Overview: Free self control lesson plan for 4th and 5th grade. Can your students restrain themselves for an extrinsic reward? What about two rewards? Learners replicate the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment in a lesson about self-control and choosing appropriate behavior for the classroom.
Subject: 21st Century Skills: Social & Emotional Learning, ELA: Writing
Grades: 4th, 5th
Duration: 1 hour
Related Concepts: Self-Control, Restraint, Character Education
Students will be able to:
Generalize self-control skills into everyday life, showing greater restraint in choosing appropriate behaviors in the classroom.
Discuss how they can use self-control in their daily lives in a short paragraph.
Essential Questions: How can controlling your impulses affect your behavior? Is it worth controlling your impulses now for a positive consequence later on?
Vocabulary: self-control, impulse, control, consequence, positive consequence, negative consequence, extrinsic reward, intrinsic reward
Common Core Standards Addressed:
- ELA: Writing:
- W.4.4, 10
Note: Be aware of any allergens that may be present in edible rewards.
Put a marshmallow (or another reward) on each student's desk. Explain that they are free to eat the treat, but if it is still there in ten minutes, they can have a second one. Then continue with a lesson as normal.
After 10 minutes, put a duplicate reward on the desk of any student who has not changed (ate, used, etc.) the initial object.
After passing out the second rewards, pause the lesson and ask for feedback about the experience. What did students notice? What do they think the point of the experience was?
Ask what students who didn't get the second reward would have changed. Review the student discussion main points, highlighting how students who controlled their impulse got an additional reward. Invite additional student discussion about the connection between the impulse control and the reward.
Write "Positive Consequences" on the board. Define the term and write "Marshmallow" underneath. Ask the class for additional ideas (e.g. grades, allowance, good feelings, etc.) and add them to the list.
Above both categories, write "Positive Consequences." Make another category for "Negative Consequences" and have learners compile a list of negative things that happen when they don't resist their behavior impulses (e.g. detention, phone call to parents, low grades, etc.) Remind students that every choice they make is followed by a consequence; whether it's a positive or negative consequence is in their control. By a show of hands, have students indicate which set of consequences they prefer on a daily basis.
Have students independently brainstorm common impulses that they struggle to resist (e.g chatting with friends, talking back to parents, etc.) Allow volunteers to share their responses. Have the class pair the negative consequences to each impulse, as well as the positive consequence.
Ask students to write a short paragraph, 3-5 sentences, about their experience and how it might connect to every day behavior. Might it be better to skip talking during the lesson now to have extra social time later as a reward for self-control? Give students about 20 minutes to write down their thoughts.
Collect written responses or assign a second draft for homework.
- Review student writing samples.
- Use the flower behavior chart to track behavior/impulse control over the course of a five-day week, adding the sixth petal after the reward has been earned.
Provide extra support to students with behavior concerns to help meet their goals.
Offer speech-to-text software, a scribe, and/or scaffolded writing organizers as needed.
Allow advanced writers to expand their writing assignment into an argument essay to convince the teacher or principal to implement a specific positive consequence for good classroom behavior (e.g. a field trip or class party).
Based on response, this lesson can be individualized and focused just on students who need additional behavior/impulse control support.
Students who need additional support can continued to use the behavior tracker chart/reward system as incentive.