Are classroom disruptions, kids not listening, friends bickering, and an unsettled environment driving you nuts? This was how I felt at the beginning of some school years until I made some changes to create harmony and a respectful, caring environment the norm.
I remember one year, prior to school happening, we had a professional development day that caused me to rethink how I approached my class. During the keynote address, we were challenged with "Focus on what is going right in the world". We were encouraged to find what was positive and good and change our focus to that instead of letting the negative drive our day.
That makes lots of sense, and it's probably something everyone wants to do, but the reality is, when negative things are happening around us, we can easily get derailed and begin focusing on that instead.
I made a conscious effort that year to change my approach and it helped me to get through some very challenging years with surprising success.
One thing I did was find ways for kids to save face after negative situations and give them opportunities to start fresh. I decided to work on ways to help kids remain in the classroom and not be sent out for misbehaviors. This was definitely challenging at times, and I admit, I wasn't always able to do so. I did have to maintain the safety of all my students, so there were times when I had no other choice.
I started to focus on behaviors in the classroom that I wanted others to emulate. This was the start of my positive freckles.
I had some small happy face stickers that I would put on the faces or hands of kids that I noticed doing things that I wanted others to do. It was fun to see how the kids reacted as they headed out to recess with freckles and how others in the class wanted to have the same.
I also started handing out student tickets for work habits and other behaviors that I noticed during seat work time. These were collected in a container and at the end of each week I would draw names for prizes. (I collected small toys and trinkets for them to choose from.)
I made sure that those who were struggling to behave positively were recognized as sometimes it is easy to overlook them for the ones who are always doing what is expected. It is important to make sure that they feel they have a chance or they will give up.
The school started up a Gotcha program where tickets were handed out around the school for behaviors noticed by different staff members. Recognition was given to the students and some were rewarded with special treats at assemblies. This tied in nicely with the student tickets I was using in my classroom.
There are several different variations of recognizing positive behaviors that have been used in classrooms. Another one that is quite popular is the warm fuzzy jar. This jar collects notes or objects and is used to acknowledge class behaviors and ultimately earn a class reward. The cool thing about this idea is the class can decide together what to work towards as a reward and the students can support each other so that they can earn the reward as a team.
Sometimes there may be a student who requires more support to move in a positive direction. This will look different for each child, but ultimately, it will require a cheering section (classmates and teacher) and consistency. Giving attention for positive behaviors usually will help to overcome the need for getting attention by negative behaviors. It may take a long time and you may not see immediate results, but I believe that if we help kids develop positive self esteem they will behave more positively.
Parents can also use some of these ideas to help with behaviors at home. Tensions rise as kids unwind after a long day at school and parents come home tired after a day at work. It is easy to have patience with other people, but it takes way more effort and patience to handle your own kids without frustration.
Try using the warm fuzzy jar or some other type of recognition for positive behaviors and see how it goes.
I set up these warm fuzzy jars for my grandchildren when they were feeling overwhelmed from moving to another city, getting ready to start a new school, and missing their friends and cousins. With all the stress and emotions, listening and being respectful and kind to each other was slipping and everyone was getting frustrated.
Things calmed down quickly when they had something visual to focus on and tensions lessened. This didn't end some of the behaviors, but it did create more positive interactions and the negative behaviors were less frequent.
In this case, each child decorated a jar and had colored pompoms to collect. A family jar was also created. When everyone was working together and the parents decided it merited a pompom they added one to this jar. The goal of reaching a certain number of pompoms for a special family treat was the incentive.
Note: The other day I called them and they were excited to tell me they had more pompoms in their jars. They also helped with these pictures so you could see it in action.
I encourage you to "focus on what is going right" and use whatever tools or ideas work for you to create harmony and a respectful, caring environment in your classroom or at home. Everyone will benefit from working together in a positive environment and this will enhance learning as well.
If you haven't figured it out yet, I am a fan of student led conferences. Since I was introduced to this format in the early nineties, I have been constantly blown away with the positive effects it has had on both my students and their parents.
If you haven't tried them before, I encourage you to do so. You will be amazed at how well they can work.
What are student led conferences?
Student led conferences are meetings where your students get to talk to their parents about their schoolwork, show what they're proud of, and talk about what they want to learn. It's like a special meeting where your students are the teachers, and their parents get to listen and learn about their progress. This helps them feel proud, confident, and more involved in their learning. It's a chance for them to talk together, celebrate successes, and make plans for the future. A small portion of the meeting time includes you, as the teacher. This is a time for sharing concerns, observations, and successes noticed in both personal and academic growth.
Benefits of student led conferences
There are many benefits with conducting student led conferences. Here are a few key ones.
Ownership of learning: The students become active participants in assessing and presenting their own progress, developing a sense of responsibility and accountability.
Communication skills: Leading a conference helps students to practice their communication skills. They learn to articulate their thoughts, explain their accomplishments, and express their learning experiences to a real audience.
Confidence builder: Successfully presenting their work and progress boosts students' self-confidence and self-esteem. This experience helps them recognize their abilities and builds a positive self-image.
Parent involvement: Student-led conferences provide parents with a deeper understanding of their child's learning journey. They gain insight into their child's strengths, challenges, interests, and overall educational experience.
Positive parent-child interaction: Student-led conferences encourage open and positive communication between parents and children. Parents have the opportunity to listen to their child's perspective and celebrate their accomplishments.
Self reflection and goal setting: Students participate in self-assessment and reflection activities, identifying their strengths and areas for improvement. They set academic and personal goals, promoting a growth mindset and a commitment to continued improvement.
What kinds of activities happen during a student led conference?
There are so many different kinds of activities that can be done during a student led conference. What you choose should be based on the following goal:
The goal of student led conferences is to provide an opportunity for kids to take ownership of their learning and showcase their progress to their parents or guardians. These conferences should empower students to be actively involved in the conversation about their education.
Here are some activities and components that kids can engage in during student-led conferences:
Tour of classroom centers and areas of learning
Work folder presentation and discussion
Goal setting and reflections
Interactive activities with parents
Meeting with the teacher
How to prepare ahead of time
Preparing for a student-led conference involves careful planning, organization, and collaboration between students and teachers.
It begins with introducing the idea to your students and letting them know what it is, how it works, and its purpose. It is important to make sure that your students understand what their role is and that they are prepared ahead of time. Explain the different components of the conference, such as work folder presentations, goal setting, and discussions.
Begin gathering work samples early on and allow your students to choose some of their best work to showcase during the conference. This could be assignments, projects, artwork, and written reflections.
Help students to assess their own progress, strengths, areas for improvement, and personal goals. Provide some worksheets or templates to help them to articulate these ideas.
Practice communication skills and role playing to help prepare your students for their role in the conference. Do activities to practice speaking clearly, making contact, and engaging with their audience.
Make sure that parents understand the purpose of the student led conference and how they can support their children during it. Set up meeting times and send out invitations.
Create a conference folder for each student that includes their work samples, self-assessment sheets, and any other relevant materials.
How I ran my student led conferences
Over the years, I ran my student led conferences in a similar fashion. I figured out what worked for my teaching style and I created a plan using that as my starting point.
Before the conferences were set to begin, I did lots of role playing with my students. The kids especially loved taking on the role of the parents for other students and it was fun to see how they rose to the challenge as they went through the motions of doing a conference.
Each child had a folder of work and an agenda to follow for the conference. Parents were informed ahead of time that the conferences could take up to 45 minutes, but that it was important not to rush the child. Some parents had more than one child's meeting, so they were told that If they had to leave for another appointment, they were welcome to return afterward.
During the conferences, I had my room set up with a separate area for meeting with me so that 3 groups could be in the room at the same time, but there was some privacy during the meet the teacher part of the agenda.
I always had a math or literacy activity for them to do together with their parents. It was fun to see how they used their skills or concepts for these activities. Parents were totally engaged in working with their children.
The end of the meeting was the best part because the parents wrote a letter to their child and then filled in a reflection sheet. The children beamed when they read the letters.
If you are interested in checking out the materials and forms that I used, you can find them here.
If you are wondering if student led conferences will work for you, I encourage you to give it a try. You may need to make some modifications along the way, but the benefits for the parents and children make it worth it.
Remember: The goal of student led conferences is to provide an opportunity for kids to take ownership of their learning and showcase their progress to their parents or guardians. These conferences should empower students to be actively involved in the conversation about their education.
Back to school is here for most teachers and kids now. Teachers in some places have already been in class for a month while others are about to return. It's a time to think about many things, but one of the ones we sometimes put on the back burner is student led conferences.
Planning now will make these meetings easier to prep for and they can also guide some of your teaching as you think about what kinds of assessments, projects, and curriculum content you might want to share.
From the first few days or weeks, you can be collecting information and learning about your students so you can best support them when it's time for conferences. Here are a few ideas to try right now.
Getting to know your students
Give your kids a chance to share things about themselves that will help you to better connect with them. Ask about their interests, hobbies, and preferences. Don't forget to give them a chance to also tell you about things that might be difficult or worrisome for them. Use the information gathered to create relationships and to inform your instruction based on interests and needs.
You could also try doing interest hearts. Fill in each space with an interest or passion. I usually do 2 copies - one for writing, and one for illustrations. Sometimes drawing is easier for younger children. These can be used as writing ideas for the first few weeks as well.
Communicating with parents
Set up ways to communicate with parents such as newsletters, email updates, or a classroom website. Share important information about the curriculum, classroom expectations, and upcoming events to keep them informed and involved. Some of this can be done at a Meet the Teacher Night.
During the first week of school, I often send home the following Getting Acquainted form so that I can get an idea about my student from the parents' perspective. It is interesting to see how kids can be very different in the home or school environment. This information form helps to see more of the whole child.
Sometimes parents want to help, but they aren't sure how best to do so. Home reading is an important part of the home/school connection, so I send home this letter so that parents have some support as they try to help their children with reading. This can be found in my Back To School Start Up Forms.
Having some goals will give kids some focus as they move forward. I like to start with celebrating what they can already do and then move to ways they can continue to improve or grow. Provide goal setting worksheets or templates for students to set personal or academic goals for the year. Encourage them to think about what they want to achieve and how they can work toward their goals.
Collect samples of work that show what your students are able to do at the beginning of the year as well as samples in the following weeks so that you can share how they have progressed. Formative assessment materials could also be used.
Don't forget to note the non-academic growth as well. Confidence, working with others, improved self esteem, and participation are a few areas to consider.
Get your students to help with this information collection. Let them know why you are collecting it and how they can help with the selections. This will help them to take ownership of their work and also prepare them to share their material with their parents when the time comes.
Next time I will share more about the actual student led conferences and why they are so beneficial.
The first weeks of school can be exhausting and overwhelming both for students and for teachers. It is important to make sure that these days are a mix of activities that help with the transition back into work mode, are fun and engaging, and also slowly reintroduce academic skills and concepts.
One of the most important goals is to create a positive and engaging learning environment where your students feel safe and the classroom community is one of respect and caring for each other. Here are 10 activities to consider:
1. Icebreaker Activities: Plan icebreaker activities to help your students get to know one another and build a sense of community. These can include "All About Me" presentations, "Find Someone Who", sharing circles, or partner interviews. Encourage students to share their interests, hobbies, and goals for the school year.
2. Establish Classroom Rules: Collaboratively develop classroom rules with your students. Discuss the importance of respect, responsibility, and cooperation. Create visual reminders of the rules and involve your students in creating a classroom rules display.
3. Name Games and All About Me Activities: Use name games and activities to help your students learn and remember each other's names. Play name games, create name tags, or use interactive name charts. Do activities that help them to share information about themselves. Create "All About Me" posters, collages, or shields. Try combining name acrostics with interests.
4. Daily Routines: Teach and practice daily routines and procedures, such as entering the classroom, morning routines, transitions, lining up, and using materials. Model and practice these routines to ensure a smooth flow of the school day.
5. Team Building Activities: Include team-building activities to encourage cooperation and collaboration. Assign the students group tasks or problem-solving activities that require them to work together and share ideas. This helps build relationships, create a supportive classroom community, and develop important social skills.
6. Classroom Jobs or Responsibilities: Introduce classroom jobs and allow your students to take on responsibilities within the classroom. Assign age-appropriate tasks such as line leader, librarian, or materials organizer. This encourages a sense of responsibility, promotes leadership skills, and helps them feel valued and involved in the classroom community.
7. Growth Mindset Activities: Teach and reinforce the concept of a growth mindset through activities and discussions. Help your students understand that their abilities can be developed through effort, perseverance, and a positive attitude. Engage in discussions about challenges, mistakes, and the power of "yet" (e.g., "I can't do it yet, but I will keep trying").
8. Math and Literacy Centers: Set up math and literacy centers with hands-on activities that review or reinforce skills previously taught. These centers can include puzzles, manipulatives, sorting activities, or small-group games that focus on essential concepts.
9. Arts and Craft Projects: Plan arts and craft projects that allow your students to express their creativity and personalize their learning environment. This can include creating classroom banners, designing name tags, or decorating bulletin boards with collaborative artwork.
10. Brain Breaks: It is important to include energizing brain breaks throughout the day to help your students stay focused and engaged. These can include quick physical activities, stretches, or movement-based games that allow them to recharge their energy.
Remember to create a balanced schedule that includes a mix of academic, social emotional, and community building activities during the first weeks of school.
These activities will help your students feel connected, engaged, and excited about the learning journey ahead. They may also help lessen your teacher overwhelm and stress as you make connections and develop relationships with your students.
Developing a nurturing environment and a positive learning community results from effective classroom management and student engagement. There are many different ways to encourage student participation and a caring classroom community. Here are a few different ideas to consider.
Try Ice breaker activities
Ice breaker activities are a good way to help students to get acquainted with each other. They can help to build community and depending on the types of activities, they can help kids to understand each other better as well. These activities can be combined with others to promote team building and working together. Here are some quick and easy games to try.
Roll the Di and Share
Give each person a di and get them to roll it and find others with the same number. When the groups are formed, have each person share 4 things about themselves. Repeat this activity as many times as wanted.
Students go around the room saying "mingle mingle" as they meet up with others. Call out a number and everyone with that number meets together. Call out a type of machinery and the members of the group need to figure out how to use their bodies to create the machinery.
Find Someone Who (5W version)
Interview one person or multiple people using the 5W questions. Share the results later with the class as you introduce students to each other. Here is a ready made resource for you to try.
Find Someone Who Ice Breaker - 5W Version
Set clear and consistent rules and expectations
Setting clear and consistent rules and expectations will help everyone to be on the same page when it comes to dealing with situations that arise in the classroom. Discussing and setting these rules and expectations together will help with creating a sense of ownership and responsibility. Students will know what is expected and will be more willing to accept consequences should these rules or expectations not be followed.
Using T-charts or other forms can help with visualizing these expectations and what they should look like and sound like. Here are some T-charts that might help.
Focusing on social emotional learning activities will also help with developing a caring classroom community. It will also help when conflicts happen. Conflict resolution strategies should be taught as well. Problem solving and learning to work together will go a long ways if the tools and strategies are taught.
Here are some Social booklets that might help.
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Social Stories And Activities
Transition activities and brain breaks
Incorporating transition activities will help to make movement between activities smoother and less disruptive and adding in brain breaks will help students stay energized and focused during longer periods of learning.
Morning meetings and class meetings
Morning meetings are a great way to get the day started and to encourage the students to work together. They can be used in a variety of ways, but appreciating and encouraging each other is a great way to develop positive relationships.
Classroom meetings are an effective way to deal with problems and situations that arise. Students have a chance to discuss their thoughts, concerns, and ideas, creating a sense of ownership within the classroom.
More activities and resources
If you are interested in more resources, check out my classroom management category and my ready to go kits.
Primary Teachers Ready To Go Kits
By implementing these activities, teachers can nurture a sense of community and caring in the classroom, creating an environment where students feel supported, respected, and valued as part of a cohesive learning community.
Have you ever noticed how some teachers seem to have great control of the classroom situation and that the kids seem to be engaged in learning and happy to be with their peers? Other teachers seem to be constantly dealing with disruptions, and struggling to keep kids on task and engaged? One of the main reasons for the difference could be classroom management.
What is classroom management?
Classroom management refers to strategies and techniques used by teachers to create positive and productive learning environments in which students can effectively engage in learning activities. It involves setting and enforcing rules, maintaining order, fostering a sense of respect and responsibility, and maximizing instructional time.
Good classroom management usually includes setting clear expectations, using positive reinforcement, effectively communicating, and being proactive. The lessons are interesting and relevant so that the students remain engaged in their learning.
The importance of good classroom management
Having good classroom management is essential for several reasons:
• A well-managed classroom allows teachers to focus on teaching rather than managing disruptions, leading to more instructional time and improved student learning outcomes.
• Positive classroom management encourages active student participation and engagement, enhancing the learning experience. It creates a safe, supportive, and comfortable atmosphere that helps students feel comfortable expressing themselves and taking risks. It enhances the teacher-student relationship and promotes trust and open communication. Students feel motivated and confident to learn.
• Effective management helps shape positive behaviors, social skills, and self-discipline among students, promoting personal growth. It also reduces stress for both teachers and students, enabling a more enjoyable teaching and learning experience.
Optimizing learning, student engagement, emotional safety, behavioral development, a positive learning environment, teacher-student relationships, and reducing stress for both the teacher and the students all make for more effective learning and a happier classroom experience.
Without effective classroom management, the learning environment can be disruptive and chaotic and the students are not going to be as engaged in their learning.
Poor classroom management can happen as a result of inconsistent enforcement and consequences for broken rules and poor behaviors. Lack of communication or negative reinforcement can also cause issues in the classroom.
If students don't have clear and consistent rules and expectations for behavior, academic performance, and participation, they will not develop trust and respect for the teacher or each other.
Benefits of planning routines and rules for classroom behavior
Establishing routines and rules for classroom behavior provides numerous benefits. Consistent expectations, time management, smooth transitions, predictability, reduced disruptions, social skills development, and behavioral guidance are some examples.
Consistency is key. When rules and expectations are consistently applied, students understand the standards of behavior, leading to a more harmonious classroom. Routines and rules help establish a positive classroom culture and reinforce appropriate behavior. Preplanned rules also provide a basis for addressing behavioral issues, making it easier to correct misbehavior.
Clearly defined rules help minimize disruptions and maintain a focused learning atmosphere. Having planned routines eases transitions between activities, saving time and reducing disruptions. Routines and rules provide opportunities for students to develop social skills, respect for others, and responsibility.
When students know what to expect, they feel more secure and can focus on learning without unnecessary anxiety helping them feel more at ease in the learning environment
Involving your students in setting expectations can be valuable for promoting ownership and a positive learning environment. This collaborative process can take place at the beginning of the school year or at the start of a new term. Students can be encouraged to contribute their ideas about how they should behave and interact in the classroom. By participating in this process, students are more likely to take ownership of the rules and understand the rationale behind them.
However, while involving students in establishing expectations can be beneficial, teachers should still have a clear framework and authority to make final decisions and ensure that the expectations are conducive to learning and respectful behavior.
Rules and expectations around the school
Similar to the classroom, setting expectations around the school helps maintain a positive and harmonious environment. These expectations may include respecting school property, showing kindness to peers and staff, following school rules and safety guidelines, and being responsible for one's actions. Consistency between classroom and school-wide expectations reinforces positive behavior and fosters a cohesive school culture.
These rules and expectations may vary from class to class, but some expectations should be common for all students.
Some areas to consider are hallway behavior, bathroom use, assembly behavior, and playground behavior. Consistent expectations throughout the school helps reinforce positive behavior and contributes to a more respectful learning community. It also helps as teachers are often required to monitor other students during transitions or recess breaks.
Choose what works for you
There are many different ways of developing effective classroom management, so it is important to find what works best for you. Professional development workshops, webinars, educational websites, and various other online tools are available. Learning from respected colleagues is also very useful when looking for practical ideas.
Remember: What works for someone else may or may not work for you based on your teaching style, personality, and the class makeup. It is important to check out different strategies and systems and choose something that will fit with you and your students.
Next time I will focus on some classroom management activities and resources to help get the year started off positively.
It's that time of year again. Summer break is ending for some and nearing the halfway mark for others. Teachers are starting to gear up again and think about the new school year. School supplies are everywhere, back to school ads are appearing on the television and the teacher brain is going into overdrive.
As hard as it is, it's important to try and keep relaxing and recharging so that you don't burn out before the year even gets going.
Does this sound like you?
• can't turn off teacher brain
• wondering how you are going to do assessments
• not finding enough time for planning
• juggling setting up routines while keeping kids engaged
• differentiating for range of ability levels
• trying to make lessons fresh and engaging
So many questions and worries
How can I go on when I am so exhausted?
How will I manage to assess everyone while keeping others engaged?
What if the range in my class is too wide?
I've been there. It is exhausting and at times overwhelming. That's why I have collected some of the different resources and activities that have been successful with my students and I've created The Ultimate Primary Teachers Ready To Go Kit.
These resources and activities can make the beginning of the year enjoyable and less stressful for both you and your students.
Returning to school after summer break isn't always fun for kids. They've been free to do different things without the structure of the classroom routines. Now they have to fit into set schedules, rules, and routines of a new grade and a new teacher.
Engage your students from the very first day with dynamic activities and icebreakers. This kit features interactive games, team-building exercises, and activities that foster a positive classroom community. With the colorful posters and educational activities, you can set up an inspiring learning space that encourages curiosity and exploration.
This comprehensive kit is designed specifically for primary teachers. Packed with a wide range of resources and activities, this kit is your go-to solution for start-of-the-year preparation, emergency sub plans, and engaging substitute teacher activities. From day one to those unexpected absences, it's got you covered!
Check out what it includes
Classroom management resources and ice breakers and some active games
Posters and task cards as well as ice breaker tools and active games that will help you with your classroom routines and management to create a positive classroom environment.
Back To School resources full of activities for the first weeks back
These resources will give your students many different activities to do while you are trying to do assessments or trying to get to know your kids.
Literacy activities for reading, writing, language development
Reading for evidence, working with vocabulary and sounds, task cards for parts of speech and idioms, writing prompts are just a few of the activities here.
Math review for basic operations, graphing, and measurement
Basic math operations review, working with glyphs, and measurement games to get kids ready for more skills as they move on to more abstract concepts.
Science posters, graphic organizers, and experiments to get the year started off right
Positive self esteem activities and resources to create positive mindsets
Get ready to kick off the school year with confidence and ease and ensure a successful academic year for both you and your students. Get The Ultimate Primary Teachers Ready To Go Kit today and experience the peace of mind that comes with being well-prepared!
Not sure if you need the full kit? There are individual kits available as well. There is even a sampler kit for those who want to try just a few of the activities from each area. Check out my TPT store to find out more about the individual kits. If you are ready for a less stressful start to the year grab your ultimate kit now.
A new school year is fast approaching. As you plan for your best year yet, here are 10 things you might want to consider.
1. Classroom Setup and Organization
Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment will support student engagement and collaboration. Planning the physical layout of your classroom, considering the arrangement of desks, bulletin boards, and learning centers, and organizing materials, supplies, and resources in an accessible manner will help.
2. Curriculum and Instructional Planning
It is important to make sure you are familiar with the curriculum requirements for your grade level or subject area. This will help you to develop a scope and sequence, outlining the major topics, skills, and assessments for the year. Consider ideas for differentiating instruction to meet the diverse needs of your students and prepare a variety of engaging instructional strategies, resources, and materials aligned with the curriculum.
3. Establishing Classroom Procedures and Expectations
Know what your classroom procedures, rules, and expectations are and communicate these guidelines to students. Try to involve them in the process whenever possible. Set behavior expectations, rules for participation, and consequences for misbehavior. Developing routines for daily activities, transitions, and classroom management will help create a structured and positive learning environment.
4. Getting to Know Your Students
Gather information about your students' interests, strengths, learning styles, and individual needs. Consider using student interest surveys or icebreaker activities to learn about them and build positive relationships. You could also review student records, previous assessments, or reports from previous teachers. (Note: I try not to do this immediately as I want to form my own impressions first.)
5. Differentiation and Individualized Support
Identify students who may require additional support or accommodations based on their learning needs, abilities, or backgrounds. Develop strategies to differentiate instruction and create individualized learning plans when necessary. Collaborate with other professionals, such as special education teachers or English language support staff, to ensure appropriate support for all students.
6. Parent and Guardian Communication
It is important to establish effective communication channels with parents and guardians. Introduce yourself, share your contact information, and explain your preferred methods of communication. Plan parent-teacher conferences or open house events to foster collaboration and provide opportunities for parents to share their insights about their child's strengths and needs.
I find that parents can sometimes be your best background source of information on their child. They can give some insight into their life outside of school. I send home a "getting acquainted" form at the beginning of the year. You can get a copy for yourself by clicking the button below.
7. Assessment and Data Collection
Decide what assessment methods and tools you will use throughout the year to monitor student progress. Consider formative assessments, such as pre-tests, observations, or checklists, to gather baseline data and inform your instructional planning. Set up a system for organizing and analyzing student data to guide your instruction and identify areas for growth.
8. Social-Emotional Learning
The social and emotional well-being of your students is key to promoting a positive classroom culture, empathy, respect, and a sense of belonging. Plan activities or discussions and explore strategies to address potential challenges or issues that may arise, such as implementing morning meetings or incorporating social-emotional learning into your curriculum.
9. Professional Development and Growth
Remember to continue your own personal and professional growth. Reflect on your professional development needs and identify areas where you can further enhance your teaching practice. Seek out relevant workshops, conferences, or online resources to stay updated on the latest research and best practices in education. Consider collaborating with colleagues to share ideas, resources, and support.
10. Flexibility and Adaptability
Recognize that each school year brings unique challenges and opportunities. Be prepared to adjust your plans and strategies based on the evolving needs of your students and the classroom dynamics. Embrace a growth mindset, remain open to feedback and collaboration, and be willing to adapt your teaching practices as necessary.
By considering these aspects, you can effectively prepare for the new school year, set a positive tone in the classroom, and create a supportive learning environment for your students.
Misunderstandings can create anger, frustration, upset, arguing and even physical outbursts or fighting. It is important to find ways to solve these misunderstandings before they escalate.
Teaching SEL (social and emotional learning) to young children is an important element of fostering a safe, caring classroom environment. One essential SEL strategy for the classroom is teaching kids how to solve disagreements.
There are several problem solving strategies that can be used to help with disagreements. Five key ways of doing this include active listening, looking for win-win solutions, thinking with empathy, brainstorming possible solutions together, and using “I” statements when talking about problems and feelings.
Using "I" Statements
Often when accusations are used, emotions escalate and more conflict is possible. Using "I" statements helps take the sting away from making it sound like someone has done something wrong, shares what the speaker feels and how it personally affects them and allows for a positive conversation and resolution. When 'I' statements are used, children learn how to communicate responsibly, both listening to others and expressing their own emotions, when it comes to solving disagreements.
It's important to teach how to use "I" statements and explain how they can help with problem solving.
How to use "I" statements
Teaching how to use "I" statements effectively and the importance of using them can be done in a variety of ways, but one of the best is by role play and story telling followed by discussion. This is a chance for them to see how using "I" statements leads to understanding instead of accusations and more conflict.
Framing the "I" statement needs to be taught as well. Kids need to be able to share how they are feeling and why without blaming. This is a skill that will need some practice. The automatic reaction is to accuse when an incident occurs. For example, instead of saying "You did something wrong" they could use "I felt upset when ______ happened".
This teaches kids to become aware of their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, when communicating about problems and feelings.
There are several techniques that can be used, including sharing stories or doing role playing activities, for finding resolutions to disagreements. This helps to keep the conversation honest while making sure each student understands they have been heard and respected. SEL can give kids the ability to respectfully listen and process emotions, whether their own or someone else's, which is essential for solving disagreements out in the real world.
Active listening and thinking with empathy
Active listening is another important part of using "I" statements. Listening to what the speaker has to say in these "I" statements gives other people involved in the situation an idea of how the speaker feels and it brings greater understanding which helps with solutions. It also encourages responsibility for the speaker to share his own thoughts and feelings.
When kids listen actively, they can better understand and empathize with others. This will help them to see how their actions may have affected others. This will help them to be open to working through the situation and brainstorming to find a compromise or solution that will work for everyone.
It also helps indicate that it's possible for everyone involved in a disagreement to get what they need without anyone feeling worse in the end.
When you teach children these strategies for problem-solving – active listening, looking for win-win solutions, thinking with empathy, brainstorming possible solutions together, and using “I” statements when talking about problems and feelings– they gain vital tools they will carry with them through all facets of their lives, from making friends on the playground to working collaboratively in their future careers.
Personal space, active listening, working with others, sharing, taking turns, making friends, being kind and so on. When it comes to teaching kids social skills and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons, it is hard to know where to start. There are so many different skills to teach.
What is SEL and why is it important?
SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) is about getting kids to feel safe in their own skin and make sure they are taking care of themselves emotionally, too. It’s also about teaching them the importance of personal space, active listening, sharing, working with others and taking turns, just to mention a few things.
SEL is an important way to help young children develop important skills and live happy, healthy lives. Teaching SEL skills sets the foundation for understanding social norms.
What does SEL look like in practice?
SEL in practice can look different in various classrooms, but here are some examples:
- kids are taking turns nicely when they are playing together
- kids are demonstrating empathy when they see someone is sad
- kids are sitting comfortably apart from one another during group time
- kids are actively listening when talking with someone by responding and reflecting back what they said
- kids are collaborating with others
- kids are sharing experiences and materials
How do we teach SEL?
Learning SEL skills such as personal space, active listening, working with others, sharing and taking turns can be challenging for young children. With thoughtful instruction using engaging stories or examples of what it looks like and feels like, teachers can help show young learners how to interact with respect and kindness.
It's important to explain what these concepts look like and feel like for young children so that they can understand the expectations.
For example, when showing them what active listening looks like, generally focus on three main ideas: making eye contact, nodding and smiling during conversation, and paraphrasing back what was heard.
Through role play, you can show children the proper distance they should keep when talking with friends and how standing closer than this would make the other person feel uncomfortable.
Young learners often thrive from collaboration when paired up with a partner for pair-share activities that help build communication skills like sharing ideas and taking turns talking.
What if SEL doesn't seem to be working?
Sometimes SEL doesn't always work out as expected or desired. There can be a variety of scenarios that need more guidance and redirection. For example:
- one student doesn't follow directions
- a child is having a difficult day
- there's too much squabbling over toys or hogging the game board
- two children are arguing or have different ideas about how to process a task together
- two students are struggling over a shared toy or not cooperating together
When SEL isn't working among the kids in your classroom, it's important to remain positive and offer some guidance. For example, reinforcing positive behavior when SEL techniques are used successfully or explaining concepts again until everyone understands. Simple redirection tactics such as calmly asking questions can also be a great way to guide playful conversations towards more positive behaviours.
It is important to refocus the energy into talking about possible solutions. Encouraging discussion around topics such as what each person wants, why respectful boundaries are important, coming up with compromises, or enabling imagination through hypothetical situations can help teach children these essential SEL skills in a safe and caring environment.
It can also be helpful to check in with each student individually and work towards understanding what their needs are - if they need more tools like visuals or if they already know the skills but need encouragement or support in using those tools consistently.
Through thoughtful guidance and clear examples of what these concepts look like and feel like in a practical setting, it is possible to foster an environment in which SEL becomes an integrated part of the day-to-day experience. Whether it be helping a child understand how being mindful of personal space boundaries feels safer for all or developing communication strategies so everyone has the opportunity to share their ideas and take turns without conflict, effective SEL can lay the foundation for productive learning environments. It's not always easy but we certainly can make SEL work for us.
It's all about making SEL fun while still emphasizing its life-long importance! It takes consistent practice and patience, but SEL makes all the difference when building positive relationships in our classrooms!
With SEL activities embedded in the routine, young kids can develop invaluable skills for interpersonal relationships throughout their lives. Ultimately SEL helps foster a sense of community, respect for others, and self-confidence within a classroom setting.
This is a social story for young kids that helps explain several positive behaviors. Sign up for my newsletter and get a free copy of this positive behaviors social story now.
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About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.