This lesson aims to help pupils to develop a quick-fire internal dialogue to help them stay on track when under pressure. It is based on the ideas of ABC and Thinking Traps covered in Year 9 and pupils will need to understand the link between thoughts and feelings for this to work fully.
Awareness of the issue.
- Play ‘why sports people choke’ video, which looks at what happened during Rory McIlroy’s disastrous final round in the 2011 golf Masters tournament. There is an article available on this too.
- There are 3 questions on the lesson powerpoint for pupils to answer: 1. What happened to Rory McIlroy in the 2011 Masters? 2. How does Matthew Syed explain what happened to McIlroy? 3. Has this ever happened to any of them?
- Ask pupils to note down their answers to these questions and discuss them in pairs, to feedback to the whole class.
- Ask the class for their experiences of ‘choking’: where the mind/our thinking gets in the way of getting something important done.
- Remind students that there is a direct connection between what we think and how we feel and what we say/do: the ABC helps us to become aware of this.
- Ask pupils to speculate on what Rory McIlroy might have been thinking as his game was crumbling, or ask them to remember what they were thinking in their own situation. Ask them to then identify what feelings this might have produced and where on the Mood Map these thoughts might put them.
- Ask students to think of different ‘thoughts’ that might appear in their minds when they are trying to get things done and which can end up de-railing them. They could characterise them as gremlins and give them names based on what the thoughts do (e.g Distractor, Confidence-remover, Importance-minimizer), perhaps even bring them to life on paper/in Play-Doh.
The skill: using the taglines.
- Real-time resilience and it is where you learn to challenge unhelpful thoughts in the moment to help you stay focused on what you are doing, using 3 specific taglines: 1. “that’s not always/completely true because…”: this helps you gather evidence; 2. “another way of seeing this is…”: this helps you think more flexibly; 3. “the most likely outcome is…”: this helps you think more optimistically.
- Get students in pairs. Ask each of them to think of a situation where they have to accomplish something and the pressure is quite high (e.g. a musical performance, a match, an exam, a difficult conversation etc).
- Now ask them to think of and write down the kinds of unhelpful thoughts they could have in the moment.
- Pupils should swap their list of thoughts and take it in turns to read the thoughts out, so that the pupil who came up with the thoughts has a chance to hear them and try to challenge the truth of those thoughts using the 3 taglines: 1. ‘that’s not true because…’, 2. ‘another way of seeing this is…’ 3. ‘the most likely outcome is…’
- It might be worth role playing this activity with them first: choose something of your own (e.g. teaching a new lesson for the first time). Give the students an idea of the kind of unhelpful thoughts you might have in that situation and ask the students to say those thoughts to you, as if they were your mind. It’s important that the students play the role of your mind, and don’t just throw their thoughts at you.
- Ask students to think how they might use this technique for simple things like not getting distracted when they have a lot of prep/homework or staying focused in a sports match/during a performance.
Prep: Ask students to try to use real-time resilience over the next two weeks. They should try to get to know their monkey mind and try to train it and write about your experiences.