Boosting ALL Children's Social and Emotional Brain Power: Life Transforming Activities


Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin

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    So many people should be acknowledged for this book! I am grateful to all the teachers who have asked me over and over again how our helpful therapeutic practices could be extended beyond the therapy room to benefit more children. Their constant questions and invitations to help in their classes required that I develop an increasingly large number of activities.

    These activities would also never have existed if it were not for the enthusiasm of my doctoral students at Bay Area Family Therapy & Training Associates (BAFTTA), who were willing to try the projects and immediately saw the benefits to children. While many interns have been interested in these projects, Russ Groom (aka Mr. Hat!) and Shane Sheridian stand out as having contributed significant playfulness and creativity to these projects. Dan Coleman, Meredith Moersch, and Michael Schmidt have helped me polish the instructions along with workshops participants from around the world who have watched the videos and asked some helpful questions.

    I am also grateful to all the children who have patiently tried all my silly and serious exercises and been willing to give me honest feedback about what helped and what needed improvement. They have taught me a lot, even some problem-solving strategies, which still inspire my life.

    This book would be less engaging if it weren't for my two cartoonists, Tri Tran and Emily Phan, who have transformed the many cartoons in my mind into actual, artful drawings.

    My editor, Jessica Allan, and the Corwin team have been an incredible support, giving me flexibility and patiently waiting for the endless polishing and editing of the book. I have come to agree with the classic quote: You never finish a book; you abandon it.

    Finally, my loving family has been terrific. They have been intrigued by the ideas, accepted to read portions of my drafts, patiently waited for me to finish writing sections, helped with technology problems, and shared my availability with a computer for two years … Thanks for everything!

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    Janice Bradley

    Mathematics Leadership Educator

    New Mexico State University

    Las Cruces, NM

    Laura Linde

    Mentor, Field Supervisor, and Coordinator

    District 77 and Minnesota State University Partnership

    North Mankato, MN

    Diane P. Smith

    School Counselor

    Smethport Area School District

    Smethport, PA

    Gary L. Wilhite


    University of Wisconsin

    La Crosse, WI

    About the Author

    Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin, PhD, is the training director of the narrative therapy program at BAFTTA, where she supervises the counseling of doctoral interns from three school districts in Silicon Valley, California. In her private practice, she enjoys working with young people, their families, and their schools on a wide variety of issues. Marie-Nathalie values bringing forth people's own wisdom and knowledge through respectful, creative, and collaborative conversations. She has published numerous professional articles, has been featured in several magazines such as the California Educator and Educational Leadership, and is known internationally for her entertaining, thought-provoking, and inspiring workshops. In 2012, she was invited to produce three videotapes with Alexander Street Press (one which is specifically on this book and is titled Bullies to Buddies: From Problem Management to Skill Development in ALL Children (

    Marie-Nathalie has won several grants and awards, with the most recent one focusing on the effectiveness of narrative therapy-based group activities. She is the author of several successful books such as Working With Groups to Enhance Relationships (1998); Responding to the Culture of Bullying & Disrespect: New Perspectives on Collaboration, Compassion, and Responsibility (2004, 2009); Creating a Positive School Culture: How Principals and Teachers Can Work Together (2004); and the popular paperback for parents, teachers, and therapists titled The SKILL-ionaire in Every Child: Boosting Children's Socio-Emotional Skills Using the Latest in Brain Research (2012) (sample at

  • Appendix 1: A Note about the Brain Powers Research Project

    At the time of printing of this book, the Brain Powers Project had just received a grant, which will allow the analysis of data with several hundred students. Preliminary results have only looked at the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and success stories for 180 students in fourth grade in six diverse public schools in San Jose, California. So far, all the teachers and more than 90 percent of the students report improvement in their abilities to solve social-emotional problems. The preliminary analysis of this data before and after the projects, as compared to the control group, reveals an increase in empathy, perspective taking, sense of personal identity, and internal motivation to solve problems (as opposed to external motivation such as avoiding trouble). The rest of the analysis is expected to be completed by the fall of 2015.

    Appendix 2: Adaptation of Projects Across Different Ages

    Adaptation of the projects based on ageYounger children (5–10 years old)Older children (10–18 years old)
    PurposeBecome aware that they are thinking thoughts and feeling emotions; noticing and labeling these increased choicesBecome aware that they are thinking thoughts and feeling emotions; noticing and labeling these increased choices; developing a greater perspective on others’ experiences and relationship patterns
    Theoretical concepts usedSnake, Lion, and Choice Brains and brain powersNeocortex and limbic systems
    MaterialStuffed animals, costumes, success slips, and drawingsPoster or 3-D model of the brain, personal journals
    ProcessLet's discover the powers in your brains. Your brains have secret powers, and just like superheroes, we discover these powers when you solve problems.The programs in your brain shape how you respond to life. Each unique person's brain tends to have programs for specific skills and may also get stuck in habitual problem habits. We will examine the tendencies in each of your unique brains.
    FormatEntertaining demonstrations with the full classroom and extensive public sharing of personal storiesWhole classroom discussion of theoretical concepts: memory and mood congruent recall; mirror neurons and empathy; limbic area and emotions; private journal writing and self-reflection assignment
    Typical session adaptationTell me a story of a time when you could have responded in a way that made a problem bigger but you didn't. (a) Let's draw the situation where you listened to the Choice Brain. (b) Let's draw a brain map of what would have happened if it went the other way. (c) Let's share it with the class. Make sure you don't share the name of anyone in a negative way. Then we can do skits about this.The limbic system is there to protect you and responds quickly to threats. When it starts firing, it is important to be able to verify if the threat is real or if the brain is mistaking a stick for a snake. Write in your journal a recent time when your limbic system wanted you to jump to a negative conclusion and act on it quickly (be angry or really sad), and you chose to slow down and think. These stories will remain private.
    Practice storyMake sounds that illustrate a Snake, Lion, or Choice brain as the facilitator reads a story.Write the letters “L” or “NC” on the top of the sentences on this worksheet (excerpt of an age-appropriate novel) depending on which part of the brain is involved: limbic or neocortex.
    Weekly storiesShared personal stories in classLiterature examples or stories from other classrooms
    WitnessingStudents and community members are involved in witnessing each others’ efforts and success stories.Students are invited to write essays on the effort of a family member, of a novel or movie character, or of one's own personal experience.


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