

Step 7: Stop the class. Show the slides from the beginning again and ask random student groups to roleplay a situation for the class.

Step 8: Collect ‘Handout A’ from the students and give written feedback to them on their use of phrases for positive encouragement. In the next class, follow up with further advice on how to offer different perspectives, as necessary.


Don’t Let Things Get the Better of You is a challenging activity that helps students see nuances in a situation. This activity works well as a compliment to textbook units that focus on giving advice as it provides a different strategy from simply telling people what you think they should do. When you experience negative statements in the classroom this activity can be brought back to challenge negative thinking as it helps students to create their own emotional balance as well as improving social relationships.


The appendix is available below: