Section 4

Activities to support emotional wellbeing


Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will have:
  • organised different activities to develop and support emotional well-being in your classroom;
  • worked in a positive and affirmative manner;
  • reflected on your own behaviour in developing your pupils’ emotional well-being.
Learning is easier and much more fun if we feel secure and confident in ourselves. By respecting and supporting your pupils in the classroom and planning activities that make them feel included you will support their emotional wellbeing.

Page 1

Games are practical activities that pupils can participate in, for fun and for learning. They can also teach pupils how to interact with each other to share ideas and objects. Sharing is important at school because:
  • many schools have few resources, and pupils need to use resources in groups;
  • pupils have different skills, and sharing encourages them to help each other;
  • encouraging sharing and group work means that everyone is learning even if you can’t speak to all of your pupils individually;
  • sharing is part of life and we all need to cooperate every day;
  • by sharing, people learn how to give support to others and ask for it in return;
  • sharing is one way people make friends with each other and it encourages good social interaction.
Here, we are going to look at ideas for sharing activities and how you can encourage sharing as part of your everyday teaching.

Case Study 1: Ways of sharing

Kembabasi is a teacher in a Grade 4 class at a primary school in northern Uganda. She has many children in her class and very few textbooks, exercise books and pencils. So for each reading or writing activity, she organises the pupils into groups to share the resources together. She plans the activities like this:
  • Each group has one textbook or storybook, one exercise book and one pen.
  • In the group, one pupil has the textbook and reads it to the others, or they take it in turns and read a bit each.
  • One pupil has the exercise book and writes down the answers.
  • The other pupils all discuss the questions and answers.
  • They all check what has been written down.
  • They swap resources after every different kind of activity.
Before the class starts a reading and writing activity, Kembabasi asks each group who is reading and who is writing. This way, she checks that each pupil practises their reading, writing and discussion skills every day, if possible. The pupils learn how to listen to each other and share ideas. They gain knowledge from each other and learn how to be friends. Kembabasi changes the groups regularly, so pupils develop new skills and make new friends. You can find further ideas in Key Resource: Teaching in challenging environments.

Activity 1: A sharing game

This is a game that practises language and sharing.
  • Organise your class into three groups.
  • Give each person in Group 1 a piece of card with a pronoun written on it (i.e. I, you, he, she, we, they).
  • Give each person in Group 2 a piece of card with a verb written on it (e.g. like/likes, go/goes, eat/eats etc.).
  • Give each person in Group 3 a piece of card with a noun written on it (e.g. football, home, mango etc.).
  • Tell each pupil that they must make a sentence by finding other pupils and sharing their words (e.g. ‘She likes football’).
  • Then ask the groups to check if each other’s sentences are correct.
How can you adapt this exercise to teach other topics and subjects, e.g. maths or science? This flexible, sharing approach can be used with many different topics.

Page 2

As a teacher, one of your most important roles is to encourage and support your pupils as learners and people. An educational psychologist called Abraham Maslow has identified some emotional needs that are important in order to learn well. These include feelings of:
  • safety and security;
  • love and belonging;
  • self-esteem.
Every pupil has the desire for high achievement, which can be measured by self-esteem. Pupils show this in the classroom by being keen to answer questions. If they feel stupid, it damages their self-esteem and discourages them. However, if you show them their answers might be right or are interesting, it boosts pupils’ self-esteem and encourages participation and high achievement. You can encourage this in the classroom by being a positive and affirmative teacher. This means:
  • being positive and respectful so pupils feel confident enough to contribute;
  • making sure that nobody is made to feel stupid or embarrassed when contributing their ideas;
  • making sure that everybody understands the lesson’s most important focus.
To do this, you need to develop teaching strategies that do not reject any answer that is given, but you use the pupils’ responses to guide them to think more deeply. By doing this, you will be building pupils’ self-esteem.

Case Study 2: Being a positive and affirmative teacher

William had been able to encourage pupils in his Grade 5 class to contribute to most lessons through the sharing activities he uses as part of his everyday lessons. The pupils began by making contributions in small groups, and soon were confident enough to start making contributions in front of the whole class. To make sure he didn’t damage the pupils’ self-esteem, he planned how he would handle their contributions.
  • He would ask the class a question. If pupils wanted to answer, they put their hands up and he would choose someone.
  • If they gave the correct answer straight away, he would praise them with phrases like: ‘Well done!’, ‘Very good!’, ‘Excellent!’
  • If the pupil gave an answer that wasn’t quite right, he was careful not to say ‘No’ or ‘Wrong’. Instead, he would say something neutral like: ‘Almost’, ‘Nearly’, or ‘Not quite’. He might ask the pupil to ‘Try again’ and give them a clue or prompt to help them think a little harder.
  • If the pupil was stuck, William moved on quickly, saying: ‘Can anyone else help us?’
Over time he noticed how much more confident they became.

Activity 2: Building self-esteem

One way to build self-esteem is to help your pupils recognise their own skills.
  • Ask your pupils to describe different kinds of things they enjoy doing, both at home and in school.
  • Now ask them to think about which activities they are particularly good at.
  • Organise them into groups. Then ask each pupil to identify three special skills they have and share these with the group.
  • Ask them individually to write about these skills and draw pictures of themselves doing each activity. Display them on the wall.
  • In the next lesson, extend this by asking your pupils to discuss what they would like to be or do when they grow up.

Page 3

We have talked about how to help pupils identify and explain their feelings. As emotions are strong reflections of who we are as individuals, they can also make us react in ways that we can’t always control. Our feelings and behaviour are linked to two things:
  • the particular situations we are in;
  • our emotional reactions to situations, and our understanding of what is the socially acceptable way to show our feelings.
For example, one of your pupils might be over-excited. Your immediate reaction may be to feel annoyed. But to show this might spoil the good classroom atmosphere. So, to diffuse the situation, you ask her to sit down quietly, or give her a task like giving out books to distract her. Younger pupils take time to fully understand their emotions and the social rules that say how we should behave. When young, we often experience emotional situations for the first time and don’t know how to react. As we grow older, we learn to understand our emotions better, and to control how we react in different situations. Here, we are going to look at ways you can encourage this in your classroom.

Case Study 3: Helping each other

Mrs Kwei started to work with her Grade 2 pupils to help them understand more about their feelings and behaviour – what made them happy, sad, angry and frightened. After this, she planned work with her pupils to develop a list of things they could all do to make each other happy and not sad, angry or frightened. Using group and whole class discussions, they made a chart of rules for interacting with each other at school. They included things like: ‘We will all say good morning to each other every day’ and ‘We will not call each other bad names’. They linked each rule with a feeling by drawing a happy or sad face next to it. With this chart, every time there was some problem of behaviour in the class, Mrs Kwei could refer to the rules of behaviour. She always linked the behaviour with the different feelings it produced. This way, her pupils could see the link between their behaviour and people’s feelings. They became more caring of each other as a result.

Key Activity: Reflecting on your own behaviour

In this activity, you are asked to think about your own behaviour and plan how to make it more affirmative and supportive in the classroom.
  • First, ask yourself the questions listed in Resource 1: Reflecting on your behaviour.
  • Write down your answers.
  • Look at the case studies we have featured in this section. Choose one piece of good practice from each, which you can apply to your own teaching situation.
  • Write a description of how you will apply it in your own classroom.
  • Finally, write a plan for ‘affirmative action’. Write five sentences stating what positive behaviour you will use each day; e.g. ‘I will say good morning to all my pupils when I see them in the playground’.
  • Extend this to your interaction with colleagues. Perhaps talk to them about your ideas and plan to do these actions together.
  • See Resource 2: Mrs Chosane’s reflections on her approach to see the approach one teacher took in her classroom.

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