Lesson Three – Catch Your Thoughts


Lower Primary

Our Internal Dialogue 







Students will:

  • Distinguish the difference between thoughts and feelings

  • Identify I Can Thoughts and I Can’t Thoughts

  • Recognise how two people have different thoughts in the same situation

  • Recognise how our thoughts affect our feelings

  • Understand the power of our internal dialogue


KEY VOCABULARY: feelings, thoughts, self-talk, attention, I can thoughts, I can’t thoughts, positive thoughts, negative thoughts, mind-set.






Background Information


Our internal dialogue (self-talk) is powerful and affects our feelings and behaviour throughout the day. Self-talk is a person’s inner voice; a personal narrative of thoughts while they are conscious.  Our internal dialogue combines conscious thoughts with unconscious beliefs and biases and is how the brain interprets and processes daily experiences. Lesson three begins by teaching students the difference between their thoughts and their feelings.  Students learn that they are in control of their thoughts.  Teaching children that they are in control of their thoughts is empowering and can improve self-esteem, increase motivation, lead to a growth mindset and improve overall mental health and well-being.  Lesson 3 develops children’s awareness of their inner critic and how their internal dialogue influences their feelings and behaviour.  The lesson encourages children to pay attention and listen to their inner voice.  Students are encouraged to ‘catch’ these messages and decide if they are positive or negative messages. In the program we refer to positive thoughts as ‘I Can’ thoughts and negative thoughts as ‘I Can’t’ thoughts.  Students learn that ‘I Can’t’ thoughts stop them from taking on challenges, enjoying their day and living their life to the fullest.  Teaching children how to change their internal dialogue from ‘I Can’t’ to ‘I Can’ is a valuable life skill. This is not easy, but with practice this skill can be mastered over time.



Lesson Plan


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1.      Introduce Lesson and Review Previous Lesson

Review previous session by asking students to remember what was covered in the last session. Shape students’ responses to reflect the learning intentions from the previous lesson.  Review Group Guidelines.

Welcome back everyone.  Last lesson we had a lot of fun learning ways to help our bodies relax and feel calm when we feel angry.  Remember all feelings are OK, there are no wrong or right feelings.  We are the boss of our feelings and we decide what we do with our feelings. Last week we practised high five choices.  Remember, high five choices help us to calm angry feelings.  We also learned that our feelings have different levels or intensities and that if you pay attention to the clues your body gives you, you can manage your feelings before your anger rages out of control.

Today we are going to learn the difference between our thoughts and our feelings and how negative ‘I Can’t’ thoughts stop us from enjoying our day.  We will learn what positive ‘I Can’ thoughts are and how they can lead to more positive feelings.


2.      Gratitude Attitude (5 minutes)


Sit in a circle. Ask each student to share something that they are grateful for or something positive that has happened to them this week. This simple activity is training students to be positive and to have a gratitude attitude.

​A gratitude attitude focuses on the NOW!  Try to pay attention and be thankful for what you already have and not worry about what you don’t have.  People with a gratitude attitude are positive, resilient and happy.


3.      Activity 1: Thoughts Verse Feelings (5 minutes)

I have a challenge for you today.  I am going to think about something in my head and I want you to try and guess what I am thinking about.  I will write it down and show you after everyone in the group has had a guess.  If you can guess what I am thinking, I will organise a TRUCK FULL of your favourite chocolates!  


Ask each student which chocolate or sweet they would like to choose.

Write your thought somewhere that cannot be seen and ask each student to guess what you are thinking.


That was hard wasn’t it!  I knew no-one would be able to guess what I was thinking, which is why the prize was a truck load of chocolates!

Why was it so hard to guess what I was thinking? Allow time for reflection and responses.

No-one can hear the talking in our heads.  We have thoughts all day long and we are the only ones that can hear those thoughts.  Our thoughts are really important because they influence our feelings and our behaviour and can make a big difference to our day.

Our thoughts are different from our feelings.  When I call out a feeling, I want you to put your hands on your heart.  When I call out a thought, I want you to put your hands on your head.

Example: Happy, I’m hungry, worried, what is the time, where is my hat, sad, frustrated, I want to play outside, angry, where is my bag etc.

4.          Activity 2: CBT Story Science Class (5 minutes)

Display story of two children who are in the same situation.  The aim of this activity is to show how thoughts are separate from feelings and that two people can have different thoughts about the same situation.

Two people can have different thoughts about the same thing.  I want to show you a picture of a Science class. Tim and Kim are learning about slugs.  By looking at the picture we can see that Tim and Kim think very differently about the slug.

Pose question: What could be making them feel so differently about the slug? Yes their thoughts.  They think differently about slugs.   Two people could be in the same situation but feel and think differently about it.

Pose question: What do you think Kim is thinking?  

Answer: How great is this slug, this slug is cute, I love learning about slugs. Write answer in the thought box.

Pose question: What do you think Tim is thinking?

Answer: I don't like slugs. Write answers in the thought box.

Pose question: How does Kim feel about the slug? Emphasize Kim’s feelings over what she is thinking or doing.  Encourage student to look at the nonverbal cues.

Answers: happy, excited or curious.  Write answer in the feeling box.

Pose question: How does Tim feel about the slug? Emphasize Tim’s feelings.

Answers: disgusted. Write answer in the feeling box.


5.      Activity 3: I Can and I Can’t Thoughts (10 minutes)

Because we have thoughts all the time, we usually don’t pay attention to them.  They just come to us automatically.  Let’s try and slow down our thoughts and pay attention to them. If we pay attention to the talking in our head we can ‘catch’ these thoughts and decide if they are positive thoughts or negative thoughts. 

Positive thoughts are ‘I Can’ thoughts. 


Write 'I Can' thoughts on the board or display the I Can Thoughts poster.

‘I Can’ thoughts are positive thoughts that encourage us to give things a go, be positive, and enjoy our day.  A positive thought makes us feel confident, happy and brave.  Can you think of an 'I Can' thought? Write answers on board.

​Negative thoughts are ‘I Can’t’ thoughts. 


Write 'I Can' thoughts on the board or display the I Can't Thoughts poster.

‘I Can’t’ thoughts are negative and they can stop us from having fun, giving things a go and enjoying our day. An negative thought makes us feel worried, frustrated, nervous of sad.  Can you think of an 'I Can't' thought? Write answers on board.

Our thoughts are really important and influence how we feel and what we do.  Remember, just because you think something, doesn’t mean it is true!

Allocate one corner of the room to ‘I Can’t’ thoughts and another corner of the room to ‘I Can’ thoughts and place the 'I Can' and the 'I Can't' poster in each corner. Play music for the students to dance to.  When the music stops, read out a positive thought or a negative thought.

Let’s play a game to help us learn about 'I Can' and 'I Can’t' thoughts.  I will play music for you to dance to.  When the music stops, I will read out a thought.  If you think it is a negative ‘I Can’t’ thought you need to stand under the ‘I Can’t' sign.  If you think the thought is an ‘I Can’ thought, you need to stand under the ‘I Can’ thought.

Examples of ‘I Can’t’ thoughts

  • I have no friends to play with

  • I can’t do my homework

  • It’s too hard

  • My teacher doesn’t like me

  • I never get a turn

  • I’m not good at Maths

  • I’m having a bad day


Examples of ‘I Can’ Thoughts

  • I’m going to have a good day today

  • This is hard, but I’m going to give it a go!

  • I’m going to find someone to play with

  • Try not to give up!

  • I can do this!     


​6.     Activity 4:  Positive and Negative Paddle Pop Sticks (5 minutes)

Before the lesson write a thought on each paddle pop stick.  The aim of this activity is to provide each student with the opportunity to reflect on positive and negative thoughts.  Students, one by one, choose a paddle pop stick.  Students decide if it is a positive 'I Can' thought or a negative 'I Can't' thought. Students place paddle pop stick on either the I Can poster or I Can't poster.

We are learning about how our thoughts are very powerful and how we can have positive and negative thoughts. On each paddle pop stick, I have written a positive 'I Can' thought or negative 'I Can't' thought.  You will each get a turn to pick a paddle pop stick and share with the group if you think it is an 'I Can' thought or an 'I Can't' thought.

Examples of 'I Can' thoughts and 'I Can't' thoughts.

  • This test is too hard

  • I can’t do my homework

  • I don’t know how to tie my shoelace

  • No-one wants to play with me

  • I always get it wrong

  • I’m going to have a great day

  • I’m going to make some new friends today

  • I give up on this activity

  • I’m going to try really hard

  • I’m boring, who would want to play with me

7.      Activity 5: Read book ‘I Can Handle It’ by Laurie Wright (5 minutes)

Read the story, ‘I Can Handle It’, by Laurie Wright.  The aim of this book is to try and cement the mindful mantra of ‘I Can Handle It which is a positive ‘I Can’ thought.  Encourage students to join in repeating, I can handle it.

​In the story when Sebastian faced a challenge he told himself, 'I can handle it'.  Is 'I can handle it' a positive thought of negative thought?  Saying, 'I can handle it' to yourself when you are facing a challenge or finding something difficult, can help you to be positive and confident. It is a mantra that you can say to yourself. We are now going to think of more positive mantras or affirmations that we can say to ourselves if we are having negative thoughts or facing a challenge.


​8.      Activity 6: I Can! Flower (15 minutes)

Ask students to think of positive mantras or affirmations and write their answers on the board.

We are going to make a positive self-talk flower.  On each petal you need to write a positive affirmation or mantra. The flower can fold up and fit in your pocket so that if at any time you are having negative thoughts, you can read your positive thoughts on your flower.  Remember, not only is it important to be kind to other people, it is JUST as important to be kind to yourself.

Examples of positive affirmations or mantras include

  • I am loved

  • I am safe

  • I am friendly

  • Every problem has an answer

  • I learn from my mistakes

  • I am calm.I am brave

  • I am kind to everyone

  • I have happy thoughts

  • Problems are challenges to better me

  • I am persistent

  • I am honest

  • I can do anything I set my mind to

  • Today is going to be a great day

  • Mistakes are proof that I am trying

  • I will try my hardest

  • I have a positive attitude

  • I can handle it

  • I like myself the way I am


Students cut and fold their positive-self talk flower (or you may like to cut out the flower to save time, especially for the younger children).

​9.    Concluding Discussion (5 minutes)

Our thoughts are very powerful and influence how we feel.  By changing our thoughts we can change the way our day goes.  I Can Thoughts are positive thoughts that make us feel happy, confident and brave.   I Can’t thoughts are negative and unhelpful thoughts and make us feel sad, worried and nervous. Next week, we are going to learn about how our thoughts influence our feelings and also how we act, our behaviour.  This week, I want you to pay attention to the talking in your head and see if you can ‘catch’ any negative ‘I Can’t’ thoughts.  Good luck!

Close session: Thank the group for their participation throughout the session.  Encourage them to practice the new skills they learned during the week.  Share with the group an exciting activity that they will do during the next GRIT lesson.