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20 Student Mental Health Check-In Prompts
LiAnn Yim, Digital Communications Manager

There’s no wrong answer, but it’s one of the most important questions our students are asked: “How are you doing?”

From the first day our students set foot on campus, PreK to twelfth grade, our teachers are invested in caring for the whole student. In homerooms and advisory, they establish norms that provide a safe space for students to express their feelings and share how they’re doing academically and socially.

Rose, bud, thorn is a popular check-in prompt (rose is a highlight from the week, thorn is a difficult moment, and bud is something the student is looking forward to next week), but it’s only one of many. Nueva teachers get really creative with how they hold conversations with students about well-being.

“I let the kids choose a metaphorical check-in scale, help them define the options, then they can get as detailed or superficial in their response as they want,” Upper School science teacher Jehnna Ronan said. “I think metaphorical scales work well as a check-in because it gives a lot of flexibility to students and allows them to be creative at the same time.” 

The metaphorical scale check-ins give students the opportunity to think creatively about how they’re feeling. They can share a deep explanation of their scale choice, or just give a hint of how they’re doing through the scale choice. 

“It’s really fun for me to see what they come up with,” Jehnna said. “Thinking back over my past advisory groups, it seems like food categories, animal categories, and animated characters are popular.”


Here are 20 of our favorite check-ins:

“Use a color to describe how you’re feeling.”
— Annie Bronfman, Lower School associate teacher

“How do you feel right this moment in the scale of the solar system? A Kuiper Belt object is 1, and Jupiter is 10.”
— Dalton Lobo Dias, sixth-grade science

“If you were a force of nature, which force would best describe how you're feeling today?”
— Barry Treseler, Upper School history

“We start with a heap of quotes; everyone picks one that resonates and reads the quote aloud. We might also share why a certain quote is particularly meaningful. Sometimes the words of others free us to think more clearly — and also, I believe in the power of sharing great words aloud!”
— Interim Humanities Director & Writing Research Center Director Jen Paull

“I like the ‘What Nueva faculty member are you?’ for a check-in prompt. I ask students to use their knowledge and love of the Nueva faculty as inspiration. Examples have included ‘I’m feeling like Arta — on it and engaged.’ Or ‘I’m feeling like Patrick — silly but super smart.’”
— Alexa Hart, Upper School English

“If you were a cereal, what would you be right now?”
— Chelsea Denlow, Upper School history

“Some of our favorite prompts: Play for us part of your theme song for today. If you were a superhero, who would you be? What kind of plant represents how you are feeling today?”
— Jasmin Miller, Upper School English associate teacher

“I loved our walk-and-talks, where one advisee and I walked the width of the field and checked in. We also had an advisory journal where students checked in with me and I wrote back.”
— Lelia Youn, Middle School science 

“Our advisory did a check-in where we all rated how we felt on three axes — maybe school, home, and social life — on a scale of 0–255 and generated a color using those numbers to represent red, green, and blue, then we shared the colors.”
— Barak Yedidia, Upper School physics 

“If you were the weather report, what would you be?”
— Liane DeCourcy, Lower School associate teacher

“Describe your mood as a piece of baggage — briefcase, plastic shopping bag, etc.”
— I-Lab Shop Manager Trip Oswald

“The standard thumbs up/sideways/down are always fun. Nueva kids have MANY variations to those three choices, so there’s always a way to start a conversation. 'Why is your thumb at 15 degrees?’ My favorite option is for students to select a scale that they want to use. We use the random number generator app to see who gets to make up the check-in that day.”
— Dean of Student Life Hillary Freeman, grades 5–12

“We start most of our days with a VIQ (very important question). It's a way for me as a teacher to check in with my students and have a one-on-one with them to see how their day is going. Some of our favorites so far have been ‘ice cream versus milk shakes,’ ‘Wings of Fire versus Harry Potter,’ ‘pasta versus rice,’ and ‘breakfast food versus dinner food.’ They're always lighthearted questions just to get conversation started and learn a little more about one another.”
— Carrie Stouffer, third-grade associate teacher

“I have a Tibetan singing bowl I like to play, especially when things are especially bubbly.”
— Steven Chanan, Middle School math

“After a break, I like to ask what one word summarizes the break for the student.”
— Ted Theodosopoulos, Upper School math

“Metaphorical check-ins like ‘how are you as described by a National Park? A hat? A type of tea?’”
— Upper School Interdisciplinary Studies of Science/Ninth Grade Co-Dean Lee Holtzman

“I like to give students fill-in-the-blank style check-ins at the beginning of class. Sometimes the check-ins are related to class work — for example, choose three adjectives to describe 20th century  American poetry — but sometimes they are more SEL-style check-ins, like 'if I were a fruit or vegetable I would be _______ because _______ .'”
— Lily Brown, Upper School English

“We like to use blob people scenes. These scenes have blob-like people in various poses and each student identifies one blob person that they can relate to the most. We even created our own blob people scenes!”
— Marissa Maimone, Middle School associate teacher

“What is your z-score today? It clarifies how they are doing relative to their own average and in the context of their own normal variation.”
— Assistant Director of Environmental Citizenship Aron Walker, Upper School science 

“I ask a general question, such as ‘What are you stressed about right now?’ The students write their answers on index cards. I collect the responses and follow up with individual students or with the whole group if there are common themes.”
— Wes Chao, Middle/Upper Schools computer science

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