The Power of Positive Thinking

I place importance on motivating and supporting language learners. This is probably connected to the fact that I hear from learners daily online, and talk about a lack of confidence is common. When I participated in the WizIQ MOOC last November, I included some talk about building the confidence of learners. I mentioned that I had designed some materials with inspirational messages. My Good, Better, Best handout was part of a previous post on motivating students and demonstrated how a positive message could be embedded in a grammar exercise.

In my most recent work on YouTube, I opened the oral reading playlist with a few texts that offer inspirational messages about persevering and making the most of one’s time. Since the nature and format of the videos are quite different from the ones in the past, I wanted to set the right atmosphere and help learners’ overcome their wariness of something new. I wanted to make learners believe in their potential and the value of reading aloud with me. The response so far has been wonderful. One viewer said the first text “A New Day” gave her the confidence to write a comment in English online for the first time. Hooray!

If we can inject some positive thoughts or feelings into a lesson, it can help learning take place. Agreed? Recently, a member of my forum shared a poem about what makes his day. The simple but effective structure impressed me. I not only enjoyed the piece of happy thoughts, but I also saw potential in the poem for classroom use. Rizwan Ahmed Memon of Akil, Larkana, Sindh, Pakistan has kindly given me permission to repost his verses here. Rizwan has demonstrated a very positive attitude, embracing the roles of teacher and learner in his daily work. I would encourage you to consider sharing his poem with your own students and inviting them to write their own stanzas about what makes their day. This short creative writing activity could be a good warm-up or a way to lead into a language point, such as collocations with make.

That Makes My Day
Rizwan Ahmed Memon

(Originally posted on EWJ Forum.)

When there are clouds in the sky,
Water in the pond,
Wind from the north,
Your hand in my hand,
That makes my day.

When there is a smile on your face,
Bangles around your wrist,
Earrings in your ears,
A ring on your finger,
That makes my day.

When there are waves in the river,
Your footprints on the bank,
Your books in the boat,
That makes my day.

When there are flowers in the fields,
Due on the grass,
Your fragrance around me,
That makes my day.

When there are leaves on the ground,
Your presence under the tree,
Shadows all around,
That makes my day.

When there are two cups of tea on the table,
Your face to watch,
Your voice to hear,
That makes my day.

For more of Rizwan’s writings, please visit his blog.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Jennifer, this was just what I needed today!
    You /Your posts are “a breath of fresh air”!

    This makes my day. You make my day!

    With a smile of appreciation,

    1. Dear Holly,

      When there are special thoughts to share,
      Your eyes to read them,
      Your mind to appreciate them,
      Your heart to understand,
      That makes my day.

  2. Hi, Jennifer and all other teachers and learners!

    I am Rizwan Ahmed Memon. When Jennifer asked me to giver her permission for posting my poem on her blog, I felt great happiness. It is honor for me to see my poem as a model and guidance for teachers and learners.

    I would appreciate if Jennifer used my writings in her videos, too.
    This way we can improve a lot. Let’s learn together, guiding one another and making ourselves better teachers, learners, and people.

    When there are replies form Jennifer,
    Suggested edits to ponder over,
    Some improvements to make,
    Some changes to bring,
    That makes my writings!

  3. sultan23c says:

    Jennifer, I have learned so much from you and I’m truly grateful for that. Rizwan is now my friend through your forum.
    I have been talking to Rizwan on phone three or four times which made me understand to Rizwan. I notice that Rizwan sentiments are positive. He is inclined towards going forward…..He is inclined towards teaching also.
    Rizwan told me that he want to educate his neighbors near his vicinity.
    This is the reason, by which I’m delighted to talk to him on phone
    I intend to contact on phone with Rizwan another time very soon.
    Thank you very much specially for this post to me very interesting, and have a beautiful day 🙂

    1. May you have a beautiful day, too, Sultan. 🙂

  4. Hi Jennifer,

    I find every day that the building of confidence in ESL students (yes, just about all of them) is critical to not only their self-esteem within our culture but also to motivating them to learn well and faster.

    For example, I am constantly pushing out to them (all classes in a certain unnamed school board within the GTA) my lesson on HOW TO STUDY, which incorporates the idea that “you must help your brain to learn, not to memorize, or it will revolt and refuse to help you when you most need it.” So I get them to make two files: MY CLASS NOTES.DOC and MY NEW WORD LIST.DOC…. and explain about how the brain learns best, being the time at home when you type into these two files, for you then have to explain your notes to yourself — and THAT is the time (not in the class, but in a quiet time as you type at home) that you learn the best.

    That was a short and sweet description of the approach but I hope you get the drift. Anyway, Jennifer, I am often overwhelmed by the responses I get to this after class, so I know that something is certainly clicking somewhere and so I will continue with this lesson in my various classes, as it seems to strike a very deep chord with students.


    Declan M. Nolan
    (A great admirer of your work… your wonderful blog on that subject)

    1. Hello and what a wonderful addition to this discussion! Thank you, Declan. You are so very right to emphasize that quiet time, that time of reflection. I hope other teachers reading your comment will consider how they can guide their students to be better learners. Knowing how to study independently is important. I think having to explain your notes to yourself is helpful, but isn’t it also helpful to study with a partner? I was just thinking about one of my more difficult courses in college, Russian History. There was so much to remember, and so many connections to make. I found it helpful to sit down and compare notes with a classmate. We’d test each other’s knowledge and force ourselves to explain events as we understood them. This process helped me gain confidence with the material.

      Thank you for visiting my blog once again.
      Kind wishes,

      1. Hi Jennifer,
        Thanks so much for your perspective.

        I agree totally that studying with a partner would be an immense help. However, some difficulties with doing this come to mind immediately with respect to ESL learners, as follows.

        1) The environment in which they receive knowledge, the classroom, is certainly no different than a university lecture hall (well, it actually is – but generally speaking, it isn’t). They can reach out to a fellow student at breaks or at lunch to compare notes, I suppose; but that is about the extent of the similarities between a young university student focused 100% on academics and an ESL learner, I think.

        The contrasts, though, abound. For example:

        1) At class end they don’t have the luxury of saying “Hey, let’s meet over a latte in the cafe… ” as they must rush to the daycare to pick up the children; or head home on the subway to make dinner for the family. It must be wearisome to be a mother or a father as well as being a student and a job-holder, for you have to spend five hours (or less) intently studying (every day for some) at a late stage in life with all the commitments that family responsibilities bring.

        2) Fellow learners often don’t speak the same mother tongue. Therefore, most often commonality of language is non-existent, which is not the case with a native, Canadian, academic student. This presents a barrier even before one tries to partner with another in understanding a subject, because the subject is the very language that one must converse in!

        Are there any solutions to these two problems?
        1) STUDY PERIOD:
        Well, if I had the same class to teach over a long enough period of time (I’m speaking months), then I would certainly allocate 30 minutes of class time (say, every Friday) to encourage collaboration and studying of notes taken that week.

        Then again I can see even a problem with that point I just made in that many ESL students have commitments which interrupt regular class time. However, that can be overcome by holding the study session about one-half hour into class (due to the usual latecomers with all their valid reasons), perhaps alternating the day each week so they don’t stay away on “study day”. Fridays generally are notorious for absenteeism with ESL students, so one would have to plan these study sessions carefully as to day and time. Indeed, I think that “surprise” study sessions might even be better than “planned” ones, to ensure that as many students participate as possible.

        I think study sessions directed by the teacher (assigning partners and allocating time in the class every week) would not only be a good thing to do in a regular ESL class but it would be loads of fun for learners and above all, a great learning experience for them in learning “HOW TO STUDY”. I reiterate here that many, many students have no clue as to “how to study”. This Is a critical need that every ESL teacher should address with his or her students, in my view.

        Best Regards,

      2. Hello Declan,

        Nice to hear from you again. Thank you for continuing the discussion and putting more thought into some possibilities. I think the in-class study sessions are a useful suggestion. It would be a challenge for teachers to work that into the limited class time they have with a group; however, if done once a week, as you mentioned, and for only part of the class, I could see it working. Those with a blended classroom might have other ideas for incorporating study skills.

        Kind regards,

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