The words “back to school” bring a lot of anxiety to our students and their families. Students will look to you to provide them support. This is not only academic support but support for their mental health as well. In addition, parents are feeling nervous about the upcoming school year. This includes both in-person and online learning. These social-emotional supports for families help look after the mental health of your students and families.
Give students (and parents) a chance to share feelings.
Many teachers begin the school year with a short survey. These are simple to use with a Google Form. Include a place for parents to write about how their children (and they) are feeling about the school year. For students, use an emoji scale (sad to happy faces) to show how they are feeling about the year. Students can also write their own responses.
To begin, parents have their own sets of concerns. If you’re teaching online, many are nervous about how they can help at home. On the other hand, if you’re back in the classroom, some are worried about CDC requirements or children getting sick. Let parents share their concerns with you. If concerns are serious, pass them on to the school counselor.
In addition, many students are anxious about heading back to the classroom. A survey gives them a chance to voice their concerns. Although some statements may overlap with parents, others may be just about the child. For example, some concerns I’ve heard from students are not being able to see friends in person or if they’ll get to participate in sports or clubs.
These concerns sound minor to many, but they affect parents’ and students’ mental health. By validating these concerns and addressing them with fairness and honesty, you can help your students start the year stronger and provide social-emotional supports for families.
Use social-emotional supports to get to know your families and students.
Getting to Know You Glyph
Start the year online or offline by getting to know your students and how they learn. If you know that Joe is a visual learner, for example, you’ll be able to share resources with pictures and graphic organizers to help him with assignments.
I love using these “Getting to Know You Glyphs.” These are simple to use in the classroom, or you can email or mail materials to students for online learning. The best part is they are FREE!
First, students design their “glyph” cut-out of a person and code it with colors and symbols that reflect their favorite subjects, learning styles, preference for group work, and their feelings about the school year. You get to know the student, and they express their feelings with a fun, artistic activity. Keep these private by having students submit on Google Classroom or Seesaw, or have students share with one another on Google Meet or Zoom to begin a discussion about empathy, diversity, and kindness. These are other great social-emotional learning concepts!
Finally, give your parents a homework assignment. Parents write a short paragraph or two of anything they want to tell you about their child. Pair with the survey mentioned above, but let parents know it can be about anything. Invite them to share their students strengths outside of classroom performance. Art, music, soccer, babysitting, and more interests often come up in these letters. Sometimes, students aren’t comfortable sharing these things, but parents love to tell you about their kids! Learn a lot about the social-emotional supports you can help provide a family from these special letters.
Use social stories for social-emotional learning supports.
Social stories are not just for primary students. Many elementary students benefit from individualized stories that help students recognize their emotions and how to act in specific situations. Often used with students with autism, they still help all students!
For example, share a social story with your students about asking their parents for help during online learning. Build that home-school connection and alleviate some of the stress and fighting too many families experience with online learning. Talk about a student that is frustrated with an assignment. Share the steps the student takes to find success. First, they check Google Classroom (or Seesaw or another learning platform) to clarify directions. Next, the student posts a question or emails the teacher for help. Finally, if the student still does not understand, they ask a parent or older sibling when the best time is for them to help with the assignment.
I love using social stories not just for student interactions but also for social-emotional supports for families as well. Let students know that it’s OK to struggle, and you are there to help!
Other social stories may include social distancing or wearing a mask (for in-person learning). In addition, stories about empathy and anxiety can help during this time.
Give an extended window for assignment due dates.
The next tip may not seem like social-emotional learning supports for families, but it is! The stress of daily assignments during online learning can really take a toll on students and families. Online learning is not the same as being in the classroom daily. Consider giving assignments on a Monday, for example, and having the due date on Friday. This gives students the flexibility to work on the assignments when their parents are available for support if needed. It also gives them time to ask questions if you’re not meeting live daily.
This simple tip also helps you plan out your grading time and allows for more interaction on meetings and emails correspondence with students and families to help support that home-school connection that is so important for social-emotional support for families.
When it comes to providing social-emotional supports for families during online learning, the most important thing you can do is communicate. Get to know your students and families. Point them to community and school resources for counseling and financial resources. Even if you don’t see your families in person, you are someone that provides stability in their ever-changing world. Be there to help share these social-emotional supports for families.
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