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GO BACK All Goal Posters THIS SKILL Self-Regulation THIS GOAL Switching Tracks

Switching Tracks

Switching Tracks grows a student’s capacity for accepting change when they’re thrown a deviation from a schema, or plan. This could be a change in routine, schedule, expected person, or environment. Switching Tracks encourages trying new ideas and thoughts until old schemas that once felt unbendable can be bent and changed.

Preview an SEL skills lesson: Switching Tracks

1 Show the video to your students

Narrator: When our plans change, it can be difficult and make us feel worried or upset. We can even feel out of control sometimes. 

Change can occur with people, settings, or schedules.


Narrator: People change, like when we have a substitute teacher instead of our regular teacher.

<Scene1 – classroom>

Teacher: (to students) I’m your substitute teacher for the day.


Narrator: Settings change, like when we have gym outside instead of inside.

<Scene2 – gym class>

Gym teacher: We are having gym outisde today.


Narrator: And schedules change, like when we have to leave early for school.

<Scene3 – home>

Boy1: (holding video game player)

Parent: We need to leave early for school today.

Boy1: (internal thought) I always have 15 minutes of video games before school!


Narrator: We can think about our plans like a train following its tracks.

Boy1: (internal thought – train on a single track)


Narrator: When the plan stay the same, the train stays on a single track. If there’s a change we didn’t expect, the train – that’s us! – has to switch to a new track, or a new plan. This might make us feel panicked and upset.

Boy1: (internal thought – train comes to a fork in the tracks, one track is “leave for school”, the other track is “video games”)


Narrator: It might feel better when your plan stay the same. Those are the times our plans are traveling on a nice straight railroad track. This feels comfortable because it’s what we’re used to.

Boy1: (internal thought – train on a single track)


Narrator: But sometimes things change, and you need to switch tracks.

Boy1: (internal thought – train comes to a fork in the tracks, one track is “leave for school”, the other track is “video games”)


Narrator: When your schedule changes, it can make you feel upset. It can be hard to handle the change and switch to a new track.


Narrator: The first step to switching tracks is to calm down on the outside. It takes hard work to stay calm on the outside. Try to relax your face, body, and voice. Take deep breaths and make sure you aren’t squeezing your muscles tightly.

Boy1: (internal thought) I need to calm my body down. (relaxes face, body, voice, and takes deep breath)


Narrator: Once we’re calm on the outside, we want to calm down on the inside. We might need more strategies to have calm thoughts and feelings. We can count to ten, tell ourselves it will be okay, or pick something that works for us.

Boy1: (internal thought) It will be okay. 


Narrator: Once we’re calm, we can think about what track we’re on, and what track we need to switch to. We think about the new plan and find one good thing about it.

Boy1: (internal thought) I can play with my friend earlier in school today. (internal thought – train switch tracks to leave for school)


Narrator: It might not happen right away, but after some practice, we can handle change calmly. Our brains will change tracks without worrying.

<Scene4 – cafeteria, boy1 holding an empty tray>

Chef: No pizza today, only hamburgers.

Boy1: (internal thought – train changes tracks to hamburger from pizza)



Remember that our nervous and anxious feelings are just our brains worrying about switching tracks.

To handle change calmly, we can:

First, stay calm on the outside. We can keep a relaxed face, body, words, and voice.

Next, we use a strategy to stay calm on the inside. We can use calming strategies

like taking deep breaths, counting, or telling yourself it will be okay.

Think about what track you’re on and what track you need to switch to.

2 Review with the Companion Worksheet
3 Apply new skills with activities & games!

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Other SEL materials on Switching Tracks
It's Too Noisy! Video
It's Too Noisy!

Pre-k and K

Switching Tracks Interactive
Switching Tracks

Elementary School

Interactive: I Can Handle Change Activity
Interactive: I Can Handle Change

Pre-k and K