Lesson 4: Coping Strategies

Pre-Class Preparation

  1. For Activity 1, bring poster paper and several stacks of sticky notes to this lesson. Hang up the poster paper on the classroom wall. 
  2. For Activity 3, print out and cut the Situations Cards and Coping Cards. Make enough so that each group of 3-5 students in a class will receive a deck of 20 Coping cards and 15 Situation cards (a good way to keep the decks separate is by using paper clips). Print out the Strategy Card Game Rules (one per student).
  3. Optionally, students who would like to take home resources to develop their own coping skills, you may print and hand out the Coping Strategies Table.
  4. For Activity 3, print out enough copies of the 4.3 Individual Reflection Sheet and 4.3 PLEASE/ABC Diary for each student in the class.

Activity 1: Wellness Wall

1. Distribute a stack of sticky notes to each table group at the beginning of class. Ask students to think about how they cope with stress and to write down one or more strategies, each on a note. If they feel comfortable, they may place their sticky note on the poster paper on the wall. Give at least five minutes for this activity.

2. Once finished, invite students to come up to the poster paper and observe the various strategies that their peers have displayed.

3. Instruct students to sit back down and speak to their partner about one strategy they found that isn’t theirs, but still resonated with them. Allow around two minutes for discussion before moving on.

Slideshow + Activity 2: Acute vs. Chronic Stress

1. Open the speaker notes by clicking the gear icon and follow along.

2. Instruct students to take a piece of paper from their binder and write a large “A” for acute on one side, and a large “C” for chronic on the other. Explain that you are going to show three clips from Warrior Within, and the students will identify the type of stress Karolina exhibits and hold up the corresponding letter. Clarify that there is no exact right or wrong answer.

3. Play Clip #1 below. This clip features Karolina having a panic attack after seeing her math test. Pause the clip at any moment. Allow students to flip to their chosen letter. Most responses should be Acute, as her panic attack is in response to a specific short-term trigger. If there are some students who believe it is Chronic, call on them and ask why they believe so, and inquire if any students who chose Acute would like to respond.

4. Play Clip #2 below. This clip features Karolina on the trampoline right before her dog appears. Pause the clip at any moment. Allow students to flip to their chosen letter. Most responses should be Chronic, as there is no immediate trigger for her reaction and it appears she is processing an accumulation of stressors. If there are some students who believe it is Acute, call on them and ask why they believe so, and inquire if any students who chose Chronic would like to respond.

5. Play Clip #3 below. This clip features Karolina’s reaction when her desk appears beneath the graffitied tunnel. Pause the clip at any moment. Allow students to flip to their chosen letter. The responses will range, as the symbolism is controversial. The desk appears to be an immediate trigger, which is characteristic of Acute stress, but it could also represent long-term academic burdens which would follow Chronic stress. This is a good opportunity for discussion among students, and ask students if they would like to justify their choice or respond to the answers of their peers.


6. Ask students to put away their pieces of paper, and sit quietly to receive instructions for their next activity.

Activity 3: Coping Strategy Card Game

This activity is an interactive process in which students will learn about various coping strategies in the form of a card game. Although the provided strategies may be vague in nature, the game rules allow students to customize them and thus remember them for personal use. The in-game situations are also designed to mimic common adolescent problems, allowing students to imagine how they could apply their newfound coping strategies to their everyday lives.

It is encouraged that teachers provide incentive for students by offering prizes to winners of the game. Keep print-outs of B. Table of Coping Cards below and offer them to students who want resources to build up their personal repertoire of coping skills. To prepare for this activity, print the templates out and cut the sheets into cards in advance (see Pre-Class Preparation).

Game Rules (part of the student hand out, but may be read aloud):

3-5 players. There are 15 Situation cards and 20 Coping cards for each table group. Time is until the end of class, or based on the teacher’s discretion.

  1. Shuffle the Situation cards and Coping cards into separate decks. Keep all cards face-down. Deal 3 Coping cards to each player. Players may look at the cards in their hand for 5 minutes to assess.
  2. Designate one person to be the Judge for this round. They are responsible for timekeeping and determining the winner of the round.
  3. Take one Situation card from the face-down deck and reveal it to all players. Everyone but the Judge is then given 1 minute to choose a Coping card for the given Situation.
  4. The person left of the Judge reveals their Coping card first. They are given 1 minute to describe how they would implement their coping strategy and argue why they believe it is the most effective. This process is repeated for all remaining players.
  5. The Judge then announces the Coping strategy they were most convinced by. The player who used this strategy then takes the Situation card as one point.
  6. All Coping cards that have been played are placed face-down at the bottom of a discard pile. Players with only four cards should each take one new Coping card from the top of the deck.
  7. For the next round, the person left of the previous Judge becomes the new Judge. A new card is revealed from the top of the Situation deck to begin the round. When the Coping deck runs out, shuffle the discard pile and replace it.
  8. The game is complete when all Situation cards have been claimed. Not all Situation cards have to be used. The winner of the game is the player with the most points. The overall winner can also be calculated from a total number of points over multiple games.

Activity 4: Individual Reflection

1. After the coping strategy card game activity, hand out the 4.4 Individual Reflection Worksheet. A list of coping strategies with the following questions pertaining to the card game are in the instructions for the sheet.

  • Which strategy/ies did you choose the most often? Put a star next to these in the list below.
  • Which strategy/ies did the group collectively chose the most often? Underline these in the list below.
  • Circle 3 strategies in the list below and write a plan to use them for particular scenarios in the next week. You can draw or describe your plan.

2. Ask the students if anyone wants to share their most common coping strategies or their plans for the next week. This reflection serves as their ticket out the door, but they do not necessarily have to hand it in.

3. Homework: PLEASE/ABC Diary: before the class ends, announce the 4.4 Please/ABC Diary is a homework piece that will not be collected, but will be checked for completion in the next lesson. When the 4.3 Individual Reflection Worksheet is handed in or checked at the door, hand out the 4.4 PLEASE/ABC Diary in exchange. It is a double-sided homework sheet with detailed instructions included.

a) PLEASE Diary

  • PLEASE is an acronym that describes how to practice the basics of self-care, which aids in regulating chronic stress.
    • Physical health/illness: Treat all physical conditions appropriately, and take medication accordingly.
    • Lather: Practice and maintain personal hygiene
    • Eat: Ensure that you are eating sufficient nutrition and a balanced diet.
    • Acknowledge your emotions: Recognize and accept how you are feeling.
    • Sleep: Partake in an ample amount and quality of sleep.
    • Exercise: Find opportunities to engage in a variety of activities with different intensities.

In the homework sheet is a week-long diary that can help students record PLEASE habits. Filling this table out can be as simple as writing yes or no, or drawing a ✓ or X. They may also take more detailed notes if desired.

b) ABC Diary

  • ABC is an acronym detailing how to gain personal fulfillment, which aids in regulating chronic stress.
    • Accumulate positive experiences: Create opportunities for you to participate in enjoyable and entertaining events.
    • Build mastery: Find a skill that you wish to develop, and put effort into concretely improving this ability.
    • Cope ahead: Determine what coping strategies you should employ for a future situation which you predict will be distressing.

In the homework sheet is a week-long diary that can help students record instances in which they practiced ABC. This skill is typically not applied on a daily basis like PLEASE, but they may find it relevant from 1-3 times a week. Filling this table out can be as simple as writing yes or no, or drawing a ✓ or X. They may also take more detailed notes if desired.