Envy basket

Groupwork activity to discuss responses to envy

The students sit in a large circle and receive papers and pencils. Each student writes down one thing that makes him/her envious. It must be said in advance that the children will later exchange the papers with each other but will remain anonymous.
To get the activity going, the teacher states several examples (e.g., my classmate’s study results are better than mine; he/she is better in sports than me; he/she has more pocket money than me, etc.). The students fold their papers so that others do not see what’s written there, insert them to the basket and the teacher mixes the content. Then the basket is circulated among the students who draw one paper each and read what’s written there. If anyone draws their paper, he/she returns it to the basket and draws another. Each draw is followed by comments and a short discussion. Supervised by the teacher, the students extrapolate the repeating or similar themes, expressing if such a situation makes them envious, too. The teacher discusses with the children strategies of coping with this emotion.
In the end, the students draw a large “Here and Now Circle” on the blackboard, write their current feelings there and compare whether their emotions differ from the emotions before the discussion and whether they still envy their classmates.

How this resource relates to Shaping Characters objectives

  • Attitudes and attributes
  • Education techniques
  • Innovative approach
  • Motivation and resilience

Actual outcomes

Educational objective: Becoming aware of own emotions; distinguishing between positive and negative emotions; being able to control own feelings in order not to hurt us or others; distinguishing and sharing moments that result in envy
Qualities in focus: Envy as a negative character trait
Target group, age of the students: 12–14 years of age
Suitable for: Citizenship Education, homeroom period

Resources required

Scrap papers, writing utensils, a small wicker basket

Time needed

45 minutes

What could have been done differently or is planned for future repeats?

This activity is intellectually challenging, yet entertaining. A sufficient amount of time is needed, as potential emotions emerge that must be discussed. At first, the children hesitated, not knowing where to start. It proved useful to give some examples to them. As regards the “Circle”, I’d recommend that presentations be done only by those students who want to, not forcing those who feel embarrassed. Only a few were brave enough. All in all, this was a nice and useful activity.

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