We make decisions every day. We decide what to feel, think, say, and do at any given moment. And although some decisions are simple, like whether to wear white or black socks, others are more complex with far-reaching consequences.
That’s why learning how to make sound decisions is an essential life skill for students. As they gain more responsibility, students are tasked with making important decisions that affect not only their lives, but also the lives of others. And teaching good decision-making skills early on helps students be more independent, responsible, and confident, which leads to better outcomes.
In After-School Explorations: Fun, Ready-to-Use Activities for Kids Ages 5-12, you can find a range of activities to help students practice their decision-making skills, plus activities that foster self-awareness, positive communication, cooperation, and problem solving.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
This activity teaches the importance of making thoughtful decisions.
The students will:
- Describe decisions they have made.
- Identify common decision-making mistakes.
- Distinguish between difficult and easy decisions, and between important and unimportant decisions.
- One copy of the activity sheet, I Decided to…, for each student (pg. 91 in After-School Explorations)
What to Do
1. Talk to students about how decisions are made. Emphasize that decisions never just “happen,” and when someone asks you why you have done a particular thing, it’s hardly ever true that you “don’t know.”
2. Then talk about some common mistakes children and adults make when making decisions. List them on the board:
- Doing the easiest thing
- Doing what your friend or group does, without thinking about it
- Doing whatever will get you into the least trouble
- Doing something because it’s fun, even though it’s not safe or smart
3. Distribute the activity sheets and go over the directions.
4. Allow students time to complete the sheet on their own. Circulate and assist non-readers by having them tell you what they did while you record the information.
5. After they have completed the sheet, ask each student to share what they wrote and talk to them about some of their decisions.
6. Use the following discussion questions to prompt thought and discussion.
- Was this a hard or an easy decision to make?
- If it was hard, what made it difficult?
- What other choices did you have on this decision?
- Did you do what people who care about you would want you to do? Why or why not?
- What was the most important decision you made? What made it important?
A Decision-Making Maze
This activity challenges students to complete a maze, making healthy choices along the way, and compare the experience to decision making.
The students will:
- Distinguish between healthy and unhealthy choices.
- Compare decision making to navigating a maze.
- Choose from among several alternatives.
- One copy of the activity sheet, Taking the Right Path, for each student (pg. 98 in After-School Explorations)
What to Do
1. Ask students to tell you what a maze is. Then explain that a maze is a confusing network of paths, some of which lead to dead ends. A maze is a type of puzzle. You have to look at it closely and follow each path with your eye to determine if it leads where you want to go.
2. Compare decision-making to a maze. Point out that decisions, like mazes, involve many choices, or paths. Some appear to lead in the right direction, but end abruptly or double back. Others lead only to trouble. However, somewhere in the maze, if you study it carefully, you will find the right path. The same is true of most decisions.
3. Distribute the activity sheets and go over the directions. Tell students to study the maze to find a path that goes all the way from the beginning to the end. Instruct them to use a pencil to trace the path they take, whether it turns out to be right or wrong. Tell them that they will probably run into some choices along the way, represented by pictures. Instruct them to circle the healthy choices and draw an X through the unhealthy choices.
4. As an extension for older students, have them design their own mazes which also include pictures of safe and unsafe choices. When students finish creating their mazes, have them exchange them with another student. Each student will then follow the path in the maze they’ve exchanged.
5. Give students a few minutes to complete the maze. Circulate and provide assistance.
6. When they have completed the puzzle, facilitate a discussion about the experience.
- Which choices did you cross out? Which did you circle?
- How many tries did you make before you found the right path?
- Have you ever made a decision that felt like a maze? What was it?
- When you make the wrong choice on the maze, do you quit or backtrack and try again?
- When you make the wrong choice on a decision, do you quit or try again? Why?