There are many moving parts that help create a caring, connected, and well working classroom. All of these efforts might seem simple and even go unnoticed by parents, guardians, and even students – but they make all the difference. Now some educators have been in the classroom for years, while others might be new to the classroom this fall, but regardless of your time in the classroom it never hurts to remind ourselves how we can better our classrooms for the students. That’s what this blog post aims to do – cover some of the important aspects of classroom care.
One important aspect of classroom care is structure and routine. Routines are repeated patterns that help learning minds better absorb information as they are less anxious about what might occur next or what information they should be learning. Edutopia’s article 6 Opening and Closing Routines for New Teachers does a great job at explaining the benefits of having opening/closing routines to class and also provides some great ideas for new (and experienced) educators. As mentioned prior, routines help decrease anxiety as students know what is expected of them in the class. One exercise mentioned that is beneficial for all classrooms is to have students share one word about how they are feeling that day – this can be specific to a project they are working on or just general daily emotions. This opening exercise is not only helpful in allowing students to explore their SEL skills, but it is also helpful for the educators to get a better understanding on where each of their students are. This exercise also allows students to build deeper connections with each other and practice their empathy skills. (Here is a great print out for emotional vocabulary). Scholastic did a wonderful job gathering real classroom pictures on routines and pictures. This article offers ideas for new and experienced educators on creating a more structured opening, closing, and transitioning classroom. With all this discussion about the benefits of routines, its only fitting that we note the importance of routines in our daily life. For more information on the benefits of routines in our daily life please check out our blog post Healthy Routines.
Classroom routines are not the only important aspect of classroom care, but they are one of the first steps in creating a beneficial learning environment. Another important aspect of classroom care is incorporating SEL activities into daily lesson plans. Greater Good’s article “Three Keys to Infusing SEL Into What You Already Teach” notes that one of the most important ways to include SEL in your classroom is to create lesson plans with SEL in mind. By creating lesson plans with SEL in mind, allows you to better incorporate Social Emotional Learning in more aspects of the classroom instead of trying to randomly throw it into a curriculum where it just doesn’t fit or make sense to the students. Another great way to help incorporate SEL into your classroom is through empathetic joy for your students. This article How to Nurture Empathic Joy in Your Classroom by Amy L. Eva discusses the importance of celebrating each student’s success with them as well as how you can better nurture this empathetic joy. One key aspect that this article mentions is to slow down and consciously make micro-affirmations to your students, noting how well they are doing and what great progress they are making in their learning.
Another very important aspect of classroom care is to help foster student connections. Many ways to help foster student connections is to help students feel comfortable in being themselves. We all know that it is easier for us to build relationships with others when we are comfortable, and by sharing parts of ourselves with others we can build better relationships. Students tend to feel the same way, and this article by Greater Good explains the benefits of being comfortable in your classroom. While Edutopia’s article “Fostering Relationships in the Classroom” provides some simple exercises to help foster student connections through show and tell, classroom activities, and student check-ins. As many of us know middle school can be some of the toughest years for students as they face new schools, new subjects, puberty, and so much more. Edutopia’s article “4 Ways to Foster Positive Student Relationships” put together a couple specific activities to build student relations in the middle school classroom. For some more great ideas and ways to help build classroom connections and student relationships check out this collection of articles by Greater Good.
Now building connections with students, implementing SEL in daily work, and routines are utterly important to classroom care, sometimes our students need a moment to just breathe and calm down. Having a designated space in the classroom for students to go to be alone momentarily, where they can take a few deep breaths and collect themselves can be just as important as helping them make friends and get good grades. There are many names for this area such as a “cool down corner”, “peace corner”, “Hawaii”, or “quiet corner” whatever you and your students call it, try to put it in an area of the classroom where you can keep an eye on them, but where the students don’t feel like they are apart of the classroom. You can also consider putting a pair of headphones there for them to tune out the noises, and a timer for the educator to set so the student has a clear idea of when they need to reintegrate back into class. It is also beneficial to have a stress ball or other mindless (yet easy to clean) fidget toy for students to use while sitting there to calm their bodies. For more information on creating a calm-down corner check out the following articles:
- How to Create a Calm Down Corner in 5 Easy Steps by Wynita Harmon
- CALM DOWN CORNER: 7 TIPS AND WHY YOU NEED ONE by The Social Emotional Teacher
- Calm Down Corner by Action for Healthy Kids
- How to Create and Use a Calm-Down Corner in Any Learning Environment by Jill Staake
We hope this information helps you during this academic year! However, if we are missing something please reach out to us and let us know. We always want to hear from you as you’re working the front lines of SEL and education.