EASE lesson overview
In cognitive behavioural therapy, learning to intentionally face fears in small doses is called exposure.
Exposure teaches people that they can handle feeling the discomfort of anxiety in small amounts and that anxiety eventually decreases as they “get used to it”—when they notice that what they were afraid of didn’t happen, or that they could handle it if it did happen. This same approach can be used universally in classrooms to help students approach everyday tasks and situations that could feel challenging.
Note: Educators are not expected to, nor should they, create exposure plans for students with identified anxiety disorders. When appropriate, they can work collaboratively with mental health professionals to help identified students meet their therapeutic goals.
Taking Brave Steps
This is one of two lessons in the Taking Action section of EASE, which includes strategies to help students approach everyday anxiety-provoking situations. This lesson reinforces understanding of what it means to be brave and promotes the value of taking small steps to gradually face fears or challenges.
Why teach this?
By learning to take small steps to face everyday fears or challenges, students find that they are able to take action even when they feel some anxiety, and that anxiety eventually subsides once they “get used to” the situation.
Students will recognize the value of breaking challenges into small steps.
Read a story or watch a video about someone approaching challenges one step at a time.
- Grades K–3: The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, by Ashley Spires; Franklin Rides a Bike, by Paulette Bourgeois; or a related book of your choice
- Grades 4–7: Anita: Learning to Manage Fears (Exposure), by Anxiety Canada; Flight of the Hummingbird, by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas; or a similar video
As a class, identify the steps the characters in the book or video took to accomplish their goal. Working together, come up with some small steps for facing a common fear or challenge, like starting at a new school or delivering a speech. Help students think of a goal of their own that they’d like to reach and identify the first step they could take toward meeting their goal.
Think of a goal or challenge of your own that you’d like to meet. Break that challenge into small, manageable steps using the footprints below to record your proposed process.
What are some ways to incorporate the skills and knowledge you’ve learned in this lesson into your everyday interactions with students? You can get some ideas from others, in Tips from Other Educators, below.
Tips from other educators
“I like to discuss with students the fact that bravery or courage can take many forms. Bravery can come in big forms (such as Terry Fox, a firefighter) or smaller forms (sleeping without a nightlight, trying a new food). I had students complete a written response to/illustration of ‘I was brave when…’ or ‘I showed courage when….’ I encouraged students to pick a small act of bravery to focus on so that other kids could see that they too can find courage through everyday small acts.”