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Improving mental health in your child’s classroom

Improving mental health in your child’s classroom

Published at 5:19pm 5th February 2019. (Updated at 5:21pm 5th February 2019)

It’s widely known that children who feel nurtured and safe will not only learn better but feel better too...

But it’s sometimes easy to overlook as teachers grapple with the every-day demands of the primary school classroom.

Child Mental Health Week (February 4-10) is the ideal opportunity for schools to focus on creating a nurturing environment where every child feels valued and safe.

Education expert and former primary school teacher Becky Cranham shares her tips below...

Get to know every child in the class

Teachers can take some time each week to learn a new fact about each child. They could give them a Knowing Me, Knowing You card for them to fill in with something interesting about themselves, or as a space to share anything they are struggling with or worried about. Having one-to-one feedback on these or sharing a quick “Hey, I didn’t know you love ostriches – they’re my favourite animal too!” moment with a child can make them feel really valued and supported.

Encourage every child to have a voice

It’s often the same children putting their hands up to answer a question. Teachers can use Flip Sticks to keep track of who you’ve asked a question and to encourage the whole class to take part in discussions. Another good method is to use ‘Talk for Me Buddies’ –this is great for children who want to share their ideas with the class but who don’t yet have the confidence to voice their own thoughts in a large group.

children school

Being playful and having fun

Teachers should make sure there is time in the timetable for children to play, whether it’s a Maths game, a role-play activity or a team-building game to foster class relationships.

Taking a ‘mood register’ to check in with the feelings in the room

Children are asked to give a number from 1 to 10 when answering their name in the register to show how they were feeling that day. The teacher can then follow-up with any low-scoring children later in the day for a private chat, and other children can be aware of how their peers are feeling, giving them the chance to offer encouragement and support.

Take learning outside and make it active

It rains a lot in Britain. But that doesn’t mean that we should automatically discount the idea of making outside learning a regular occurrence. It doesn’t have to mean traipsing around a forest looking for earthworms (although this kind of outdoor learning is extremely valuable, too). Exploring places of worship, streetscapes, architecture, local businesses, museums, galleries, parks and shopping centres all provide rich experiences that provide an immediately engaging environment and provide many opportunities for learning.

Keep it calm

Being able to calm down is a skill that needs to be practised (in some children more than others!). Embedding periods of calm into your classroom through simple activities, like this one from the Everyday Mental Health Classroom Resource website, will help children to feel safer and more peaceful, leading in turn to better learning.

Becky Cranham, a former primary school teacher, is Lead Resource Creator of PlanBee, an education resources website.


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