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Heads or Tails? - A Lesson About Stress

Stress is a normal feeling in our lives. It can be either a motivating and inspiring force or a damaging obstacle that hinders our progress and affect negatively our health. In this lesson plan designed for Grade 5 students (10-11 years old), but easily transferrable to other ages, we discuss the dual nature of this universal experience and some strategies to deal with it.

A coin between two hands.


  • Students will understand the concept of stress and its impact on our lives.

  • Students will engage in self-reflection on stress triggers.

  • Students will explore stress management strategies.


  • Slides

  • Flip chart and sticky notes

Starter/Warm-up (10 minutes)

Display slide 1 featuring various images that represent common stressors. Encourage students to observe the images and ask them to identify what these pictures have in common. As students share their observations, explain that all these images represent potential stressors, things that can cause stress in our lives.

Ask the students, "Have you heard the word 'stress' before? What does it mean to you?" Write down their responses on the whiteboard.

Present the goals of the lesson (slide 2), explaining how the lesson will help them understand stress better and learn strategies to manage it effectively.

Main activities

- The two sides of stress (10 minutes): Explain that stress is a normal part of life and can affect us in different ways. Some stress can be helpful (eustress), while too much stress can be harmful (distress). Brainstorm examples of positive and negative stress.

Point out that eustress can motivate us to work harder and achieve our goals. On the other hand, distress can have harmful effects on our physical and emotional well-being.

Use the metaphor of playing guitar (slide 3), for instance: "When you play a guitar, you need to tense the chords just enough to produce a beautiful melody. But if you add too much tension, the strings will snap. It's about finding the right balance."

- Exploring stress triggers (10 minutes): Present various examples of situations that may trigger a stress response (slide 4). Explain that understanding what causes stress is the first step in managing it effectively.

Divide the students into small groups of 3-4. Each group must rank the three most common stress triggers from the provided list of examples. Additionally, ask students to brainstorm different ways to cope with these stress triggers. How can they manage or reduce the stress associated with each situation? Have each group write down their answers on the sticky notes and place them on a shared flipchart.

Optionally, if time permits, each group can briefly present their top stress triggers and coping strategies to the whole class.

- Coping strategies (10 minutes): Introduce students to some simple stress management strategies (slide 5), such as deep breathing exercises, talking to a trusted adult, drawing, or physical exercise.

Refer back to the previous activity where students discussed coping strategies. Ask students to recall how many of these strategies were proposed by their peers during the group discussion.

Emphasize that stress management is a highly individualized process. What works for one person may not work as effectively for another.

Closure (5 minutes)

- Summarize the key points covered in the lesson and encourage students to share any personal insights or "aha moments" they had during the lesson. Ask questions like: "Did you learn something new about stress today?" "Were there any stress triggers discussed that you can relate to?" "Did you discover a new stress management strategy?"

- Discuss with students the importance of applying what they've learned. Ask them to think about how they can use the knowledge and strategies from this lesson in their daily lives. Encourage them to consider trying out some of the stress management techniques discussed.

- End the lesson with a closing thought or quote related to stress management. For example, you could use a quote like: "In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.", by Sun Tzu. Explain that even in stressful situations, there are opportunities for growth and learning.

Follow-up activities

- Challenge your students to design a stress management poster or presentation. They should include information about stress, its different aspects (eustress and distress), common stress triggers, and various stress management techniques. Students can use illustrations, diagrams, and relevant examples to make their posters or presentations more engaging and informative.

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