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~ Anxiety Support & Stress Management ~

A note: when it comes to anxiety & stress, pretty much any game you play with them can be supportive of their feelings & experience, because it's all about your approach, the expectations you communicate to them and uphold, and how you communicate these expectations.  If you create, exemplify and welcome mistakes, celebrate trying and failing and trying again and supporting one another - this will pay off in droves no matter what exercise or subject you are exploring!  So, just a gentle reminder, how they feel about learning (and all the emotions that go with it) is just as important (if not more) as what they're learning in the curriculum at a given time.  


(you can call this whatever you want, this is just how I learned it!)

Need: safe, open space for the group to arrange in a circle

Time: 10 minutes - 30 minutes (depends how big your class is...and how long you want to run the exercise!)

Play:  Arrange them in a circle and number them off, starting with yourself as "Big Booty" (in my experience they will love this a lot!), remind them to pay attention to their number.  It matters that they are "Number 1" and "Number 2" etc (not just 1 and 2).  The chant goes like this: AWW, YEAH! BIG BOOTY AWW YEAH! BIG BOOTY BIG BOOTY BIG BOOTY!  Big Booty starts and it's a call/answer exercise from here.  Big Booty, Number 3" then Number 3 responds "Number 3, Number 11". (So they respond with their own Number first, then send it to another Number).  The goal is to stay in the rhythm and not mess up but the deeper goal is to recognize mistakes are inevitable and we don't need to avoid them; in this game, mistakes are built in.  When someone messes up, everyone recites the chant again together (AWWW YEAH!...) and then that person moves to the end of the circle, beside you, Big Booty! (So if there are 23 in the circle, the person who messes up becomes the new Number 23, and they all have to quickly figure out their new number, because the game goes on!! **IT IS GREAT FOR YOU TO BE THE FIRST ONE TO MESS UP, so they feel that safety**

Tie In:  A huge source of anxiety and stress for kids at school is the fear of being wrong - especially in front of each other, and perhaps you, too.  This game shows them you accept mistakes as a natural part of the experience.  This game may also make some folks feel anxious and stressed, so this is an opportunity for you to make space for those feelings.  "Is anyone feeling anxious? That's OK! We are allowed to feel that way!"  And "We can still try, even when we're nervous!"  Give them lots of options and allow them to take time-outs if they need to.  I think it's super important that "time out" (or whatever language you choose) has a safe connotation and doesn't feel shame-ridden.  It's a great chance to help them learn to regulate.  They are watching you to see how you respond to failure!  When they see that YOU are comfortable with their "failures" and your own, they will feel more safe & supported to try, knowing that i they mess up, it's OK. And in this case, a mistake is not only an opportunity to immediately try again/keep playing.  Mistakes will happen a lot in this game and it's super fun to speed up the pace when they get really good at it, or use code names in designated positions, etc.  It can be a very addictive game!  *This is also a great exercise to encourage rhythm and beat for music.  Just keep in mind, some kids will have this sense of rhythm quite naturally and others will be at varying degrees - it's just one of those things, so be mindful of your expectations! 


Need: some safe, open space for them to arrange in a circle 

Time: 2 minutes - 5 minutes

Play: Arranged in a circle, explain and demonstrate that as a group, altogether, we tip toe towards the centre/towards each other, repeating, "no touchy, no touchy, no touchy...." until we get as close as we can without touching and one person will shout, "AAHH!" and then everyone shouts "AAHH!" and everyone then safely returns to the big circle while still screaming "AAAHH!"   Sophisticated? Yes.  But it goes a long way in shaking off nerves, boosting their energy and getting their attention!  Each time you return to the circle you can offer an emotion and then they continue the game but through the emotion you suggested.   You can change up the emotion each time you return to the big circle.  It can be useful to preface this by saying emotions are a choice and if it doesn't feel supportive they don't have to express that emotion, only if they want to, and they can also express it HOW they want to.

Tie In:  The physicality, collective engagement, movement, silliness can really help with nerves.  It also gives them the opportunity to shout and use their voice (which can sometimes be all it takes to go from nervous to confident).  The exploration of different emotions is also an active invitation for all feelings to feel safe in the learning space, and to remind kids that they are the conductors of their emotions.  And then, if you want to go further with it,  "no touchy" is just best practices, generally-speaking!  They are becoming more cognizant of physical contact as something that requires communication & permission first, but is otherwise not something we do (without consent).

MORE Improv Exercises for the Classroom

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