The Magic Hat – Mid-Week Focus – Helping Kids Cope

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid – Week Focus!

Mid-Week Focus is all about quick and easy ways to approach teaching to keep kids on task in any instructional setting.

Let’s share insight and practical ideas. Let’s blend fun with function, and LET’S GIVE CHILDREN TOOLS AND TRICKS TO HELP THEM COPE WITH STRESSORS IN THEIR LIVES.   

 What’s under the magic hat today?

Attention-getting activities that can help individual students and/or the whole class cope when times are tough for any number of reasons.

Pause for a moment and picture the face of every student you teach. Name each child and as you do so, ask yourself how you’d describe him or her in two words…mostly happy or often sad.

My experience as a writing teacher tells me that many children carry unexpressed worries in their minds and hearts. When children pour out their negative feelings in a story or a poem they write with me, I can’t help but think that they need more opportunities to express their anxiety in guided forums.

When you sense that kids are struggling, consider setting aside a little time that day or week to play…


GAME 1: Shout It Out! I Feel Sad When _________________________. I Feel Happy When __________________________. 

Usually teachers remind kids to keep the noise level down. In this quick game, it’s the opposite; quick shout-outs are encouraged to help children release feelings and pent-up energy. Here’s how to play:

  • Tell the class that it’s time to play the Two-Minute Madness Game – Shout It Out!
  • Remind students that on the first count of 3, everyone says together, “I feel sad when,” and then shouts out a finish to the sentence. The big benefit here: Kids who may be afraid to express what makes them sad know that their voices may be drowned out in the shouting, but they’ll still have a chance to express sadness.
  • Announce that it’s time to chase sadness away for the day by shouting out, on the next count of 3, what makes you happy! Everyone says together, “I feel happy when,” and then shouts out a finish to this sentence.
  • End the game with you saying, “Class, give yourselves a round of applause! Now…1-2-3…eyes on me!”

GAME 2: A Few of My Favorite Things 

There’s a popular song that focuses on using the power of happy memories to chase away sadness. Put that concept to work in a game that lets students share personal information, including feelings, in small groups. Here’s how to play:

  • Announce that it’s time to play A Few of My Favorite Things.
  • Post pre-written or spontaneous sentences for kids to complete.  Limit the number of sentences you post to suit the amount of time you’ve set for this activity. Choose the following sentences for the game (and add others) to suit your class:
  • I have fun playing ________________________. ________________________ is my favorite food. My favorite animals are ________________________. The way they _______________________________ is funny to me. I love to visit ___________________________ for holidays. My favorite time is ____________________ on school days.
  • Move students into small groups around the classroom.
  • Instruct students to take turns completing the sentences out loud with the kids in their group.
  • Optional: Play this game as a writing activity. Invite volunteers to read their personal sentences aloud to the class. I always tell students that I love learning about them when I hear A Few of My Favorite Things. 
  • After a student reads aloud, ask the rest of of the class if they’ve learned something about their classmate that they didn’t already know. NOTE: This activity can help newcomers cope with being a new kid in school.

GAME 3: You Can Make a Difference! 

This game may empower students (at least for a time) that feel powerless because they live in worry-inducing circumstances. Here’s how to play:

  • Announce that you have a thought to share with the class that was written by someone unknown. Post or read aloud the thought:

If you think that something small

cannot make a difference, 

try going to sleep

with a mosquito in the room.

  • Tell the class that you’d like them to offer their thoughts about the thought you just shared. Begin with this, “You probably don’t want to be a pest (like a mosquito) but think about this…however “small” you are in age, you can make a difference in the world. You can be proud of what you do.” 
  • Open up a class discussion with this question: What would you like to do? A child might say, “I’d like to keep people from fighting with each other.” The benefit in this class activity is that students may learn, if nothing else, that they are not alone in their feelings – a key coping skill!

GAME 4: What’s Worry Like? What’s Joy Like?

Develop students’ abstract thinking skills by challenging them to describe worry and joy in terms of the five senses. Play this game in two parts, first focusing on worry and then on joy. Here’s how to play:

  • Cut out pictures of an eye, hand, mouth, nose and ear.
  • Glue the images to the left side of a large poster board, making a vertical column with space between each image.
  • Next to each image write the words Worry would ______ ( fill in look, feel, taste, smell, sound) like…
  • Draw a line below each beginning sentence for students to complete. (Optional: Ask students to find or draw pictures of the above body parts, glue them to a sheet of white copy paper, write the sentence starters, draw the blank lines and complete her/his own game page.)
  • On game day, hold up the poster board and announce that it’s time to play What’s Worry Like? What’s Joy Like?
  • Invite students to offer their ideas using the five senses to describe what worry is like. Write student suggestions on the blank lines.
  • Announce when you’ll host Game Day Part 2 – focus on joy.
  • On Game Day, Part 2, repeat the game steps, replacing the word worry with joy.

One of the best ways to help kids cope in difficult times is to end time together on a positive note; a note that offers hope!

Check back with Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
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