Guest blog by Christine Dawkins, Student Support Counselor for Mansfield ISD.
As a student support counselor and a parent, one of my favorite places in a primary school setting is the nurse’s office. I love watching the miraculous healing that occurs with ice packs, Band-Aids and hugs. The nurse’s office is a safe place where bodies, minds and hearts engage to express feelings and receive help.
In the classroom, and in the counseling office, the use of social emotional learning (SEL) activities with our students provides another opportunity for the promotion of self-awareness, self-expression and support. Using these activities daily and weekly allows our students, teachers and counselors to better identify, communicate and self-regulate or manage thoughts and feelings. All students, teachers and counselors can learn and work easier when they are able to manage thoughts and feelings in a healthy safe way in the present day and in the future as they apply these skills. The following are a few helpful and engaging SEL activities.
Get to know you feeling thermometers:
During the first week or two of school, have your students complete a thermometer similar to this one as part of a getting to know you activity. Place lines on the side of the thermometer that allow students to write or draw events that move them up the thermometer from calm to sad to very angry. Complete one as a teacher also, making yours as detailed as helpful for the students and yourself. Letting one another know that emotions are normal and that we want to help each other regulate and express feelings in healthy ways so that we can be calm and learn is the goal of creating and using the thermometers throughout the school year.
Daily Robot or Noodle Checks:
During the school day, have you and your students stand periodically and ask if your and their bodies feel stiff and tight like robots or loose and relaxed like noodles. Direct students to relax muscles that may have tightened due to concentration or worry and become more like a noodle reminding them that it is easier to feel good and learn when our bodies are calm.
Morning Move and Connect:
Begin each morning with a connecting and/or movement activity such as the following:
- Have three students share a fun life event or something positive.
- Have all students stand silently and act out an everyday or unusual activity, such as a belly laugh or drinking from a cup or suddenly being 7ft tall, and then have the students make the noise connected with that activity.
- Have the teacher share an age appropriate story of when they were a student and hear the student’s reactions.
Daily Transition Mindfulness:
As possible, have students stretch and take four deep breaths before during transitions and before they restart work. This is very helpful in the mornings as school begins as well.
Provide a safe, cozy place in the classroom for students to use with a designated time limit when they need to calm or regulate their feelings. The place can have crayons, paper, fidget toys, putty and other sensory items students can use to self-soothe.
Daily Journal Checklist:
Before the bell rings at the end of the day, have students check whether their day was mostly green, yellow or red. They can also write whether or not they used the Peace Place that day. This is great for parents, teachers and counselors to compare with their ratings or interpretations of a student’s emotional/behavioral part of his or her day.
Everyone needs a break! When you can, take 6 minutes and walk, dance, stretch, play teacher led Simon says, freeze dance, let students talk, and more. Take four deep breaths and stretch up high once before returning to work.
Create A Worry Box:
Give your students and yourself a safe place to put worries away so they and you can focus. Let parents and students know that the box is private and emptied at the end of the week. Tell the students and parents that the students are always welcome to take big worries to the school counselor.
I hope these ideas are helpful and fun and I hope these activities help your students learn and help you teach effectively.
Christine L. Dawkins, LCSW, MSW
Student Support Counselor
Mansfield Independent School District