Updated: May 18
Almost every teacher I have known has had one thing in common – they deeply care about student wellbeing. As teachers, it is part of our DNA to love and nourish the students in our care, and this isn't always in the form of literacy or numeracy instruction.
The world has seen some significant disruptions in 2020 (that could be an understatement!) and it has resulted in us being separated from our students. Yes, we must support them academically at home (or at school) – whatever your situation may be, but their young minds and mental wellbeing needs extra support too.
I just finished reading the book, 'The Resilience Project' by Hugh van Cuylenburg and it certainly hit home in relation to the wellbeing of our students. Hugh talks about three key ideas: Gratitude, empathy, and mindfulness. Three ideas that can be easily taught to our students to keep them healthy and happy. Here at Rainbow Sky Creations, we have been passionate about similar concepts for a long time, creating resources to make gratitude, mindfulness, and self-reflection easier for kids to understand. Check out our resources:
Below, we have put together a list of suggested activities on how you can further support your student's wellbeing. We encourage small daily tasks that should take no longer than 10 minutes. The idea is for activities that students themselves will be able to self-navigate and hopefully create a little 'toolbox' of strategies when it comes to supporting their wellbeing and self-care:
Ask kids to identify and acknowledge how they are feeling each day. Make sure that they know it is ok to feel other emotions besides happy all the time. Emojis are an excellent way for kids to communicate their feelings; you could even get them to record their emojis in a bullet-style journal.
I do a similar activity with my preschoolers at home. We have a chart with our names on pegs, and we move it according to how we feel each day. It is also good for kids to see us, the adults in their lives, also have feelings and aren't always sunshine and rainbows. Teaching students about the Mood Meter™️ is another way to introduce and encourage discussions around comfortable and uncomfortable feelings.
Having an Attitude of Gratitude
Gratitude can change everything, and it is a life skill that we need to teach our kids (in fact by teaching kids the art of acknowledging what they are grateful for, we are giving them a gift). Expressing gratitude can be verbal, written, celebrated, or private. In the classroom, I love to begin each day with time to record three things that we are grateful for in a gratitude journal (I do it at the same time as the kids to show the importance and impact it can have on everyone).
Keeping a gratitude journal could also be a home activity, encouraging students to acknowledge and celebrate the little things in their life.
Setting up a class Gratitude tree is another way to build your classroom community. This activity could be incorporated into your morning routine or finishing the end of the day with gratitude. Alternatively, if your students are at home, you could send them a leaf or two and ask them to send it back to you as a way of staying connected. Place the returned leaves onto your class gratitude tree, ready for when they come back to school.
Get out in Nature
Connecting with nature can play a huge role in our general wellbeing. Activities like finding something interesting on a walk outside, watching the clouds, taking photos of bugs or plants will all promote mindfulness while outside enjoying the fresh air.
Rainbow treasure hunt
This activity is a fun game, even for little learners. Kids need to search around the classroom or house for items that symbolise each colour of the rainbow. It is hard not to be in the moment when doing this task, and kids love the array of colours at the end.
Build a culture of kindness
Being kind is not only great for the recipient, but a simple act of kindness will benefit the person doing the action even more. In primary schools, we are fantastic at teaching kids about how kindness can impact others. Keep this theme going and continue to encourage kindness among your students as a way of nurturing and strengthening their wellbeing.
Our inner voice has a massive impact on how we feel about ourselves, how we act and react to people and situations. Teaching kids the power of positive self-talk could have a significant influence on their lives. In the classroom, we often have motivational posters displayed – referring to them often will bring them to your students' attention.
If your students are at home at the moment, send them little positive messages, add a quote or image to the class homework or take time to send them a personal message of positivity. In return, you can ask them to reflect on their gifts and talents and what makes them special to build that inner voice of positive self-talk.
Developing strategies to check-in and strengthen our student's wellbeing can have a deep impact on their little lives. You may not even know it, but showing you care may make the biggest difference for them at this point in their lives.
We have created journals to help you implement some of the activities mentioned above, as well as lots of others. These journals are the perfect way to touch base with your students if they are at home learning or to develop their wellbeing further while at school. Their journal will also provide a special keepsake for them to look back upon and remember what it was like during 2020!
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