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2-5 minutes


Primary / Junior / Intermediate


Paper and pencil (optional)


To provide students with a tool to calm their anxious feelings and manage stress

  1. Spread the fingers of your hand, just like a star, and use the index finger of the other hand to follow its contours.
  2. Starting at the bottom of your thumb on the outside of your hand, slide your index finger up your thumb and pause at the top. Then slide your finger down the other side. Now slide your index finger up your second finger, pause, and slide down the other side. Continue tracing your fingers like this until you have reached the outside of your pinky.
  3. Now add breathing. Breathe in through your nose slowly while going up, and out through your mouth while coming down.
  4. Repeat step two.
  5. Prompting debriefing questions: Do you feel calmer now? Would you like to take another five?

NOTE: This can be used inside and outside of the classroom, as well as being used as a personal calming strategy. Use activity three-times daily: in the morning, afternoon, and at end of day; or, use it during transitions and/or when needed.

  • Instead of tracing their hand, students can draw a hand on paper and trace it if they find the sliding of their finger uncomfortable. Or, the image of a hand can be distributed.
  • Another option, instead of your hand, use the image of a star, or a cut-out star, and give to each student. Each point is a hold-in breath, exhale along each line of the star, alternate with an inhale and an exhale.

Guided breathing exercises are an effective tool to help students regulate emotions (Metz et al., 2013). These interventions decrease physiological arousal, so the emotion and anxiety students feel becomes less intense (Gregoski, Barnes, Tingen, Harshfield, & Treiber, 2011), and students can refocus their attention on learning.

Gregoski, M. J., Barnes, V. A., Tingen, M. S., Harshfield, G. A., & Treiber, F. A. (2011). Breathing Awareness Meditation and LifeSkills Training Programs Influence Upon Ambulatory Blood Pressure and Sodium Excretion Among African American Adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48(1), 59-64. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.05.019

Metz, S. M., Frank, J. L., Reibel, D., Cantrell, T., Sanders, R., & Broderick, P. C. (2013). The Effectiveness of the Learning to BREATHE Program on Adolescent Emotion Regulation. Research in Human Development, 10(3), 252-272. doi:10.1080/15427609.2013.818488