Mental Health Lesson – “Tennis Ball Toss” Resiliency

Mental Health Lesson – “Tennis Ball Toss” Resiliency

A “fly on the wall” look into our classroom.
Full 8th Grade mental health lesson included!

RESILIENCE: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Notice the ups and downs of classroom energy throughout the activity. The group of students were presented with a challenge– watch and listen in as the class battles failure to finally achieve success.

The tennis ball toss stirred the classroom with just a bit of movement to boost brain activity. The props are analogies, and this metaphorical look at mental health is meant to create connections and deeper understanding. This also helped create social connectedness, which is a huge piece in a person’s developing mental health.

You’ll hear this group socialize throughout the activity. The reactions and chatter are all on-task; students are engaged and learning– the quick side conversations are allowed because you’ll hear they all involve thoughts about the class activity. Often, teenagers blurt out questions or comments because that’s how they learn. These don’t always need a response. In fact, you’ll hear the group get louder and then quiet down to absolute silence as they internalize specific analogies presented to them.

Subsequent lessons take the focus off of the teacher and allow students to be the central part of activities. We will reflect through small group discussions, journaling, and further activities to develop life skills.

Health concepts in this lesson/unit: resiliency, coping strategies, decision making, influence analysis, bullying, upstanding behavior, peer pressure, self-esteem, and social connectedness.

Teaching insight, blog posts, and more:


  1. This lesson AND teacher is awesome. I wish I had more teachers like him. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

  2. Great analogies! I really like your teaching style and will be checking out more of what you have to offer. On a side note perhaps construction workers should bring bowling balls to work when demolishing old buildings, sounds like a fun stress reliever

  3. Hi, I just wanted to say thank you for uploading this. I’m a first year teacher who just had a difficult day at school and I have been browsing the Internet looking for inspiration to improve my practice going forward. Loved your ideas, style and enthusiasm – thanks for sharing it with the world.

  4. Thank you for this video! I am currently finishing my application for student teaching and I want to teach health. I loved this lesson and the way you engaged with the students. I cannot wait to follow similar examples!

  5. I’ve been teaching middle school health for over a decade and I really feel this lesson would make a huge impact on my students. I plan on incorporating it into my curriculum, asap. Well done, Mr. Todnem. You seem to really enjoy your job AND your kids seem to enjoy you. What an amazing feat! 🙂

  6. Fantastic video and explanations, i didnt think i had time to watch 27minutes whilst planing my current R U OK unit, but this captured me! Thank you so much for sharing, I watched start to finish, wrote notes and will add to my program 🙂

  7. Mr Todman Fantastic lesson. i love your engagement with the kids and your practical use of everyday things to drive in the lesson. and you made it fun me laughing and engaged as if i was actually there .

  8. It is very astonishing to hear the most important communication between teenagers
    Human communication and social communication
    Feeling, emotions, experience, simulation
    This is great. I will return to Yemen soon and will be keen to implement it as an independent activity
    Thanks for sharing

  9. Mr. Todnem, I am watching this video as our college’s form of "classroom observations" due to the current pandemic that we are going through and I couldn’t have been more thankful to watch. Your style of teaching is the exact style I hope to one day take on and make it my own. It has been a pleasure watching not only your students, but yourself become so excited to teach a topic and you did it so seamlessly. The metaphors and connotations you made were as if I already knew all of this stuff, but you just brought it into the light. Fantastic job!
    -Logan Ritts
    Integrated Language Arts Major at The University of Akron

  10. I’m running a workshop on adolescence and resiliency that’s two hours long and will use this as my opening exercises to introduce them and teach them the definition of resilience

  11. I had this man as my health teacher at sculler middle and he was the one teacher who made my day better when I went to his class and wasn’t boring

  12. His ability to keep focus keeps the kids in order great job!!! Excellent class control without missing a beat!

  13. I absolutely loved watching this lesson. I’m a counselor in an elementary school, and I taught a unit on connectedness. Now I’m teaching my last transition to middle school and the social-emotional and developmental changes that lie ahead. This lesson is perfect (and it’s mental health awareness month in May so double win)! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  14. What school is this, Im doing online best practices where I will compare and contrast different lessons.

  15. Probably one of the best approaches to mental health I’ve ever seen. Interesting metaphors that are easy to grasp and are never too subtle, and that are funny and entertaining at the same time. The kids seemed to enjoy the lesson just as much as I did. Bravo to you, keep up the good work.

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