All teachers know that we do much more than just teach the curriculum. Students have many areas that need attention in the classroom. Social and emotional needs are one of the most important. I have several ways to address them on a daily basis.
In my room, we have morning meetings every day. They range from 20-30 minutes. I follow the Reflective Classroom model which includes a greeting, sharing, activity, and message.
I was one of those teachers who couldn’t possibly give up so many minutes each day. But I have to tell you, it has worked wonderfully. Those moments during the day where students have conflicts and it inevitably disrupts your teaching. Or the times you have to address the class about something that has come up with students’ behavior. Well, I find that the morning meeting is useful for those types of issues. So in the long run, I am not losing as much instruction time like I thought I would.
Below is an example of my students doing a greeting during our morning meeting. I have 33 fourth and fifth graders and to make a circle we have to push the desk back. It takes very little time and the students do it.
Mind Yeti or Calm
My school has a wellness committee that focuses on students’ social and emotional welfare. This year they have purchased Mind Yeti for the entire school. During brain breaks or morning meetings, I will use Mind Yeti. My students are learning to calm themselves, breath, and settle the hubbubbles (all the things going through our minds). The lessons are 3-5 minutes long and they have them for primary and intermediate grades.
Calm is an app that some teachers use just like Mind Yeti. It is free for teachers. You can play the app in class to have students breath and clear their minds. It also has calming stories the app calls bedtime stories.
Set Routines to Handle Conflicts
Every classroom will have conflicts. I find a lot more happen outside during recess and PE. So I have set up systems for students to deal with conflicts. One is to talk to the adult who is supervising. So many times I would find out about a conflict the next day and the students would not tell the adult when it was happening. Therefore, my students know they need to get help from the available adult at the moment, not wait until they see their teacher.
Second, I work on problem-solving skills with my students. They have skills to try to solve the problem themselves first. Of course, if the problem continues or escalates, they will need to seek out an adult.
One of my fondest memories was when I realized a group of girls in my class were having problems. I approached them and asked if I could help. They told me they felt they could work it out on their own. I was like – Ok, but I am here if you need me. And low and behold, they solved the problem themselves.
Connect with Students
The best way to help your kiddos socially and emotionally is by having a good connection with them. You have to invest in them – know their favorite things, who their family is, and interact with them socially. I always ask a different student to walk in front of the line each time, so I can talk to them. We don’t talk about school. I ask them about their weekend or something fun they have planned. It gives them a moment with me and I give them all my attention.
The morning meeting works well with this too. I sometimes just have kiddos share some news with the whole class. We all learn to listen and not “outdo” the person sharing.
Kids need to feel belonging and acceptance to learn. I try very hard to make them feel both. We work on including and understanding in many of our morning meetings.
When you create these bonds with your kids, you can teach them the curriculum more effectively. Being mindful of students’ social and emotional needs to be incorporated in your classroom every day.