Students Manage Stress by Performing as Stress Management Coaches for Each Other

by Gwen on July 6, 2010

Over the last 5 years, my colleagues and I at the Snaps Project have made discoveries about how to help young people translate knowledge about stress management (which is plentiful and available through endless sources) into practical life activities that work for them.

Using Improv for Stress Management in Schools

Here’s one of our ‘secret’ ingredients.  We create improv scenes in which students can coach each other in how to manage stress, even if they don’t yet know how to do that.  They typically use some of the tools we’ve shared with them (which I will outline later this week) and create some of their own. Here is an example:

This past spring, we led our TeamPlay for Less Stress program with 8th grade students at a public school in Brooklyn.  In the third session, one of our staff burst into the room playing a middle school student who was beginning to fail school, needed money but his mother wouldn’t give it to him, had friends who were fighting over the same girl and bad mouthing each other, and was having trouble sleeping.  Students interviewed the “young man” to learn as much  about what was troubling him as possible and coached him.

Some of the suggestions the students gave were:

  • Find someone to speak to – like a teacher or a counselor.  Maybe you need a therapist for yourself.
  • Don’t keep trying to get stuff from your mother.
  • Tell your friends how this was impacting on you.  Maybe take a break from them.

and more…

Moving from a Competitive to a Collaborative Classroom Environment

The usually competitive and individualistic environment of the classroom can be transformed into a collaborative performatory activity (in the Vygotskian sense, as in performing what you don’t yet know how to do) in which social- emotional issues can be spoken about and regarded with care.

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