Family Resources on Glasses, Fullness, and Emptiness

Project and Purpose

Students build arguments to convince their peers of the best way to develop a strong sense of optimism

Essential Questions

How do you develop a strong sense of optimism?

If this lesson was used in the classroom: Students learned about developing a strong sense of optimism. In class students discussed various points of view about optimism and being optimistic. In groups students developed persuasive presentations about optimism
using a quote about optimism.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

Having a strong (but realistic) sense of optimism is associated with health and happiness throughout life. In this lesson students discuss and critically assess various beliefs about optimism to help them gain a better understanding of why optimism is important.

Conversation notes:
For more about the importance of optimism and how it helps develop a healthy outlook and resilience in adolescents read this article in at the Kidshealth website:
For strategies to increase optimism in a youth’s life see this article by Dr. Justin Coulson at
Generation Next:

Constructive Conversation Starters

The first item is for follow-up after participating in class activities.

Tell us about your group’s quote about optimism? What was your argument? Was it effective? Why or why not?

Do you think you are generally optimistic (or hopeful) about the future? Why or why not?

Do you think optimistic people are happier or more successful? Why or why not?

How can you best balance optimism with being realistic? Why do you think as you do? How can I/we support you in maintaining this balance?

School to Home Resources on Glasses, Fullness, and Emptiness


  • Post-it notes and writing instruments
  • Clear cup, ½ full of water (or ½ empty of water, depending on how you look at it)
  • Optimism Option cards — these are index cards with a quotation or a suggestion for improving one’s sense of optimism (provided at end of lesson)
  • Access to research in print or online
  • Paper and writing tools or computer writing programs
  • Open space

Lesson Plan

Interactive Reflections and Lesson Plans often cover broader themes than the competency named. All CWK stories are multi-faceted and are meant to prompt deep conversation.


1. Put the cup of water in a place where everyone can see it and ask students for observations and scribe their words.

2. Post the old saying, “The optimist sees the glass as half full, while the pessimist sees the glass as half empty” and ask students what this phrase means. Have they ever heard this phrase assigned to anyone—including themselves—as a reflection of behavior or attitude? Describe the situation. If not, provide examples from your own experiences or observations.

3. Next post the Ta-Nehisi Coates quotation: “My job is to look out on that world I write about and be as honest as I possibly can about the world. If that is optimistic and uplifting, OK. If it’s not, OK.” Compare/contrast to the old saying about glasses, fullness, and emptiness. What does it say about optimism and pessimism? Explain.

4. Next post the CASEL (Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning) descriptor for the core competency of Self-awareness:

“The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations and possessing a well-grounded sense of confidence and optimism.”

5. Discuss why they think “possessing a well-grounded sense of optimism” is an important part of selfawareness. If they are not optimistic, does that mean they are not self-aware? Explain.

6. Explain that there are many theories out there about optimism, many of which are summed up by brief sayings or quotations by experts and others. In this session students will work with some of the theories of optimism and create a persuasive presentation to convince others their idea is the right one to live by.

7. Break the class into working groups of no more than five (5) people. Each group should select a facilitator, 2 scribes, at least one presenter, and a member at large. Their task is to create a persuasive presentation based on their assigned tenet that includes:

  • A strong claim
  • Support to make the claim believable and acceptable: data (but not an overwhelming amount), stories, anecdotes, quotations, research, etc. The support should be logical yet somehow appeal to the group’s emotions. It should matter to them. They may use visual aids to illustrate their support information.
  • A concluding statement with a strong call to accept the tenet as the best.
  • A persuasive speech presented by one or more of the group members. The persuasive speeches must be between 1-3 minutes.

8. Distribute one tenet/quotation to each group and give them time to work on their persuasive arguments.

9. Determine the order of the presentations and discuss appropriate audience behavior.


Discuss: Which, if any of the tenets, defines the best way to develop a strong sense of optimism in life? Why?

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