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Rose, Bud, Thorn: A Warm-Up Activity That Promotes Social-Emotional Learning

November 2, 2022

Language teachers are often looking for ways to integrate social⁠⁠-⁠⁠emotional learning (SEL) in their lessons to help students develop empathy, build self-esteem, and improve their communication skills.

Teachers also know the value of creating a structured environment aided by daily or weekly rituals.

Rose, Bud, Thorn is a reflective activity that ticks both boxes while allowing teachers to check in with their students and get to know them better.

This social-emotional learning activity serves as a great warm-up that students benefit most from when it’s part of their daily or weekly routine. This class activity is also effective with English learners of all ages.

How to implement Rose, Bud, Thorn in 4 steps

Step 1: Explain what each flower part represents

  • Rose: something good that's happened recently, something that you're proud of, or a success that you've had
  • Bud: something that you're looking forward to or a new idea that you want to explore
  • Thorn: a challenge that you're facing or something that you need help with

When you first introduce this activity, you may want to provide examples for each of the flower parts.

A rose could be something small and incidental like a nice breeze on a warm afternoon. It could also be a success while speaking English outside of the classroom such as being understood by the cashier at the grocery store when asked about bagging preferences.

A bud could be an upcoming day off from work, a coffee date with a friend after class, or the release of a new season of a favorite TV show.

And, finally, a thorn might be parenting a toddler who doesn’t want to nap or having a car that needs expensive repairs.

But perhaps the best way to illustrate a rose, bud, and thorn is by modeling the activity with your own personal information. Seeing your willingness to expose your vulnerabilities may give students the confidence boost they need to be open themselves.

Step 2: Have students jot down their ideas

Give students 5–10 minutes to write down ideas for their rose, bud, and thorn. Students may find it useful to gather their thoughts in a graphic organizer. Click here to print the activity below.

Rose, Bud, Thorn graphic organizer

Step 3: Give students the opportunity to share

Because this activity can be quite personal, some students may be more comfortable talking about their rose, bud, and thorn in pairs.

After students have had time to discuss their ideas with a partner, bring the whole class back together and give volunteers the chance to share with the entire group.

Step 4: Provide a follow-up activity

Help students improve their problem-solving skills by asking them to write down strategies for turning their thorns into roses. They can use their own ideas or get suggestions from their partner.

You can also ask students to come up with a reasonable time frame in which to turn their strategies into action.

Take this activity one step further

Encourage students to start a Rose, Bud, Thorn journal.

By keeping a written record of the good things that have happened in their lives as well as the challenges they've faced, students will reap the rewards of practicing gratitude, learning to set goals, realizing when they need support, and reflecting on instances when they've found solutions to their problems.

Now it's your turn!

Share a recent rose, bud, and thorn of your own in the comments section. What strategies did you use to turn your thorn into a rose?

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Comments (6)

Sara L.(Teacher)

So simple yet interesting. I'm always looking for ways to help my students get to know their classmates better, and this looks like the perfect activity. Thank you!

Reply to Comment

Ann Dickson(Author)

Hi Sara,
I hope your students enjoy the activity. Let us know how it goes. If they feel comfortable, encourage them to share their rose, bud, and thorn here. :-)

Kasi W.(Teacher)

I was hospitalized with chest pains last week. I did NOT have a heart attack, so this was both a thorn AND a rose.

Reply to Comment

Ann Dickson(Author)

Hi Kasi,
I'm so glad your thorn turned into a rose! Thanks for sharing!

Reply to Comment

Jenn H.(Teacher)

Thanks so much for this. I think if I ask my students to circle the emoji that describes how their week has been going one more time, I may have a revolt on my hands.

Reply to Comment

Ann Dickson(Author)

Hi Jenn,
I hope your students find this activity interesting and fresh. Feel free to have them share their rose, bud, and thorn here. Happy teaching!

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