A Fun (No, Really!) Way to Discuss the Five Stages of Grief

fun way to discuss five stages grief kubler ross

We’ve been discussing Erikson’s Stages of Development and I think Integrity vs. Despair is a great time to discuss the Five Stages of Grief.

Although it’s an important topic, the grieving process is not especially a fun one. It can be especially raw for some students. I share my experience of losing my sister-in-law and the challenges my husband’s family and I went through. I think it’s best to start with real examples instead of just launching into the fun stuff or it could seem like I’m making light of student’s potential pain.

After I share my examples and admit that discussing grieving is quite the downer, I explain that we’ll transition into a lighter discussion of the stages.

I start by showing this clip of Teen Titans experiencing the five stages of grief after losing a couch.

Then I divide students into groups and have them write a story about the stages of grief in a non-death situation. As the students read their stories aloud the rest of the class identifies how they are going through the stages.

An example I share is starting your car to find your battery is dead. We’ve been there… How many times do we turn the key before taking the next step? This is classic denial phase. 🙂

My students thought of some great examples:

  • Getting pulled over. “Why me? The car ahead of me was speeding too!” “Oh no, my parents are going to kill me!” “I can’t be getting pulled over… Maybe they are just trying to pass me!”
  • Being down by 20 points in the last two minutes of a state championship basketball game. Players get angry and foul others. They make wild shots. Finally they accept the results bring in second string so everyone can have a chance to play at the state tournament.
  • Finding your Ipod in the pocket of your fleece that has just been through the washer and dryer
  • You’re without a laptop charger and you have an online quiz due soon.

We laughed a lot and had a great time identifying with the stories.

Illustrating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with “If You Really Knew Me” Episode | Video Worksheet | Anti-Bullying Curriculum


On a Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers Facebook group, someone suggested showing an episode of If You Really Knew Me to illustrate Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I added an introductory video and created a worksheet to accompany the episode. I hope these materials are helpful to your class!

This activity would be an excellent introduction to Maslow for a high school Psychology class. It provides a brief overview of Maslow’s theory and gives students a practical application. As a Health and Family and Consumer Sciences teacher I use this activity to bridge between our units on personality and mental health. It could also be used as part of a bullying discussion to help students understand underlying reasons for why their classmates may act the way they do. In any class this video and worksheet will help students develop empathy for their classmates.

You can download this lesson’s worksheet here.

Begin by showing the short video (about five minutes) illustrating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Pause regularly for students to record each level and characteristics of each level.

After the video give students time to answer the reflection questions.

Which level does learning, understanding, and wisdom belong to?

            This is to help students realize that self-actualization is at the very top of the pyramid. In order for students to perform their very best in tasks that require creative thinking they must have the other levels in order.

How does our physical environment affect our emotions?

            This question is to help students recognize that our physical environment, whether at home or school, can affect our self-esteem and how we interact with others. Issues at home can cause us to act out.

To be the best you, what do others need to know about you to reach self-actualization?

This question gives student an opportunity to reflect on struggles they have outside of class that may be contributing to stress or poor classroom performance.

Take some time to discuss the answers with students as they feel comfortable.

Afterwards, introduce the concept of the “If You Really Knew Me” television show. “Challenge Day” is a group that goes into high schools to help students break barriers and cliques and helps them interact in a positive way. Students disclose very personal information that helps students understand what complex classmates they have. It is a very powerful series.

Preview a few episodes to find a school that most relates to your school’s student body makeup to make the experience more powerful. At the time of this publication I was able to download free episodes here. Episodes are also available inexpensively on iTunes.

As students watch the episode, they should record struggles the students face and sort them into which Maslow level they belong. Students may also think of their own examples. An alcoholic parent could fit under Safety and Security. Having a physical deformity could fit under Esteem.

Spend time discussing the episode with your students. Give them time to record “If You Really Knew Me” statements. This is a great tool to get to know your students better!

After this video and worksheet my students complete the “If You Really Knew Me Writing Mini Unit” available on Teachers Pay Teachers.