Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Life Is Like a Roller Coaster

Carmen Haskins


This activity will increase awareness of how life can be like a roller-coaster especially concerning changes in a family. Students may share feelings orally, in writing, and in drawing. Students learn and/or practice I messages.


The student knows the skills needed to be a responsible friend and family member (eg., communication and sharing).


-Drawing paper
-Pencils, crayons, markers
-Poster board and glue/tape unless you post student work on a bulletin board
-List for students to record feelings/ideas and I messages on (see attached file)
-Copy of rubric (see attached file)


1. Gather materials (drawing paper, pencils/crayons/markers, poster board/bulletin board, Like Is Like a Roller-coaster List & Rubric {see associated file) for activity.
2. Make copies of the list for students to record ideas/feelings and I messages on.
3. Make copy of the rubric for the teacherís use.
4. Consider allowing students to work in small groups.
5. It is important to help students rid themselves of self-blame, if needed.


Note: This activity will increase awareness, but not show mastery of the benchmark.

1. Play carnival type music and have a poster or large picture of a roller-coaster to show (see weblink below for pictures).

2. Ask students if they have ever ridden on a roller-coaster.

3. Allow students to share their feelings about their roller-coaster experience or lack of experience.

4. Discuss how life can be like a roller-coaster:
it has ups and downs
it can be fun
it can be scary
it can get off track and need help
it needs to be taken care of like ourselves, etc.

5. Ask students to give their ideas about how life can be like a roller-coaster and write examples on the board.

6. Discuss how changes in a family can give you the same feelings that riding on a roller-coaster might. Example 1: My son is about to leave home to go to college. This makes me happy and sad at the same time. I know I will miss him AND his friends, but I feel JOY that they are doing so well. Example 2: Most people feel EXCITEMENT when a baby is born into a family. Distribute drawing paper and ask students to write or draw a way a family might change (divorce, marriage, birth, death, separation, incarceration, illness, siblings leaving home, moving, job loss). Allow sharing as time permits. Some students may choose to do nothing. I don't think they should be forced.

7. Ask students to write or draw feelings that they might have about changes in a family. The students will be writing and/or drawing about the discussion in 6. Some students may choose to do nothing. I don't think they should be forced. Sharing could be going on while they draw.

8. Inform students that using I messages is a good way to communicate their feelings to others. Tell them that I messages tell others how you feel in a non-threatening and non-blaming way. Give examples:

I feel worried WHEN someone I love is very sick.
I felt like I was to blame WHEN my parents divorced.
I miss my dad WHEN heís not living with us.

9. Allow students to share their I messages and help them refine them as necessary.

10. Review how life can be like a roller-coaster especially when thinking about changes that families go through and the feelings that those changes cause (see 4, 5, and 6). Review I messages (see 8).

11. Distribute the list to be completed and allow students time to complete it. Provide feedback, answer questions, and allow sharing, as appropriate. Some students may need individual counseling.

12. Allow students who want to post their written/drawn products on a bulletin board or poster board (you may have to cut their work down to size). Some students may want to keep their products. Possibly, they will share them at home.


Note: This activity will increase awareness, but not show mastery of the benchmark.
Completed list with I message statement
Students will list at least one way that life is like a roller-coaster, at least one change that may occur in families, at least one feeling such change may cause, and complete an I message expressing a feeling they feel or have felt.
The assessment tool will be a rubric with scores of commendable, acceptable, and see teacher.

Web Links

This is a site with many pictures of many rides.
Joy Rides

The Families First organization offers a curriculum for children of change called Roller-coasters, 1997 & 2001. Their address is: P.O. Box 7948, Station C, Atlanta, GA 30357

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