Tapestry of Faith: Amazing Grace: A Program about Exploring Right and Wrong for Grade 6

Alternate Activity 1: When Our Thoughts Are Actions

Part of Amazing Grace

Activity time: 8 minutes

Materials needed

  • Paper and pencils

  • Leader Resource 1, Brain Image

  • Optional: Computer with internet access, and a projector or large monitor and speakers

Preparation for the Activity

  • Print, in color if possible, or arrange to project the image of the human brain.

  • Preview the video “The Scientific Power of Thought” (2:50) from ASAPScience. Decide whether you will show it to the group.

Description of Activity

A discussion around negative and positive self-talk, rooted in the science of neuroplasticity.

Ask youth what they know about how their brain works. Take some responses, then explain/affirm:

  • Our brain receives information from our senses—sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell—and from our memories of previous experiences, and interprets the information. [Indicate the “Interpretation center” in the human brain image.]

  • Our brain’s job is to make connections between the things we experience, creating an ever more detailed map of understanding of the world around us.

  • Our brain does this with electrical impulses that travel through the brain, jumping between neurons (brain cells).

  • The more often electrical impulses travel the same pathways through our brain, the stronger those pathways become. [You might suggest the idea of a worn-down path that cuts across the corner of a green space, where no path was originally intended.]

  • Each of our thoughts—our impulses and our deep, meaningful, conscious thoughts—make pathways in our brain. When we think things over and over, we strengthen those pathways, and we encourage and make it easier for our brain to return to those pathways.

  • Because we are in charge of our brains, we can steer our own thoughts and create the kinds of pathways we want to have. This is because of the brain's neuroplasticity. The brain is made of malleable material that can be changed!

Ask the youth if they know what self-talk is. Take some responses, and explain/affirm:

  • Self-talk is what we say to ourselves, about ourselves.

  • It does not have to be spoken aloud. It is our internal narration, the story we are telling ourselves in our heads.

  • Even though it doesn’t affect other people like our outward actions do, it is still an action we take within ourselves.

Ask the youth for some examples of negative and positive self-talk. You might provide examples like:

  • Calling yourself stupid or clumsy when you drop something

  • Calling yourself lazy when you’re struggling to do your homework

  • Encouraging yourself during a difficult workout

  • When something is very stressful, reminding yourself that you know how to stay calm

Distribute paper and pencils. Invite youth to write (for themselves, they needn’t share if they don’t want to), some negative self-talk they recognize in themselves. After a few minutes invite anyone who’d like to share to do so.

Ask them to fold the paper in half and write one or two phrases that contradict the negative self-talk. For example “I’m not lazy. Resting my brain is important.”

Challenge the youth to notice their own negative self-talk over the course of the next week. Encourage them to consciously counteract the negative self-talk with the phrases they wrote down on the back of their paper, even if it feels silly.

Illustration of the human brain showing cortexes

Download a one-page PDF or a JPG.