In the classroom today we are increasingly required to address social and emotional learning in order to best help the students in our care be successful resilient citizens. The power of circle time in my grade has been phenomenal this year, we have unpacked a range of different emotions and developed an active awareness of our social and emotional skills ( and actions) through the use of journalling. By trial and error I have found the best time of day for my class is first thing in the morning, we function more cooperatively and with a renewed thoughtful attitude towards each other for the rest of the day.

A typical circle time session in our class starts with a game that gets the class moving and swapping seats across the circle, splitting them up from friendship groups and having a laugh together. Then a favourite of the class is to have some emotion cards placed down in the middle of the circle, each student can take an emotion card to hold and as we pass the wand around the circle they can share how they are feeling and why. If they don’t feel like sharing that is also OK, by the students simply holding a card I already have a clue as to how they are feeling. ( I can make a point of checking in with them individually later) Finally we have a theme we explore through role-play, small group work or cooperative activities before we finish with a positive round of the circle, ¬†sharing something we have noticed someone else do that is positive for our classroom community. At the end of the week they vote for the two students who will receive our class awards for the week based on our social skills themes. (being a good role model, kindness, resilience …)

In addition to this, earlier in the year, after finding I was constantly addressing a wide variety of social needs throughout the day I decided to introduce reflective journals. These books are covered in fancy decorative paper and are never marked or graded. They are the students individual recording of feelings and emotions and a reflection of their journey of growth as a whole person in our learning community. We have coloured markers and stickers they can use and creative expression is hugely encouraged. There is no right or wrong in these journals. It is about how we feel.

Recently we have been learning about self control or impulse control. After much discussion and sharing of situations when they feel in control or out of control and and how those feelings affect our body, mind and heart we spent some time reflecting using the circle of control. This involved the children drawing two circles in their journal. One inside the other. The inner circle contained the things they did have control over and the outer circle contains the things they don’t have control over. Acting out how they look when in control of themselves and out of control of themselves helped many of my students to recognise how each feeling looks and feels in their body. Finally we had a discussion on how they will know when they are loosing self control and what they will do to change their reaction from one where they yell at, hit out or tease another to one where they are the master storyteller of their own story and have control. We are all aiming to be masters of our own stories in Grade 4 this week, seeking ways to show we are in control of our actions and looking out to catch others being good role models so we can value them.

Next time you are planning your day, stop and think to see if you have considered furthering the emotional learning of your class, if not make some time for it. I guarantee your students will love it, the trust between you will grow and you will learn something about each and every one of them that will empower learning across other areas of the curriculum. Invest the time, they are worth it.



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