Following a referral from one of my other principal contacts, in March of 2023, I had the pleasure of speaking at St. Anne Elementary School. As always, I offered to tailor my talk to suit the needs and preferences of the principal and the school. In this case, the school wanted a K-8 talk on bullying and mental health and so it was similar to my last talk, except for one key piece:

I did an interactive exercise.

The personal check in

Every student body is different. I love experiencing them all.

Some crowds are more quiet, others are louder. When I ask what I thought would be rhetorical questions, some audiences stay silent, while others shout out the answers! You never know what you’re going to get. This is why I sometimes change things around or cater my presentation on the fly, after I get a good feel for the group.

At this school, I wanted to try an interactive exercise that we would do together. I call it The Personal Check In, and it’s an exercise from my workbook, Many Ways Up. In order to do it, I needed all the students to bring a pencil and a piece of paper to the presentation.

In this exercise, you take a moment each night before you go to bed (we took the moment during the presentation, right in the gym) to “check in” with yourself and see how your day was. You make record of how you feel, and then revisit your chart every week, month and so on. This prompts students to reflect and to take notice of how they feel on a daily basis. It can also uncover key feelings and circumstances that may need to be spoken about.

How it turned out

I’ll admit that, especially because there were younger grades present, the interactive exercise caused a little more of a crowd arousal than I anticipated. Having said that, it worked out and I hope some of the students continued their personal check-in beyond that day. It was also great the way it changed the pace of the presentation, and gave a nice restorative and engaging break.

If you’re looking for some interactive teaching exercises with a mental health theme, get my workbook for a few done-for-you lessons that you can incorporate into your classroom.