How To Create A Safe Classroom Environment – Most teachers realize that students benefit from a positive and safe classroom environment that is conducive to learning and where students are not afraid to make mistakes. This type of environment is especially beneficial for English language learners, as these students experience many changes in their personal lives.
I will never forget the “deer in the headlights” look on the faces of new ELLs on the first day of school. It is a glass expression, often filled with anxiety, confusion and fear of the unknown.
How To Create A Safe Classroom Environment
Adjusting to a new way of life and learning a new language is stressful for our ELLs. Providing a positive and safe classroom is one of the most important ways we can help relieve that stress while helping our students succeed academically.
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When I consider my efforts to create a positive and safe classroom for my students, three things come to mind:
Classroom routines reduce anxiety for our ELLs because it allows them to know what to expect before they come to school. Instead of guessing and worrying about what they might be asked to do in class that morning, they can rest easy knowing that they will be following the same general process in class that they took yesterday, the day before yesterday, and the day before yesterday. .
There is comfort in predictability and stability, especially for students who have recently experienced many sudden and drastic changes in their lives.
I write the day’s agenda on the board so my students can see exactly what we will be doing that day. For example, Monday’s agenda might look like this:
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Now, in my mind, I know that each of the items listed above contains a lot of detail, but of course, I won’t put all of those details on the board because the students will be overwhelmed. I have listed below the above mentioned item details.
Keeping classroom supplies and materials in designated places can reduce student anxiety and help ELLs focus on learning.
Classroom structure includes designated places for all classroom materials and supplies so students know where to find them when they need them. This helps them relieve anxiety and stress and saves valuable class time for everyone.
For beginning ELLs, it is very helpful to label items in the classroom, as it helps them develop their English literacy.
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Structure also includes classroom rules and expectations. Without this, you will end up in chaos. Students feel safe when they know what is expected of them and what the consequences are for not following the classroom rules.
ELLs are more likely to enjoy coming to your classroom when their classroom environment is welcoming.
Classroom climate refers to how students feel in your classroom. This environment is usually created in the first week of school and is important to create an environment conducive to student learning. Creating a positive and welcoming classroom environment can be difficult, but it is the teacher’s responsibility to strive to create it from the beginning of the school year.
The best way to help foster a friendly atmosphere in the classroom is to regularly involve students in discussion circles.
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Creating a positive and safe environment for students is more challenging with a class of thirty students than with a class of ten. I cannot stress enough how important it is to implement routine, structure and a friendly environment in your classroom from the first day of school. Just as important, you continue to implement them consistently throughout the year. Your efforts will help your English language learner succeed socially, emotionally and academically. Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process by which people understand and manage their emotions, achieve goals, empathize with relationships and make responsible decisions. All of these factors contribute to a positive school environment in which students can learn.
As understanding of SEL has increased, the use of safe spaces in the classroom has been described as “SEL in action.”
A safe space is a place where children can go to calm down, be alone and recharge so they are ready to learn.
Experts know that children cannot learn when they are insecure or under emotional stress. Safe spaces are an effective way to help children return to a calm state conducive to learning.
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This space also supports social-emotional learning because it provides children with tools to manage and regulate their emotions.
They are especially effective for children, children with high levels of stress or trauma. These children often come to school feeling sad, scared or angry. Having a safe place allows them to rest enough to learn, which is important to level the playing field.
Safe spaces are classroom management, self-regulation and social-emotional learning tools that promote healing and teach healthy living skills.
A safe space doesn’t have to be fancy. You need a comfortable corner in the classroom (where you can still see the child and the child can see the classroom).
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Ask your students for input on what to put in the safe space. In general, you can have comfortable seating such as bean bag chairs, as well as stress balls, stuffed animals or pillows, books, photos of friends and family, or anything your student can rest on.
You can also add posters and/or activities that teach children to calm down, solve problems or take care of themselves in this corner.
Safe spaces can go by many names and take many forms, but one effective example is the safe space of conscious discipline.
Mindful discipline is an important social-emotional learning program. Safe spaces are central to the program’s self-regulatory training.
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Safe spaces are similar to other safe spaces, but intentionally guide children through three main steps:
These steps provide some structure to a safe space that helps children move from upset to calm (and ready to learn).
Activities such as breathing exercises turn off the brain’s “fight or flight” response. This allows the child to calm down to continue the next step in the self-regulation process.
This breathing exercise involves taking three deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Exhalation should be longer than inhalation.
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Conscious Discipline uses four fun exercises for kids: S.T.A.R, Drain, Balloon and Pretzel. However, there are many ways to teach children to breathe.
Images of four breathing icons are often placed in safe spaces to remind children how to take deep breaths and calm down. This breathing technique is practiced regularly in class.
Students then identify their feelings. Labeling emotions often makes them less scary and easier to deal with.
Conscious Discipline helps students identify their feelings through the use of Feeling Buddies. Alternatively, you can use the Feeling Faces or How Do You Feel charts available as free downloads.
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You can also create your own emotion chart. The main idea is to provide pictures that help students label their feelings. In some safe place, the mirror asks “How are you feeling?” To help children “name and tame” their feelings.
After children identify their feelings, they choose activities that help them control themselves. These options relate to the safe place aspect and may include journaling, drawing pictures, reading a book, hugging a teddy bear, squeezing a stress ball, etc.
You can draw a chart (or make one from clip art) that shows the kids their choices, or you can use my Choices Aware Discipline Self-Monitoring Board. On the board, children move Velcro Feeling Faces and Velcro Self-Regulation Activities to show their feelings and the activities they choose.
After children complete the calming activity, they are ready to rejoin the classroom ready to learn.
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As with any safe space, safe spaces should be introduced to students gradually. Founder of Conscious Discipline Dr. According to Becky Bailey, some teachers provide a safe space behind the yellow tape.
Naturally, students are curious and start asking questions. You can start by teaching one step of the Safe Place process at a time.
First, work on calming breathing techniques until you feel your student has mastered them. Then practice identifying feelings. Finally, talk with students about strategies they can use to stay calm. Show them the items you have in your safe and ask if anything is missing.
Model safe space use and have students practice walking through the three steps. When you and your students are ready, host a ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially opens the safe space for business.
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Once the safe is open, encourage use of the safe by going there when you’re upset too.
If you are interested in learning more about Conscious Discipline Safe Spaces, see sample photos and videos here.
Regardless of what you call your sandbox and how you set it up, your intentions are more important. Remember that the goal of a safe space is to give children a place to calm down, feel safe and regroup when they feel overwhelmed.
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