Planning For It

Why Do This?

  • Focus Power helps students to listen and follow instructions, stay engaged in classroom activities, and persist even when interrupted or when facing challenges. They also use Focus Power to pay attention to others and have engaging conversations with peers.


When You Might Use This Practice

  • Integrated into a daily or weekly schedule as a routine
  • During a designated SEL block of 10-15 minutes per day for Kernels practice or as time allows
  • During a morning meeting, a transition, after recess, or at the end of the day
  • Throughout the school year to create a supportive classroom community


Time Required

  • ≤ 15 minutes



  • None


Learning Objective

Students will:

  • Practice focusing and attention


Additional Supports


SEL Competencies

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Skills

How To Do It

Reflection Before the Practice

  • How well do you sustain attention on something or someone, while ignoring distractions? What strategies and practices help you to maintain focus and attention (e.g, mindfulness, removing distractions from the room or setting)?
  • Take a few minutes to read the “Focus Power” practice before introducing the game.

Note: Click here to download and print a card version of this practice that can be added to the other Brain Games practices to make an easy-to-use hand-held collection. See the SEL Kernels pack for additional services.


The Big Idea

  • The game is about focusing on specific words and remembering when to use motions instead of words.



  • Introduce Focus Power to students, if necessary.
  • Say the Big Idea (see above)
  • Say:
    • Let’s practice the words to the chant. It’s just two phrases:
      • My Hat has three corners, three corners has my hat.
      • If it didn’t have three corners, it wouldn’t be my hat.
  • Once students have practiced and are familiar with the chant, tell them you are going to replace one of the words. When you get to the word, “hat,” DON’T say it. Instead, students should point to their heads (demonstrate motion).
  • Try the chant again, this time remembering to stay silent on “hat.”
  • Next, tell students you are going to add one more hand motion. Now, in addition to pointing instead of saying “hat,” when you get to the word “three,” DON’T say it. Instead, hold up three fingers (demonstrate motion).
  • For the last round, add one more hand motion. When you get to the word “corner,” make a corner with your arms and touch your elbows (demonstrate motion).
  • Repeat the chant until students can remember to replace key words with motions.

Must do

  • Must require students to listen carefully for specific words.

Can adapt

Let kids choose a favorite song. Play classical music and have them listen for a specific sound (e.g., clarinet).


  • For younger students, spend more time practicing the chant. Remembering those few words can be hard! Or, don’t have them memorize it–focus instead on doing the hand motion for one key word at a time.
  • When students are ready for a challenge, introduce a new chant and come up with your own replacement movements.

After the activity, debrief

  • That was a little tricky! Chanting, moving, and positioning is a lot to do. How did your Focus Brain Power help you?
  • What else helped you play this game? What could you try differently next time? (e.g., I said all the words silently in my head to help me do the right motions at the right time, I remembered what words were silent in each verse by picturing them in my mind while we were chanting, etc.)
  • For more debriefing questions, see Brain Games Practice.

Tips for success

  • Translate the chant into the home languages of emergent bilingual learners in your class.
  • For students who may need additional support, write the chant on chart paper, and draw accompanying pictures, if helpful. Then post it up in the room, so children can see it as you sing.



This practice is part of the SEL Kernels project developed by the EASEL Lab at Harvard University.

Reflection After the Practice

  • Do you notice students’ ability to focus improving?

The Research Behind It

Evidence That It Works

Children who are able to effectively manage their thinking, attention, and behavior are also more likely to have better grades and higher standardized test scores.


Why Does It Matter?

Children use cognitive regulation skills whenever faced with tasks that require concentration, planning, problem solving, coordination, conscious choices among alternatives, or overriding a strong internal or external desire—all key skills for behavioral and academic success.

These skills enable children to prioritize and sequence behavior (e.g., put their pants on before their shoes), inhibit dominant or familiar responses in favor of a more appropriate one (e.g., raise their hand rather than blurt out the answer), maintain task-relevant information in mind (e.g., remember the teacher’s request to wash hands and then put coats on before going outside), resist distractions, switch between task goals, use information to make decisions, and create abstract rules and handle novel situations.

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”
–Mary Oliver
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