Rose, Bud, Thorn Exercise | Facing History & Ourselves
A bush of blooming red roses.

Rose, Thorn, Bud

The Rose, Thorn, Bud exercise increases students' self-awareness as they reflect on recent successes, challenges, and opportunities.


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At a Glance



English — US


  • Advisory
  • Civics & Citizenship
  • English & Language Arts
  • History
  • Social Studies


  • Culture & Identity
  • Equity & Inclusion


About Rose, Thorn, Bud

This Rose, Thorn, Bud activity develops self-awareness and encourages responsible decision-making by asking students to reflect on recent successes, challenges, and opportunities. Many teachers use this routine for weekly reflection and goal setting.

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Steps for Implementation

Explain What Rose, Thorn, Bud Means

If this is your first time using the exercise with your students, start by defining the terms. The rose is a highlight, success, or small win that students experienced recently. The thorn is a challenge, frustration, or something stressful they experienced. The bud is an opportunity or something they are looking forward to.

Fill Out the Rose, Bud, Thorn Template

Distribute the Rose, Thorn, Bud handout and have students take a minute to think back on the past day or week and then respond to the prompts on the handout.

Debrief the Exercise

Model the debrief by sharing your Rose, Thorn, Bud reflection. Ask students for advice to help with your thorn. Then have students debrief in pairs or triads, giving advice to help each other with their thorns. Collect the handouts so you can check in on students’ well-being, offering support and guidance where needed.


Follow instructions above if this is your first time using this routine. Distribute the Rose, Thorn, Bud handout or create a three-column Padlet that replicates the handout to create a communal space for reflection. If using a Padlet, after students have finished writing, invite them to give shout-outs verbally or in the chat, acknowledging the roses and buds in the class and offering suggestions to help peers navigate their thorns. If students recorded ideas on the handout, you can model the debrief by sharing your own reflection and asking students for advice to help you with your thorn. Then have students debrief in  breakout rooms.

Materials and Downloads

Quick Downloads

Get the Rose, Thorn, Bud template handout used in this activity, available in English and Spanish, in PDF or Google Doc format.

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Facing History & Ourselves is designed for educators who want to help students explore identity, think critically, grow emotionally, act ethically, and participate in civic life. It’s hard work, so we’ve developed some go-to professional learning opportunities to help you along the way.

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— Gabriela Calderon-Espinal, Bay Shore, NY