As a 5th grade teacher, the struggle to find strategies for social emotional learning is tough. We work on “being a good friend,” “keeping each other safe,” and “using our manners” until we are blue in the face. However, oftentimes we need something a bit more individualized for the students in our classrooms to help them through those big feelings and new experiences.
Creating a Classroom Culture of Compassion and Empathy
Through my many years at this grade level, one of the best solutions I have found to help students through these tough times is The Compassion Project by EVERFI. Through the simple lessons and the accompanying videos that are provided by the program, the students are able to have real-life conversations about the things that they have been through or are currently experiencing. This program has truly opened the communication flood gates in my classroom, giving the students a safe place to share and compare their experiences with those of the characters in the program.
As the school year begins, we use both the lower elementary and the upper elementary version of The Compassion Project, starting first with the lower to get kids back into the swing of school, and reflecting on how things went for them in past years, and then the upper elementary one to really dig deep into those feelings that are happening in their minds and bodies now. I really like that I can use this program as both an individual learning experience and as a whole group activity that students can share openly with their classmates and me, allowing for deeper relationships in the classroom. It’s a great little tool to have if I am absent from school, and need to create a sub plan. I can assign their daily activity in Google Classroom and see who did or did not complete the assignments.
Teaching Sustainability to Help Students Become Model Citizens
Another great mental health helper is the Sustainability Foundations course. While teaching sustainability may not seem related to mental health, it’s very much an important part of keeping the kids on the right track to being a responsible citizen. This program provides students with the opportunity to learn what would happen if they don’t keep the world going in the right direction and help to make the world a healthier, better place for everyone, including them.
These programs have provided students with the chance to learn what our class motto of being a “model citizen” means, including making sure that we are keeping our classroom environment clean, making sure that the world around them stays clean and safe, as well as providing them with the chance to learn something new. We have taken it to the next level in science class, thinking of ways that we as 5th grade students can start projects in our community to help to make sure that our school and the surrounding community will be safe and beautiful for generations to come.
While there are many other amazing programs to discover on EVERFI, these programs have definitely changed the classroom community in my room. I have seen these kids grow from students who didn’t realize the impact that they have on the world around them to the model citizens that they know they can be in just a few short sessions with EVERFI.
Kimberly Thompson is a 5th grade social studies and science teacher in Upstate New York. She enjoys spending time with her husband and puppy, Shelby, as well as reading for pleasure.