Lesson Three – Catch Your Thoughts


Upper Primary 







Students will:

  • Distinguish the difference between thoughts and feelings

  • Learn that our thoughts affect our feelings

  • Learn the power of our internal dialogue

  • Identify I Can Thoughts and I Can’t Thoughts

  • Learn how to persevere to overcome frustrations by changing I Can’t thoughts to I Can thoughts

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

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






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 voices.  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

Introduce Lesson and Review Previous Lesson

Review the previous sessions 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! Last week we learned how to manage our anger in a positive way.  Remember anger is not a bad feeling and anger can be used in a positive way.  The most important thing is what we do with our feelings.


Today we are going to learn the difference between our thoughts and our feelings and how unhelpful ‘I Can’t’ thoughts stop us from enjoying our day. We will learn what helpful ‘I Can’ thoughts are and how they can lead to more positive feelings. Let's start with a gratitude attitude.

Gratitude Attitude (5 minutes)


Pose the question: Who can tell me what grateful means?

It means you are thankful for what you have. 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. I will share what I am grateful for first and then I want you to think of what you are grateful for to share with the group.


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.

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 box 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. Why was it so hard to guess what I was thinking?

Allow time for reflection and responses.

No one can hear our talking in our heads. Our thoughts are words we say to ourselves. Thoughts happen all the time and often without us realising it. Did you know we can have up to 70,000 thoughts in a day? Our thoughts are really important because they influence our feelings and our behaviour and can make a big difference in our day.

Pose the questions: Who can give me an example of a feeling? Who can give me an example of a thought?

Let’s play a game. 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.

Activity 2A Peek Inside my Mind (15 minutes)

Just because you think something, doesn’t make it true or mean you’re going to act on it. This exists for both good and bad thoughts. For example, if you think about winning a million-dollar lottery, it won’t necessarily happen. This is the same case as it would be for thinking about something bad, like getting hurt in an accident. Simply thinking about something won’t make it happen, because if it were that easy we’d all be millionaires! Finally, thinking a bad thought does not mean you are a bad person, nor does it not mean that you want to do bad things. The video we will now watch reminds us that we are not our thoughts.

Watch the short video 'You Are Not Your Thoughts'. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QXmmP4psbA&t=106s

boy fishing.jpg


A Peek Inside My Mind Printable.

We are now going to pause and sit with our thoughts. We are going to observe our thoughts with curiosity.  Let's take a peek inside our minds by listening to our thoughts.  I want you to let your thoughts come and go, and record some of your thoughts in the thought bubbles.  You do not have to share a peek inside your mind with the group if you don't wish to.


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. We are going to learn how to slow down our thoughts and pay attention to them. Some of our thoughts can be helpful and some of our thoughts can be unhelpful. If we pay attention to the talking in our head we can ‘catch’ these thoughts to see if they are helpful thoughts or unhelpful thoughts.

Pose the question: What is a helpful thought?

Helpful thoughts are ‘I Can’ thoughts. ‘I Can’ thoughts are positive thoughts that encourage us to give things a go, to be positive, and to enjoy our day. Helpful thoughts can make us feel confident, happy and brave.

Pose the question: Can you think of an 'I Can' thought?

Write answers on the board.

Pose the question: What is an unhelpful thought?

​Unhelpful thoughts are ‘I Can’t’ thoughts. ‘I Can’t’ thoughts are negative thoughts and they can stop us from having fun, giving things a go and enjoying our day. Unhelpful thoughts can make us feel worried, frustrated, nervous or sad.

Pose the question: Can you think of an 'I Can't' thought?

Write answers on the board.

Remember, just because you think something, doesn’t mean it is true! A thought is just a thought. An unhelpful 'I Can't thought may not be true! Looking back at 'A peek inside your mind' can you spot any helpful thoughts?  Can you spot any unhelpful thoughts?


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.  When the music stops, read out a positive thought or a negative thought.

Activity 4: The Power of Our Thoughts (10 minutes)

Half blow up a balloon and hold the balloon with your fingers. Read a situation to the group and ask the students to share what they would think or say to themselves in that situation. If the student gives a helpful 'I Can' thought, blow up the balloon up a little bit more. If the student gives an unhelpful 'I Can't' thought, let a little bit of air out of the balloon.

I am going to read to you a situation. It may have happened to you before, it may not have. I want you to think about what you would think if you found yourself in that situation and share this with our group.


  • You are presenting in front of the class and you made a big mistake in front of the class.

  • Your teacher tells you that you did your maths worksheet wrong.

  • You miss out on your school excursion because you are too sick to attend.

  • You get a lot of words wrong on your spelling test.

  • You miss a goal in your soccer/basketball game.

  • You have an important test today.

  • You weren't invited to someone's birthday party.

  • The project you are working on is too hard.

  • You come last in the running race.

  • You have no one to hang out with at lunchtime.


The words we say to ourselves make a big difference in the way we feel. When we have helpful 'I Can' thoughts, especially in hard situations, it is like we are blowing up our own balloon filling our minds with confidence and kindness. When we speak negatively to ourselves it is like we are deflating our balloon. We may even look like a deflated balloon with hunched shoulders and a sad face. When the words in our head are positive and helpful, we feel good about ourselves and we make the most of our day!


Activity Five: Positivi-tea Craft (15 minutes)

We are now going to make a cup of positivi-tea.  On each teabag, you need to write a positive 'I Can' thought or mantra.You will then need to make the teacup.  You may like to keep your teacup beside your bed so that you can read your positive mantras and start your day positively.


You are often told how important it is to be kind to others, and it is just as important to be kind to yourself. Let's brainstorm positive mantras or affirmations that we could say to ourselves.

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

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

  • I am persistent

  • I am honest

  • I can do anything I set my mind to

  • Today is a great day

  • I will try my hardest

  • I can handle it

  • I like myself the way I am


How to make the Positivi-tea cup: 


  1. Cut out all the pieces and cut all the dotted lines

  2.  Add glue to one edge of the saucer and glue together

  3.  Cut the slits in the saucer base and glue the flaps together.

  4. Glue the saucer base

  5.  Glue the teacup together

  6.  Cut the slits and glue the teacup base into the cup

  7. Cut the handle out and glue it to the teacup


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 helpful thoughts that make us feel happy, confident and brave.   'I Can’t' thoughts are unhelpful 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 unhelpful ‘I Can’t’ thoughts.  Good luck!

Close the 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.