The Nature of Happiness: Mr. Happy Man Film and Activities

  • Download Lesson Plan

    From The Global Oneness Project:

    Mr. Happy Man by Matt Morris documents the life of 88-year-old Bermudian, Johnny Barnes, who devotes six hours of his day greeting passers-by at a traffic circle in the capital city of Hamilton, with the hope of spreading positivity and joy as well as being of service to others.”

    Students watch the film Mr. Happy Man in three parts.  The film is broken up to allow for discussion, activities, and checking for understanding.  Each section of the film is noted with a start and/or stop time, with suggested activities following.

  • Activity 1: Mr. Happy Man Part 1 and Individual Flipgrid Activity

    Stop the video at 2:57

    After watching Part 1 of Mr. Happy Man, students use Flipgrid* to sign their answers to the following question: 

    In the film, the radio host said, “a lot of people couldn’t understand why he would do what he’s doing.” Why do you think Johnny Barnes was doing what he was doing? 

    *NOTE: Sign up for a Flipgrid account here:
    Alternatively, students can go to and use code: 1c7a4082. They need to tag their video with a # and your name (i.e. #drlindamiller) so you can easily find it for grading purposes.
    Videos are moderated before being posted.

    Activity 2: Mr. Happy Man Part 2 and Individual Summarizing Activity 

    Start video at 2:57; Stop the video at 7:19

    After watching Part 2, distribute sticky notes to each student. Students write a one-sentence summary using the following prompt:

    If you could summarize what Johnny Barnes represents in one sentence, what would be your description?

    Students post their sticky notes to your board and read what other students wrote.
    Digital alternative: Create a Padlet page and have students post their sentences to the page.

    Activity 3: Mr. Happy Man Part 3 and Small Group and Individual Activity 

    Start video at 7:19,

    After watching Part 3, students gather in groups of two to three to complete the following activities.

    1. Students work together to create a list of Johnny Barnes’s ideas and beliefs that explain his efforts to make others happy. Students use facts from the video to support their answers. (Some answers include: living a life of service, enjoying the beauty of nature, loving each other, and joy comes from helping others.) 

    2. Refer students back to the list that the United Nations used to measure happiness.  Students then use the Compare/Contrast worksheet 1 to compare and contrast what they believe makes Johnny Barnes happy with what the U.N. used for the happiness indicators.  Working together, they write two short paragraphs explaining their findings.

    3. Using another Compare/Contrast worksheet 2, students individually compare and contrast their own answers to the happiness poll in the Prior Knowledge activity. The student then writes two paragraphs explaining his/her findings. 

    4. Using the rubric, group members read and critique each other's paragraphs before submitting them for grading.

    Compare and Contrast (1) what makes Johnny Barnes happy with what the U.N. used for the happiness indicators.

    Compare and Contrast (2) what makes you happy with what the U.N. used for the happiness indicators.

    Use the Compare and Contrast Rubric to grade activities.

The Nature of Happiness: Writing Activities

  • Activity 1: Individual Summarizing EdPuzzle Activity
    Watch the video and answer the questions. Note: The teacher will not be able to record answers unless he/she has a free account. Create your own free account or open this activity in EdPuzzle.
    Note: To see captions, press the Play button and then the CC button.

    Activity 2: Individual Summarizing Practice

    screenshot of summarizing webpage showing a passage for students to use to practice summarizing

    At IXL Learning, students read a passage, then answer questions about the background, problem, and solution.  After, students practice their summarizing skills with a drag and drop activity. 

    Activity 3: Individual Summarizing Assignment

    Description: Students read the following article: Teens Who Spend Less Time in Front of the Screen are Happier—to a Point and summarize the article in 100-200 words.

    Note: this article is also available on Newsela, where it can be adapted to each individual student’s reading level (search for "teen screen time"). Get a free account. to track your students' assignments.

    Alternate group activity: In groups, students divide up the article and summarize a portion, then check each other’s work before combining their summaries in order and turning the final product in.

    Use the Summarizing Rubric for grading.

Social and Emotional Learning Connection

  • Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Activity 1: Happiness Journal

    portion of the Yes! Magazine poster of the 10 Things Science says will Make You Happy

    Students read about the ten strategies scientists have proven will lead to a happy life. 

    Afterward, students keep a journal for ten days and each day try one of the strategies, writing about the experience.

    A free poster summarizing the strategies has been provided by Yes Magazine.

    SEL Activity 2:
    Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown

    Happiness is a Warm Blanket Charlie Brown by Charles Schulz book cover

    Students read Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown! free on Epic Books. This is a fun read of Charles Schulz's world-renowned comic strip, Peanuts, but turned into a graphic novel.

    After reading the book, students write a paragraph using the following prompt: Why do you think Linus didn’t want to give up his blanket?  Use examples and details to support your answer.

Culminating Activity: Persuasive Writing

  • Introduction

    ASL video coming soon.jpg

Project Overview

  • Students create a persuasive writing piece using one of the following prompts.  They can choose to write an essay, a letter, an article, a speech, or create a multi-media project using the persuasive writing format.

    Note: Find more prompts at



    Before beginning other activities, have students choose or find a prompt they identify with.

    • Imagine that you and your neighbors and friends feel a statue should be erected honoring someone. Explain to the mayor or community why the statue should be erected.
    • Think about a class not currently available that you would like your school to offer. Write a letter to your principal identifying the new class and provides strong reasons for including it in your school’s curriculum.
    • There should be a computer game room at school.
    • The first lesson of school every day should be an exercise class.
    • All students should volunteer in their community once every week.
    • Students who commit cyber-bullying should be suspended from school. Yes or no? Why?
    • The voting age should be lowered to age 13.
    • People should only be allowed to drive their cars 4 days a week to minimize pollution.
    • Humans are living longer, to the point where we may become immortal in the future. Would living forever be a good thing? Argue your point of view.
    • Mathematics class is more important than music class. Yes or no? Why? 
    • Driving tests should be mandatory every year after you are 65 years old.

Learning Activities

  • Activity 1: Persuasive Writing Paragraph (Review)
    At this level, students merely state and support their opinions. For example, students may believe that dogs make the best pets because they are loyal, or cats make the best pets because they are soft and fluffy. After giving their reasons, students write a conclusion, restating their opinion. After completing the template, have students combine their sentences into a paragraph.
    Activity 2: Persuasive Writing Presentation

    Present and discuss the presentation with the students.

    Available in PowerPoint or PDF.

    Activity 3: Writing the Hook

    Students complete the worksheet on an example of their choice.

    Worksheet and Example

    Activity 4: Persuasive Writing Examples 

    Present and discuss these effective and ineffective writing examples.

    Effective in Word and PDF.  Ineffective in Word and PDF.

    Activity 5: Persuasive Writing Graphic Organizer

    Present and discuss the example.  After, students use the blank copy to fill in for their own persuasive writing project.

    Example. Blank in Word and PDF.

Project Activities

  • Activity 1: First Draft

    Students write their first draft and edit for mechanics, grammar, and style.

    There are several online checkers students can copy and paste their drafts to check for mechanics and grammar (not always style). and are two of them. 

    Grammarly is a powerful checker and offers a Chrome extension.

    Tip: As students are writing, they often get stuck on a word they are unsure of spelling.  Instead of allowing that to stall their progress, have them circle the word and continue writing.  When they're finished, they can make a list of the words and consult a dictionary.

    Activity 2: Feedback

    The student reads his/her piece to a peer or group.  Afterward, students have a conversation about how the piece affected the audience.  The audience can use the graphic organizer to help generate responses and feedback.

    Activity 3: Final Draft

    Students write and turn in their final draft.

    Activity 4: Publishing

    There are many ways to publish your students’ writing. One way is to share it with the world by posting it on your own teacher website. Other great ideas include:

    Have students create a 60-second video commercial designed to convince others of their views.  Sites like Adobe Spark allow them to create videos online.

    Have the student mail the paper to the person or organization addressed in the writing. Have the student request a formal response.

    Students can use multimedia to create an interactive version of their argument using graphics, photos, and recordings and post it to the web. 

    Host a debate with different students taking opposing viewpoints.

    Contact your local or school paper to request that they publish the students' persuasive writing essays, or have students turn their essay into a “letter to the editor.”

Extension Activities

  •  The Surprising Science of Happiness

    Watch this uplifting Ted Talk about how science plays a part in each individual's happiness.

    Happiness Meme Generator

    Use to create your own happiness meme. 

    Happiness Poster

    Take is a step further by creating a happiness poster using  Here are some posters for inspiration.

    How to write an introductory paragraph.

    Download Ways to say “I Think” Poster from EnglishGrammarHere.

    Ways to Say I Think poster from English Grammar

    More Activities and Ideas

    For more ideas on Persuasive Writing and The Nature of Happiness activities, including writing tie-ins, bulletin board ideas, art projects and more, visit our Pinterest page!