top of page

Capturing The Positivity In The Classroom!

Updated: Jan 10

A gold fish inside a glass bubble ball bowl
A gold fish inside a glass bubble ball bowl

2024 is fast approaching. With it comes reflection, review and looking to the future. The future holds promise. The past confirms our pathways and guides efforts on our continuing journey. All in all, the advent of a new year is a time of excitement! This translates to the classroom, too! Returning staff enjoy coming back together and sharing about their time over the winter break. The winter break is usually a restorative experience. Staff members return with high energy and virtually no stress! Capturing this positivity in the classroom and generating a workflow to push students forward are the goals for the beginning of the new year.

The first day back from winter break is a perfect time to enjoy that positivity and focus it toward the work of the new semester. Provide your staff an entry ticket on that first day with a request for five things they enjoyed while on break; three things that were unexpected, yet turned out to be good; and one thing they’d do again. A second aspect to this entry ticket could be thoughts about how to create enjoyable moments during the yearbook work, how to view the unexpected in the yearbook class as positive, and what happened in the first semester that they’d like to revisit. I’d recommend welcoming your staff back with a treat of some kind, too–e.g. Twizzlers, lollipops, something quiet that encourages a contemplative mood for completing the entry ticket. A Fishbowl discussion is an excellent continuation of capturing the positivity once students have finished the entry ticket. Ask the editor or co-editors to act as recorders of the findings from the Fishbowl discussion. The end result of this exercise is to translate the essence of those restorative moments of winter break into the classroom in tangible, executable ways.

The following is taken from Facing History and Ourselves.

What Is a Fishbowl Discussion?

Fishbowl is a strategy for facilitating group discussions. In a Fishbowl discussion, students inside the “fishbowl” actively discuss a topic. Students outside the fishbowl listen carefully to the conversation. They take turns in these roles to practice being both contributors and listeners in a group discussion.

A Fishbowl activity is especially useful when you want to make sure all students participate in a discussion, when you want to help students reflect on what a good discussion looks like, and when you need a structure for discussing controversial or difficult topics. A Fishbowl discussion makes for an excellent pre-writing activity, often unearthing questions or ideas that students can explore more deeply in an independent assignment.

How to Run a Fishbowl Discussion

Select a Topic

Almost any topic is suitable for a Fishbowl conversation. The most effective prompts (questions or texts) do not have one right answer or interpretation, but rather allow for multiple perspectives and opinions. The Fishbowl strategy is excellent for discussing dilemmas, for example.

Set Up the Room

A Fishbowl discussion requires a circle of chairs (“the fishbowl”) and enough room around the circle for the remaining students to observe what is happening in the “fishbowl.” Sometimes teachers place enough chairs for half of the students in the class to sit in the fishbowl, while other times teachers limit the chairs further. Typically, six to 12 chairs allows for a range of perspectives while still giving each student an opportunity to speak. The observing students often stand around the fishbowl.

Prepare for the Discussion

Like many structured conversations, Fishbowl discussions are most effective when students have had a few minutes to prepare ideas and questions in advance.

Discuss Norms and Rules

There are many ways to structure a Fishbowl discussion. Sometimes teachers have half the class sit in the fishbowl for ten to 15 minutes before announcing “Switch,” at which point the listeners enter the fishbowl and the speakers become the audience. Another common Fishbowl discussion format is the “tap” system, where students on the outside of the fishbowl gently tap a student on the inside, indicating that they should switch roles. 

Regardless of the particular rules you establish, make sure they are explained to students beforehand. You also want to provide instructions for the students in the audience. What should they be listening for? Should they be taking notes? Before beginning the Fishbowl activity, you may wish to review guidelines for having a respectful conversation. Sometimes teachers ask audience members to pay attention to how these norms are followed by recording specific aspects of the discussion process, such as the number of interruptions, examples of respectful or disrespectful language being used, or speaking times (who is speaking the most or the least).


After the discussion, you can ask students to reflect on how they think the discussion went and what they learned from it. Students can also evaluate their performance as listeners and as participants. They could also provide suggestions for how to improve the quality of discussion in the future. These reflections can be in writing, or they can be structured as a small- or large-group conversation.”1

United Yearbook joins you and your staff in capturing the positive spirit of the new year. We offer resources to complement your instruction and enrich your yearbook staff’s learning. Our Curriculum & Resources include instructional guides and presentations with varied sets of resources for use with your staff. To revitalize advisers and staff, we also tailor Workshop Sessions for any topic, from learning the PLIC Books software platform to writing captions, building teams, leveling up photography skills, and developing layout and composition design skills. Contact us. Let’s ring in the new year with positive notes together.

1 Fishbowl. Facing History & Ourselves. (2017, June 17). 

Former yearbook advisor, Lucy McHugh

Contributor: Lucy McHugh comes to United Yearbook Printing from a 39-year career in public and private school education. She was a former visual art teacher and yearbook adviser. She received a Bachelors of Science in Art from Columbia College in Columbia, SC, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nebraska in 2000, and in 2014 earned a Certificate in Catholic School Leadership from Loyola Marymount University. Lucy enjoys her family, making art and gardening.

49 views0 comments


bottom of page