Family Resources on Being Cool, Part 1

Project and Purpose

Students analyze the criteria for being “cool.”

Essential Questions

How do you define what it means to be “cool”?

If this lesson was used in the classroom: Students analyzed what it means to be “cool” or to fit in with others. In class, students brainstormed the characteristics of people who are trendsetters or who fit in well in groups. In groups students evaluated “The Nine Defining Qualities of Cool” and discussed if these are worthwhile characteristics.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

Some people seem to easily fit in with social groups and some even become trendsetters or influencers; this is part of youth culture (even if an individual youth is not interested in popular culture, it affects the social culture around them). In this lesson students reflect about what it means to be “cool” and how it will affect them socially.

Conversation notes:
“The Nine Defining Qualities of Cool” comes from the book How to Be Cool by Thomas W. Hodgkinson (not to be confused with another writer with a similar name of Tom Hodgkinson). During the conversation with the youth, it may also be necessary to share that everyone should have a social network of real-life friends and mentors; this is different from being considered “cool” or an influencer.

To find more about the book check out Thomas W. Hodgkinson’s website:

Constructive Conversation Starters

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

Tell us about the cool person your group chose and your analysis of this person. Why did your group choose this person? What were the takeaways you found from this exercise?

Who are the people you see as cool (or trendsetting or as an influencer)? Why are they cool (or a trendsetter or influencer)?

How important is it to fit in or be seen as an influencer? Why?

How should a person balance fitting in with a group while also being an individual who makes decisions for themselves? Why so? How can I/we support you in keeping this balance?

School to Home Resources on Being Cool, Part 1


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. Distribute Post-it notes to each student and make sure there are extras available. Tell students to write the name of a very cool person on their Post-it note. This may be a celebrity, a public figure, an historical icon, a character from literature, or some other cool person. Tell them not to use names of people in school, just to avoid any awkward situations. If they have more than one name, they may use additional Post-it notes.

2. Have students place their notes on their foreheads. If they have multiple notes, they may place them on other parts of their faces or down their arms.

3. Have students stand as they are able and mingle with the other students, reading their peers’ Post-it notes.

4. At about 1 minute, call, “Freeze! Turn to the nearest partner and shake hands.” Make sure each person finds one other person in their immediate vicinity to work with. Have the two people discuss their coolest person notes, doing their best to explain their choices.

5. Ask partners to find seats next to/near each other (keeping notes intact). With the whole group, review the cool people choices and discuss the commonalities and differences they notice. Based on their choices and their partner discussions, what conclusions can they draw about what it means to be “cool”?

6. Give each set of partners one copy of “The Nine Defining Qualities of Cool” worksheet. Explain that this list comes from a book written by Tom Hodgkinson about icons and qualities of coolness. Review and clarify the information on the sheet.

7. Tell them they will work with their partners to analyze how their cool person meets — or defies — Hodgkinson’s criteria for being cool. They should write their notes in the third column and use the additional spaces for qualities, descriptors, and analysis particular to their selected cool person they believe should be added to the list.

8. When partners have completed their charts, ask volunteers to share their findings and allow classmates to ask respectful questions about their analysis.


Collect their worksheets and explain that they will use the information in the next session. Close by asking: How do you define what it means to be “cool”?

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