Picture by C-B studio

The Art of Cursive Writing: A Valuable Journey.

In the bustling world of elementary education, where the focus often lies on specific subjects and foundational skills, including cursive writing might seem like a quaint notion. However, delving into the art of beautiful writing from an early age brings forth many benefits.

Alright, picture this: little ones in elementary school getting into the groove of cursive writing. You might think, “Wait, isn’t that more for grown-ups?” Introducing cursive writing to the kiddos early on is like unlocking a treasure trove of skills that go way beyond just pretty handwriting.

Primarily, cursive writing serves as a nuanced exercise in fine motor skill development. The meticulous movements required to craft elegant strokes with a pen or brush contribute significantly to the refinement of hand-eye coordination. As students navigate the intricacies of cursive writing lettering, they concurrently enhance their motor control, laying the groundwork for improved dexterity in various academic and extracurricular activities.

Moreover, cursive writing imparts invaluable lessons in patience and focus. The deliberate and measured approach demanded by the art form instills a sense of meticulousness in young learners. In an era characterized by constant stimuli and distractions, instilling the ability to concentrate on a singular task becomes a transferable skill that can positively impact a student’s overall academic experience.

But it’s not all serious business. Cursive writing is a way for kids to show off their personality. Scribbling becomes an art form, a canvas for expressing feelings and ideas. That creative outlet isn’t just about making pretty letters; it’s about feeling proud of what they create and boosting their confidence.

Within the language arts domain, cursive writing uniquely combines visual and verbal communication. As students engage with this art form, they naturally develop an enhanced appreciation for the aesthetic aspects of language. This heightened sensitivity to the visual nuances of letters and words can elevate their understanding and enthusiasm for written expression, transforming language arts into a more captivating and enjoyable subject.

The advantages of learning cursive writing extend beyond the academic sphere, reaching into the realm of mindfulness and well-being. This art form’s deliberate, meditative nature gives students a serene space to explore creativity. In navigating the rhythmic flow of ink on paper, students can cultivate mindfulness, offering a valuable respite from the frenetic pace of contemporary life.

The integration of cursive writing into elementary education transcends the mere enhancement of penmanship. It represents an investment in the holistic development of students, fostering skills that span from refined motor control and patience to enhanced creativity and an enriched appreciation for language arts. The early introduction of cursive writing catalyzes comprehensive student growth, leaving an enduring impact on their academic journey.

picture of trees in winter covered in snow

Embracing the Chill: The Crucial Role of Winter Outdoor Learning for Kids

Picture by Iyanuoluwa Akinrinola

The resource, “How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years,” states that Educators should pay heed to the environment to ensure that their beliefs and values about children and learning are represented in the space. It goes on to say that these benefits occur especially within children’s connections to and interactions with the natural world because the growing body of research suggests that connecting to the natural world contributes to children’s well-being in many ways.

The idea of taking education outdoors might seem counterintuitive as winter blankets the world in a glistening layer of snow. However, the benefits of outdoor learning in winter for kids are as vast as the snowy landscapes. Beyond the cozy confines of the classroom, the winter wonderland serves as a rich and dynamic setting for valuable educational experiences.

Winter transforms the outdoors into an expansive classroom, providing a unique and captivating environment for learning. The crisp air, frost-kissed trees, and snow-covered landscapes offer a sensory-rich experience that engages children on a different level. It’s a living, breathing textbook where lessons extend far beyond the pages of a conventional workbook.

In the winter, the great outdoors becomes a playground for physical activity. Engaging in winter sports, building snowmen, or simply stomping through the snow provides an excellent way for kids to stay active and healthy. The invigorating cold air can also boost their immune systems and contribute to overall well-being. Winter also offers a prime opportunity for hands-on scientific exploration. Kids can observe the unique properties of snow and ice, explore changes in the natural environment, and learn about the fascinating adaptations of plants and animals to the cold season. Outdoor winter activities can serve as a gateway to lessons in the sciences: chemistry, physics, biology, and environmental science.

Experiencing and adapting to winter conditions fosters resilience in children. From dressing appropriately for the weather to problem-solving in snow-related challenges, outdoor winter learning instills a sense of adaptability and perseverance. These life skills extend beyond the classroom, preparing kids to face challenges confidently. Similarly, winter’s white canvas sparks creativity in young minds. Whether crafting intricate snow sculptures, composing winter-themed poems, or capturing the season’s beauty through art, outdoor winter learning encourages imaginative expression. The open-air setting inspires fresh perspectives and allows children to connect with their creative instincts.

Outdoor winter activities provide a social arena for kids to collaborate, communicate, and develop interpersonal skills. Building snow forts, organizing winter games, or engaging in collaborative projects foster teamwork and camaraderie. The shared experience of conquering winter challenges creates lasting bonds among peers. Connecting children with nature in winter lays the groundwork for environmental stewardship. Understanding the seasonal cycles, appreciating the delicate balance of ecosystems, and witnessing the impact of human activities on the environment instill a sense of responsibility towards nature.

The winter landscape is not a barrier to learning; it is an expansive canvas waiting to be explored. Outdoor learning in winter for kids is a holistic approach that nurtures physical health, scientific curiosity, resilience, creativity, social skills, and environmental awareness. As educators, let’s embrace the chill and open the doors to a world of educational opportunities extending far beyond the confines of indoor classrooms. Winter is not just a season; it’s a classroom waiting to be discovered.

Avoiding Burnout: A Vital Pursuit for Educators

Burnout is a pervasive problem affecting educators worldwide, leading to decreased job satisfaction, compromised well-being, and diminished classroom effectiveness. Addressing this issue is paramount to maintaining a high-quality education system. The demands of teaching can be overwhelming, leading to physical, emotional, and psychological exhaustion. To maintain a high standard of education and foster a healthy learning environment, educators need to prioritize their well-being and avoid burnout.

The first step in avoiding burnout is recognizing its signs and symptoms. Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. Educators may feel emotionally drained, detached from their students, and experiencing a diminished sense of personal competence. Identifying these signs early on can help educators take proactive steps to prevent burnout. Understanding the root causes of burnout is essential for developing effective prevention strategies.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich

 

One of the primary causes of burnout is an imbalance between work and personal life. Educators often dedicate long hours to lesson planning, grading, and extracurricular activities, leaving little time for themselves and their families. Educators must be intentional about self-care and establish clear boundaries between work and personal life to address this issue. Setting aside time for relaxation, hobbies, and spending quality time with loved ones can help alleviate the stress associated with teaching.

Educators should not hesitate to seek professional support when experiencing burnout symptoms. This may involve consulting with a counsellor or therapist specializing in educator well-being, and sharing challenges and concerns with a trusted mentor and/or professional can provide educators with valuable insights, coping strategies, and emotional support to navigate the demands of their profession effectively.

Mindfulness and stress reduction techniques can be valuable tools for preventing burnout. Practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, movement activities, nature explorations or yoga can help educators manage stress and stay grounded in the present moment. Integrating these techniques into daily routines can improve emotional resilience and well-being.

Creating/immersing in a supportive community within the school environment can also contribute to educator well-being. Participating in professional development opportunities, such as workshops, conferences, and ETFO local union events (socials) and peer support groups, can provide a network of like-minded individuals who understand the profession’s challenges.

Burnout is a significant concern in education, as it affects educators’ lives and the quality of education provided to students. Prioritizing your well-being and implementing strategies that enable work-life balance, will ensure that you have a fulfilling and sustainable career as an educator while providing the best possible learning experience for your students. Ultimately, the prevention of burnout is not only essential for us as individual educators but also for the betterment of the entire education system.

ETFO members who feel that they are experiencing mental health challenges should discuss their concerns with their family doctor. Mental health support may be available to ETFO members through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), accessed via their district school board.
Additional support may be found through Starling Minds, which offers a variety of digital programs free of charge for ETFO members. Read this PDF about Starling Minds and learn how to register.

10 years later…

It is officially my tenth September starting the school year. I am so excited to blog once again this year and share the experiences from my grade 7/8 classroom. As I reflect on the past ten years, there are many things I have learned. Things I have stopped doing, continued doing and started doing. I have reflected on almost all of these in the past on this blog and enjoy reading old posts to see how far I have come.

Most importantly, I enjoy remembering why I got into this profession. I thought I would share that as my first post this school year.

Why Teaching is the best job on earth

Teaching is the best job on earth because I get to inspire and help students each day. That is something that means a lot to me because when I was in school, nobody ever did that for me. I used to get spoken to as a student if I was doing something wrong, not something right, which made me upset. Now that I am a teacher, I can make a difference in many ways. One way I would like to make a difference is by helping students with their mental health.

Mental health is so important because if students do not feel safe and happy, they cannot learn, so those are both needed in order to start teaching. That being said, it is easier said than done. It is important to spend the first few weeks of school helping everyone get to know each other and finding out what interests each student has. Then, you can begin teaching the curriculum. Thankfully, my school board created a wellness activity set for teachers to use in their classroom. We have over 100+ activities that foster a community in our classrooms and are encouraged to do one daily for the first six weeks of school. I have seen my class enjoy these activities and start to create friendships with students who they had not met before. Here are some of the activities we enjoyed the first eight days of school:

  • sharing about their identity
  • finding things that have in common/unique things within their seating group
  • two truths and a lie
  • sharing goals for the year
  • finding an inspirational quote that is meaningful to them
  • sharing one interesting fact about themselves

Another element about teaching I enjoy is coaching. I enjoy coaching because you get to see your students outside of the classroom, which for many is their favourite spot in the school. Coaching gives me a way to connect with students who may not build that connection inside the classroom. I also have always loved sports, so I enjoy coaching now that I do not play on as many teams as when I was younger. 

The last thing I love the most about teaching is creating leadership opportunities.  I have had many opportunities to be a leader and plan events as a teacher, so it is my turn to teach students how to create these events and help me run them. That way when they are older they can run them on their own. I am most excited for school spirit days, music events, sport events, Prom Project and more for the 2023/2024 school year.

Even though I could go on and on, I thought I would sum up my three favourite things about teaching so I can always reflect on these when I have a challenging day. I hope each and every one of my students find something that they are passionate about one day just as I have found. Ten years later, still loving this job!

Summer

Photo by Mariam Antadze

 

In the summer’s warm embrace, we find reprieve,
Teachers, once tireless souls, now stand at ease,
Amidst the sun-kissed days and skies of blue,
A tranquil haven for hearts and minds anew.

A well-deserved respite from the classroom’s heave.
Beneath the warm sun’s glow, they shed their weight,
And embark on journeys to rejuvenate
Seeking inspiration as time flies.

In gardens, teachers tend to bloom with care,
Nurturing life, compassion, they will share.
As flowers bloom, so do their hearts renew,
With gratitude for all the children’s crew.

Amongst the pages of a favourite book,
They lose themselves in tales that kindly hook.
Imagination soars on wings unfurled,
As wisdom from each word begins to swirl.

For even in repose, they still impart,
The wisdom sown within each student’s heart,
For teachers’ nurturing never truly ends,
Their love of learning, like a river, wends.

As the sun sets low, painting skies aglow,
Teachers breathe in summer’s tranquil flow.
For in these moments, they find the grace,
To prepare their hearts for the next school’s embrace.

So, let us savour this summer’s delight,
Relaxing, unwinding, and taking flight.
For when autumn arrives, we’ll shine anew,
Our souls invigorated, ready to inspire once again.

snacks

Via DALL-E – create a painting of Chips, Goldfish crackers, Cheetohs, Nachos, Pretzels, Carrots and other snack foods in a Rubenesque style – prompts by author

Crunchy food. I need crunchy food! Chips, goldfish crackers, veggie straws, or even, heaven forbid, real vegetables to stave off my brain triggered hunger now arriving via its ally my stomach.

Our stomachs tell us a lot of things, they are much like having a house weather forecaster by giving off warnings of inclement times ahead. Whether it’s stress, anxiety, nerves, or need for nourishment, stomachs are in the middle of a lot of action(s).

Mine is telling me that some crunchy snacks would be good right about now. So while I type and stare at my own options (granola bars, seaweed, crackers + hummus, pretzels, et al.), the idea to write about snacking and teaching comes to mind. Before I cave into my brain’s demands I thought it would be a good idea to consider why noisy food is a strange necessity during this and other similar moments of my day. 

Furthermore, in the interest of transparency, I will neither be making excuses for my snacking habits nor endorsing them. However, I will mention that there are times during the day which correlate to my need for a snack when the emotional and cognitive demands are increased. I am sure that this is a common occurrence amidst our ranks. 

Crunch crunch crunch when feeling the crunch

Why does eating crunchy food feel so satisfying? Is there a primordial connection to our primitive brains somehow? I can state without hesitation that there is something soothing in the noise. If not soothing then how about distracting? Sometimes our brains need a break from what they are processing. Eagelman repurposed the term “strategic surrender” in his book The Runaway Species.

I love how this phrase sounds, and share it often. Moreover, I share it in my classroom as a strategy for my students. Perhaps my breaks for crunchy foods are providing me with a diversionary pause that allows my brain to continue solving a problem while being distracted by the crunching going on just below it. All things considered, I had not thought about snacks as a restful respite from the compounding moments of the teaching day, but I know if they are good for me, then they are good for others. This includes students and teachers. 

To that last point, I always have a box of granola bars (peanut free – Costco brand) to support the growing minds and bodies in the room. Whenever an OT joins our classroom for the day, I am sure to leave one for them too. I know that it cannot be easy to step into unknown spaces on a daily basis without the need for some strategic surrender from time to time. A snack and a note of gratitude may be a simple act, but can be very meaningful too. 

Crunching gone wrong

I add this thought for consideration only because it is still important to make healthy choices when it comes to what we consume. There are only so many Cheetos binge windows left in my life and I want to savour them over the holidays. So that means carrots, radishes, and other less carby things that can still shake up my brain with some decibels with each bite. Another thing to consider might be how often I am eating my feelings and stress rather than identifying and addressing their root causes. If I am eating to cope with my stresses then I need to get some help. If I am eating to keep my brain and body fueled then I will continue to crunch on. 

Thirst

There might be another factor at play here, and I have often turned to my coffee cup and water bottle to deal with it. Sometimes we forget to drink enough throughout the day. It’s kind of hard when our bladders need to be set to an entirely different schedule than our bodies deem naturally necessary. Unlike our students, we just can’t ask for permission to take the long way around the building to get some water and use the washroom. As a result, many teachers are under-hydrating. This can lead to decreased energy levels and can impair cognitive optimization and may also lead to long term health issues.

As we work to finish off our final month of the year in a good way, it is crucial to keep both body and mind in healthy states with a little crunch and a big sip.

fine, everything is fine

I have a habit of saying, “fine” whenever asked how things are going. Whether it is symptomatic of a half century plus of social conditioning or simply learned ambivalence is still to be determined. It could be a combo of the two as well. I am a big fan of “fine”.

It has the insouciant distance and indifference that propels me past and through the issues of the day. After all, who wants to be a burden to others when so many are already maxed out with their own lives. Isn’t it the North American expectation to steadfastly power through the day with stoic determination. In many ways that’s what happens to people who stay in the safety of their silos. 

It is not beyond a single educator to utter this answer all the while knowing that behind the scenes, in our heads, or in full view of all to see that there is a lot of meaning to “fine”. It is a societal expectation that we respond “fine” because our polite programming provides the same answer each time even when it is not true. 

It’s not a lie if you believe it. – George Costanza

I love the quote above and it rings a little too true with this topic. Although it was intended for a different context in the show Seinfeld, it definitely applies when considering the mental health and well being of all who work in education. When will we have time to unpack the emotional baggage covered by “fine”? How do we get to a place of trust to provide the support that is necessary for us to listen as well as be heard? 

Breathe in, breathe out. I’m fine. You are fine. Everything is fine.  Thank you very much for asking and not burdening either of us with a truth that we verily have little time to acknowledge or attend to if it turned out to be false. Now, let’s get about our days. Sound familiar?

As a profession, there are few others to rival the frenetic paces that educators face over the entirety of a school year. Imagine each classroom along the lines of a corporate model where each grade occupies an important floor of a tall tower. On each of these floors there are numerous cubicles filled with team leaders and workers all charged with annually accumulating, accruing, and retaining the knowledge and the skills to find, climb, and remain on the next floor above them. 

With each September ‘new year’ comes the mysteries, highs, lows, and unexpected life events of a newly gathered group. Buckle up because it could be a bumpy ride. What surprises me, over most of my 14 years in education, is that the ride is nearly 3/4s finished before I realize where the heck I am. This explains the timing of this post in March with the realization that there is much work to be done. 

As if that collaboration and hard work to move on up wasn’t enough, the teams are dismantled, mixed, and reassembled to include other workers from their former floor, but now forming under different leaders just to keep it fresh. Despite the best efforts to make everything seem fine, I can’t help but wonder how students are doing too. The past 3 years have been anything but fine. Yet, as we move them from floor to floor, like the adults who lead them, they are already accepting that the only answer to give is “fine”. 

With all of the talk surrounding mental health and community wellness in schools, I am not fine with “fine” being the answer and am working hard to redefine the work I am doing around it. 

I’ll leave you with this.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of a meeting with student leaders from our school mental health collaborative.
This session revealed some extremely important truths that can light a path to somewhere good for students and teachers.
Here are my takeaways and echoed thoughts in (  ).

  1. Students are feeling the stress
    (Teachers are feeling the stress)
  2. Students want to do something about it
    (Teachers want to do something about it)
  3. Students are looking to work with educators to create and implement solutions
    (Teachers are looking to work with students to create and implement solutions)
  4. Students need teachers who can listen without feeling that they need to have any or all of the answers
    (Teachers need others who can listen without feeling that they need to have any or all of the answers)
  5. Students need teachers who will help lead programs that are relevant to their needs rather than those that have been prescribed from outside of the building.
    (Teachers need others who will help lead programs that are relevant to their needs  rather than those that have been prescribed from outside of the building.)

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comment box to keep the conversation going.  

fractures

an image of fractions made with a blend of colourful geometric shapes in the style of Picasso and Klimt via Dalle 2
Image – fractions made with a blend of colourful geometric shapes in the style of Picasso and Klimt via Dalle 2 prompts by author

Bumps, bruises, cuts, and scars dot my skin. They serve as little reminders of the life that has been lived on the outside. Whether visible to others or not, I cannot look at them without recalling most of the moments and misadventures that caused them. I see these marks as near misses and continue to add more to my collection whether it is in the kitchen, workshop, or enjoying time with others.

Call this post ‘fractures’?

In my half century plus adventure time, I have not broken many bones along the way. Other than most of my fingers, a couple of ribs (which made baseball and golfing really tough that year), and my nose back in grade 6 playing football on the school team, I have been very fortunate not to ever be fitted with an itchy or cumbersome cast – although there is still time.

My collection of near misses and minor breaks have taught me quite a bit. I have to take my physical existence seriously when it comes to my actions and inactions. Perhaps my injuries are the products of inattention on my part? Perhaps I let my guard down with what-could-possibly-go-wrong thinking? Perhaps I needed to pay closer attention going forward? Somehow I am sounding like my parents and teachers and it’s bringing me back to the purpose of this post – fractures.

There is not a single one among us who enters the classroom each day without fractures. You see, we have all endured down times, loss, failure, and disappointment at one point in our lives or another. Whether physiologically or psychologically, fractures come along with life’s other certainties such as death, taxes, and dishes(without apologies to Ben Franklin). What we make of our fractures is often where we find our strength and determination.

If a bone breaks, the body begins the healing process immediately. Once something goes snap, the cells organize themselves to start the repair process. Interestingly enough, it is not like your brain is the boss yelling at the workers to do their jobs or go faster. At this point it is along for the ride because the body already knows what to do. The brain just takes the credit. “My what a nice job we did healing that tibia over the past 6 weeks.” Despite attending to the remediating a reconstruction project, the body can still get about other daily cognitive business, but when someone’s mind or spirit becomes fractured, the body is often likely to deteriorate in the process until healing and restoration are complete. So why is this so hard?

Fractures in our personal and thought lives are never usually front and centre though. Adding to this mystique is the elusive nature of mental health in general. Our fractured spirits are not easily seen by untrained minds and are often interpreted as rude behaviour or that maybe you need a time out to gather your thoughts. This is also common in our students. It is also compounded because, many times, they are processing emotions that seem difficult to articulate due to confusion and fear of being judged, cast out, mocked, or all of the above.

The Ontario Grade 6 Health Curriculum gives us some solid teaching and learning points that I have really been trying to build into the life skillsets of students in and out of our class time. Interestingly enough, this teaching really meshes well with the book The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels which happens to be my current personal read, but that’s a blog for a different site.

So often we are faced with situations that are followed by a barrage of feelings and much more often than not we find ourselves reacting rather than responding. As our lessons have progressed, students have learned to assess the situation, identify their emotions, and then use strategies for resolution. Yet, even with the skills we are implementing into our daily interactions, the struggle to be honest and free of fear about our fractures and feelings is really hard to reckon with one another. This goes for teachers just as much as students.

We need to step outside of our comfort zones which double as camouflaged cages of social media level perfection and problem free happiness. We need to normalize that life is messy at times and that things can be and become broken. If we take time to pick up the pieces and put them back together there is a chance that these fractures can be mended.

In many cases the silence is even more deafening when it comes to issues of mental health in the classroom. Judging by recent news reports in response to the provincial budget causes me to believe we are in for more and more fractured students slipping through the cracks in our schools.

Yes, we can acknowledge it, but more often than not we are still too fractured as a society to truly support each other when there is so much need already. The keys has been and will continue to be in the hands of educators. As we walk through the hallways and curate our classrooms, take time to help the fractured around you by making time to acknowledge them (yourself), listen (talk with someone), and help them (yourself) heal.

Mental Health Check

Happy March Break everyone!

I hope you are able to sit back and relax this week as we get a much deserved break from the usual day-to-day of being a teacher. I wish I was sitting on a beach right now typing this but I am enjoying a cup of coffee at my kitchen table after an action pack few days at camp with the grade eights. So for me, the peace and quiet is all the vacation I need.

On our last P.A. day at school, our Emotional Coach helped us work through some challenging feelings. She reminded us of many important things we should focus on each day. I am going to share some of the biggest take aways from the P.A. day session as I feel they would be beneficial for all teachers (and adults) to think about.

Focus on the Positives

During each school day, I am sure many of us feel especially frusturated about the students who aren’t coming to class because they are hiding in the bathroom. Or upset with the students who do not start any activity that is assigned to them. But how often are we thinking, “Wow, I am so lucky to have that student who gets right to work and takes pride in their work” or “Look how many students came to school today with a positive attitude and are excited for what lies ahead.” It is easy to focus on the negatives but take the challenge after the March Break to focus on the positives. Think about those students who are so happy to learn and will dive into just about anything that is given to them. Of course, we still need to help all of our students but with time, maybe they will find their own sense of joy in the school community.

Reflect on a “difficult thing”

Our Emotional Coach asked us all to pick one difficult thing in our life that we think is affecting our mental well being. I wanted to share my difficult thing- negative people. I was challenged last month with a few negative people that brought me down. No matter how hard I tried, their negative comments stuck with me even though I tried to think positively. So my “difficult thing” choice was negative people. We were then asked to write down three ways we could improve the situation, revising them as needed. My three ways that I hope will help me are: focusing on the positives when around these people, remaining my positive self and to not react to them. I hope that next time I am faced with a negative situation, I can use these strategies. One staff member even suggested that once you feel in control of that one difficult thing, you can move on to a second thing and try to tackle that. I am really excited for this challenge and hope it will work! I invite you all to try it and if you feel comfortable, comment your “difficult thing” on this post.

 

Mental Health Activities

January 25th was an important day to talk about mental health as each year, “Bell Let’s Talk Day” reminds us all that conversations are such an important part of our day as educators. As educators, it is our duty to ensure the mental well-being of each of our students is thought about daily. Some students keep their feelings inside and some claim to be happy 24/7. How do we dive deep into these important conversations and make sure that we are providing opportunities for our students to speak out? Here are some ways to get talking about mental health without making it the central focus. Starting small to get kids talking.

Math Activity

My students were looking at topics to create an infographic about and as a class, decided the most important infographic that should be on display in every intermediate class was one about mental health. So students looked for statistics related to youth mental health in Canada. They found fractions, percentages and various facts that told a story about the mental health of youth in Canada. They shared these infographics with their peers and discussed many important facts. Then, yesterday I pulled up the website about “Bell Let’s Talk Day” and students found many statistics on this page that they had used in their own infographics. We looked at the resources available and then talked about resources to help within our own school (Positive space groups, social worker, clubs, talking to teachers, etc.)

Drama Activity

I wanted to try an activity with my grade two and three students yesterday that connected to their mental health and it went very well. I encourage you to try it out with any grade in a future drama class or just as a class activity. Here is how the activity worked:

A student would be selected to be the actor and that actor would have some sort of problem that they were needing help with. Some examples are:

  • Getting a bad mark on a test
  • Getting into a fight with their best friend
  • Their best friend was moving
  • They felt sad but did not know why
  • Their goldfish passed away

It was actually challenging to think of situations that would not be triggering for students. I made sure that the actor was okay with the situation and then they proceeded to act out their feelings towards the situation. Then, they would pick three friends from the audience who would one at a time come up and try to make them feel better. It was incredible to hear all of the solutions that their friends had. Students who had not participated in drama class in the past put up their hand for the first time. They were excited to come up and comfort their friend. After the lesson, I asked the students if they could use these strategies in real life and they all agreed that they could. I know this activity comes with a risk of students having to be vulnerable but I think it was useful. I even heard a student say, “I wish I had gotten that advice a month ago!” I loved this activity and hope to try it with my intermediate students in the future.

Language Activity

As report card season is in the midst, I decided to try a different reflection activity this term. I asked students to write one word or sentence  on a cue card that best described their feelings towards report cards. This was an anonymous activity as when I collected the cards, I did not ask them to write their names on them. I then handed out a random card to each student. I asked them to think about why the student had written down that word/sentence. What could have been going through their head? Can you relate to what they wrote? Why or why not? I often hear grumblings about report cards around this time of year so I thought this would be a good chance for students to get it all out. An optional part of this activity could be having students share their word at the end if they felt comfortable doing so.

Art Activity

Last month, we were lucky enough to have someone from the Art Gallery of Hamilton come in to our classrooms. We were involved in a four week program working with watercolours with a focus on mental health. Students completed watercolour techniques in a very relaxing environment, using tape, string and tissues to create different looks. This was my favourite part of the day as every student felt connected to their work and rarely left to access a different space. Students were proud of their work and loved the simplicity of this. The arts have a way of making everyone at peace and I look forward to incorporating more periods to just create without a given set of rules.

These activities are just a few I have tried over the last month or so and I am always looking for new ways to get my students feeling comfortable around their peers and with themselves. I would love to hear about more if you have some that have worked in your own classrooms. I hope to include some photos once I am back in the classroom next week so stay tuned.