10 Classroom Strategies to Implement Whole Child Instruction
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
Whole Child instruction is an approach to education that aims to ensure each child, in each school, in each community is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. My bet is that you do much of this already—but extra intentionality never hurts.
Connecting education to the social and emotional development of a child creates an environment where the student can flourish academically because their emotional needs are being met. Whole child instruction approaches teaching with a focus on supporting and nurturing all areas of students’ development and learning. It understands that a child must have their social, emotional, and personal health needs met before cognitive skills, like critical thinking, can be developed. It encourages learning by making lessons approachable and capitalizing on students’ existing understandings, interests, and abilities. It leverages curiosity and every child’s natural eagerness to discover. It takes advantage of the intrinsic “need to know” mindset we’re all born with.
In order to direct Whole Child education, understanding Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and its connection to classroom instruction is key. SEL is the educational process that focuses on development of social-emotional competencies. As the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) describes, these include managing emotions, setting and achieving positive goals, feeling and showing empathy for others, establishing and maintaining positive relationships, and making responsible decisions. Whole Child instruction envelopes SEL and takes it a step further by addressing each child’s holistic lived experience. By taking care of students’ emotional and physical needs first, creativity and curiosity can take over.
Adopting a Whole Child approach makes sense. If a child is hungry, fractions are of little interest. If a child is afraid, how are you going to make prepositions matter? Understanding and meeting the needs of students does not discard fractions or prepositions; it addresses the critical need as a priority by reframing the approach to instruction.
Making the shift to a Whole Child approach cannot be done in isolation. Educators need access to tools, supports, and resources that will enable this kind of instruction and fit within existing teacher evaluation models. They need the professional development to implement these expectations. They also need the right kind of school culture to foster positive classroom environments. This quote from the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders and Teaching the Whole Child study sums it up:
“When students develop relationship skills, they engage with peers and teachers in a productive way. In addition, when all students develop positive social and emotional skills, they interact more positively with each other. This positive interaction makes students feel more emotionally and physically safe in their schools.”
Common sense, right? But, what are some concrete ways to do this? How do we manage Whole Child instruction while still supporting the standards and the assessments students and teachers need to prepare for? How do we add one more thing into the classroom day?
Here are ten simple (and some not so simple) ways to adjust the lens of instruction and to incorporate Whole Child practices. I imagine that many of these have made it into your routine already, but look for ways to develop new strategies, to enhance what you are doing, and capture the successes you and your students are already achieving.
1. Emphasize learning by doing and provide hands-on projects and opportunities
Project-based learning provides students with the chance to put into practice what they are discovering. It does not mean a re-do of the entire curriculum—it just means providing built-in opportunities to let students apply what they are learning. Think about incorporating projects that will let the students drive. If your teaching style tends towards ‘stand and preach’, you may miss openings to highlight unique talents in the classroom and risk losing students’ excitement to explore learning. Adjusting even a small piece of your lesson plan to a hands-on project will amaze you.
2. Utilize integrated curriculum and shift the focus to thematic units
Working with other content area teachers or addressing standards in a thematic way can provide opportunities for students to engage in their strengths. Yes, making the effort to take a more cross-curricular approach may mean a little extra time spent lesson planning. But, when you can connect ambiguous concepts like fractions to everyday activities like cooking, draw parallels between math and art, or introduce the science behind Fibonacci's sequence you’ll see young faces light up.
3. Provide regular opportunities for group work and the development of social skills
Use activities that help model and promote healthy interactions and teamwork within the classroom. Developing social skills with your students prepares them for a lifetime of healthier interactions in all aspects of life, and collaborative learning starts that conversation. When implementing, teachers should have an element that requires collective accountability as well as individual accountability to ensure that everyone participates in the learning task. Additionally, it’s important to emphasize collaboration and cooperation rather than competition. This may take some practice, but it’s well worth it.
4. Build a classroom where problem-solving and critical-thinking skills are part of the culture
Problem solving and critical thinking touch every aspect of life—so the opportunities to incorporate these skills in the classroom are nearly endless. This can happen within groups or class discussions by simply adjusting the nature of your questions. You can also build capacity for critical thinking by creating an environment where failure is a learning opportunity.
5. Facilitate understanding as the goal of learning rather than rote knowledge
By engaging students in the learning process, they are better able to apply the knowledge they gain. So, design instruction where students are actively thinking about their own work. Utilize assessments that are centered around student projects, and target self-reflection and self-assessment as part of the process. Teaching students how to assess their work against performance standards and how to improve their own work starts with setting goals together. This does not need to work against the school or district expectation of success, it simply creates a path to that success in the student’s language.
6. Focus on responsibility and choice
There is an emotional element to success, and it’s important to keep that in mind as you facilitate instruction. Creating an environment where success and failure are both learning opportunities enables students to make their own choices and take responsibility for their work. A child’s understanding or imagining of their own strengths and weaknesses will drive the educational choices they make, and how long they try.
7. Think about the language around classroom expectations
Encourage students and their efforts—don’t just praise outcomes. Be specific and authentic. Tell students why they are doing a good job. Simple rephrasing can go a long way. For instance, consider the implications of telling a child “I like how hard you are trying” as compared to “Good job”. The former celebrates effort and is related to concrete action, while the latter is a bit ambiguous, and while nice to hear, isn’t tied to any specific behavior.
8. De-emphasize the use of textbooks in favor of varied learning resources including discussion
Leverage multiple learning sources, not just textbooks, to speak to students’ different skills, learning styles, and talents. Of course, there is value to a book. However, using multiple resources—including art, digital media, and conversation—is reflective of life. During classroom discussions, try asking open-ended questions, and have students elaborate on their own thinking as well as the thinking of their peers. As the Teaching the Whole Child study points out, “When classroom discussions are done well, students and teachers are constantly building upon each other’s thoughts and most of the dialogue is student driven.“
9. Use balanced instruction to help students understand and respect different learning styles
Use a balance of active instruction and direct instruction, and build in opportunities for both individual and collaborative learning. Support students in engaging with all methods of expression and learning to find their own approach that personally works best for them.
10. Connect to the community
Integrating community service and service-learning projects in the daily curriculum is an outstanding way to focus on the Whole Child. Explore opportunities to partner with other organizations in your community to engage students in meaningful work beyond the classroom and help them make connections to their own lives. If those kind of outside activities aren’t an option, try simply partnering your students up as reading buddies, building projects or art shows for school exhibitions, or just discussing the concept of social responsibility.
My father, who is also in education, talks about creating a sense of ‘need to know’ in students. Fostering curiosity in a child will create curious adults, and curious adults cure cancer (or become presidents, or found companies, or volunteer, or just lead happy and fulfilling lives). Build a safe and supportive classroom, and it will meet social-emotional competencies and academic learning. Make a whole child focused classroom and you will intrinsically create curious and engaged students!
Want to learn more about the need for a Whole Child instructional approach? Check out this blog post on Student Trauma and the Effects on Executive Functioning and Social and Emotional Learning.
Embracing the Whole Child | Edutopia
In embracing a more whole-child, humanizing approach to teaching and learning, Salazar proposes specific ways educators can express care and engage students in a more humanizing pedagogy. Among her suggestions, I’d like to explore the following four, offering suggestions for each, as I have found them particularly useful to establishing a harmonious community of learners in the classroom.
1. Listen to students’ interests and concerns: How many of us stop a lesson or an interaction with a student or student group to check in on how they are connecting and relating to material? Are we developing enough learning experiences that center on their interests and concerns? Are we putting students before the curriculum, meaning that we frequently ask probing questions to find entry points to connect what is being taught with their lives?
Here are a few helpful activities to help you learn more about your students and to spotlight their lives:
2. Know students on a personal level and attempt to understand their home experiences: This can begin with giving them a questionnaire about their lives, adjusting the questions according to their age, at the beginning of the year (or any time of year, if you haven’t yet). You want to make your students as multidimensional to you as can be.
New teachers especially feel overwhelmed by this task, but it pays off. Once you gain information about each individual in the room, you can ask things like, “How is your grandma? Is she home from her hip surgery?” or, "How was the camping trip?" An important note: If you have a student living in foster care, you want to know this. We have to be mindful about avoiding saying “your parents” when addressing the whole class and instead use phrases like “the adults you live with” or “your parents or guardians.”
If there’s a child you’re worried about and you know something feels a bit off, inquire with the child in gentle ways, talk to the school counselor, or take a look at the student’s file in the office. I’ve learned vital information about students from doing this: A boy struggling to fit in had been recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, several children with eyeglass prescriptions weren’t in possession of glasses, and one girl was homeless and living with her family in their car.
Strive to routinely have five- or 10-minute conversations and check-ins at lunch or before or after school with the children you’re particularly concerned about. You can gain a deeper understanding of what is happing for them outside of school during those short talks.
You then have an opportunity to be empathetic, acknowledge their hardship, and set some goals together for them to improve academically. You can also refer them for further counseling services or advocate for additional support for them.
3. Model kindness, patience, and respect: The way we speak and the words we choose work to humanize the classroom space.How do we speak with students? Is it a way that we speak to other humans in our lives? Is the tone gentle and inviting when inquiring with a child about her progress? Are we mindful to only use selectively an authoritarian tone? And do we wait long enough, giving a child ample time to contemplate a question before he responds?
We have bad days, but we know as teachers that we have to bring our best selves every day. Sarcasm doesn’t work well with kids. It can be difficult in challenging moments to take a breath and make sure we’re speaking to the children we’re in charge of in a calm tone. Directives are necessary at times, and we must discipline, but we can still be fair, kind, and respectful while doing this. We’ve got to keep everyone’s dignity intact in the room, including our own. We want everyone child, no matter how challenging they may be, to feel welcomed, seen, necessary, and wanted.
4. Tend to students’ overall well-being and their emotional and social selves: Start the day with a one-word check in, where each child in the room gets to share how they’re feeling. Here’s a list of feeling words to put up on the wall or project on the screen. (You share yours, too!) This starts the day by acknowledging that you are all people first, learners next.
During a lesson or task, if energy levels in the room dip low, invite students to put down their pens and do a quick stand and stretch.
Before disciplining a student or having an after-class one-on-one with a challenging student, pause and say, “How are you? Is there anything I can help with?” Kids have bad days too, and we want be responsive to this rather than reactive.
Socializing with others can be uplifting and add to our well-being, so go big and take students outside on occasion to sit in circles on the grass and discuss a question, quote, or prompt. We know that learning is a social act (thank you, Lev Vygotsky), so turn-and-talks should be a routine in all of our classrooms. With a partner or two, kids can do things like share a prediction about a story they’re reading or reflect on what was hardest part of the science projects they just completed.
It Begins With Us
Show yourself and be yourself. (You are human, too!) Our kids are much more open to sharing who they are when we take the lead. Be vulnerable when the opportunity permits, sharing a bit about yourself by bringing in an artifact from your life or telling a story about a time you struggled as a child.
Showing our humanness is key to developing those relationships with our students. And relationships matter. They are foundational to learning.
Methods of upbringing: 7 steps to an obedient child
Moms and dads receive advice on raising children all the time, it’s a pity that only a small part of them are truly valuable. Useful advice is most often obtained from parents with extensive experience, such as the writer Helen Andelin, who raised 8 children and is raising three dozen grandchildren. Today "Oh!" publishes an excerpt from her book called “All About Children. Secrets of parenting from a mother of 8 children and a grandmother of 33 grandchildren, in which Helen tells how to raise an obedient child.
A method that will teach children to be obedient, responsible and have good manners must be adapted to the child's age, upbringing and temperament. This method is discussed in the following three chapters, and its description is given here.
Step 1: Tell the child what you expect from him
If you expect a certain behavior from a person, first tell him about your expectations so that he understands. To do this, first get his attention. Make sure he listens to you and nothing distracts him. Then explain clearly and in detail what you want from him. Be kind, not rude or impatient. If you doubt that he understood everything, ask him a few questions or ask him to repeat the instructions. Do not expect too much from a child, do not demand what is beyond his strength or ability. Once you have given instructions, do not go back to them again and again.
You don't have to say "Johnny, go put your toys away" every minute. Otherwise, the child will soon realize that he does not have to obey the first and even the second order, and your endless instructions will sound like annoying grumbling to him. You only need to repeat the instructions when it seems to you that the child did not hear you or did not understand. When giving instructions to a child, count on a positive result. Expect him to listen to you. Don't say: "If you don't do it now..." With this negative phrase, you yourself offer him an alternative.
A child will be obedient if parents expect a good deed from him, and not prepare for the worst. Use step 1 for special occasions, such as when you are giving your child a direction, assigning them work, or correcting their behavior. Also apply the first step to teaching and education in general. Explain to your child what kind of behavior you expect from him in life. The family evening described in chapter 2 is perfect for such explanations.0007
Once the child has been told what is expected of him, he should be allowed to act independently and choose for himself between good and bad behavior. A child will learn only when he is given freedom.
Step 3: Observe his behavior
Observe the child to see if he is following instructions. Small children need to be supervised every minute. It is enough just to look at older children. The main thing is not to forget about them and what you expect from them.
Step 4: Rate his behavior
Rate him against the following criteria. Did the child follow your instructions? Did he deserve an award? If he failed, maybe he did not understand what was expected of him? Or did he understand everything and tried to do it right, but could not because of forgetfulness, inaccuracy, mistake or accident? Was it someone else's fault? Listen to his side of the story, but don't take everything for granted. A delinquent child, out of fear of punishment, will easily shift all the blame onto someone else. And the last question: did the child really fully understand what was expected of him, and did he deliberately disobey? Parents need to be fair and far-sighted. Do not forget to take into account the child's age, upbringing, abilities and deep intentions.
Step 5: Take Action
If the child obeys you, give him the reward he deserves. If he made a stupid mistake, do not punish him, but teach him again. If he deliberately disobeyed, reprimand him or punish him fairly. We will explain how to do this later in this chapter. Then give the child instructions again.
Step 6: After punishment
After punishment, especially severe punishment, show your child that you love and appreciate him. Parental punishment can greatly upset a child and bring him to tears. He will feel for a while that you abandoned him or fell out of love with him. Patiently convince him that you are his friend and not his enemy.
Step 7: Repeat the training
If the child did not cope with what you expected from him, go through all the steps of the training with him again, but this time let's teach more strictly and carefully. The child may have to be warned about the punishment that awaits him if he disobeys. After evaluating his behavior, next time you can expect more from him. If the child continues to misbehave, repeat the training again. Go through all the above steps again, only each time be more serious and demand more. The punishment can be increased or changed each time. Repeat the training as many times as necessary until the child learns to be responsible for his behavior in this case. Then you can let him act on his own.
If you repeated the training several times, but nothing worked out for you, go back to the basics described in the first part of the book. Satisfy the needs of the child, give him love, build a strong relationship with him. For effective education, a solid foundation must be laid.
In what situation is it better to bring up
Children are brought up in the following situations:
Even before the child even had time to think about disobedience;
When he is just about to get naughty;
After he messed up.
Your child will benefit from all of these situations, but children respond best to the first, especially older ones. The exception is small children who are just learning to walk. They perceive the second situation better.
Mistakes parents make
The most common mistake parents make is skipping step 1. They don't tell their child what they want from them, but instead expect bad behavior from them. Then they get angry, criticize or severely punish the child. The child may not even know that he is doing something bad until he suddenly receives a slap in the face. He doesn't understand how to behave. This method will also teach the child to obey, but obedience will be based on fear. Be sure - when he grows up and feels freer, he will begin to do whatever he wants.
Another mistake is not giving the child enough freedom. A parent can command a child not to touch something, and then literally block his way, preventing him from doing it. Or a parent gives an older child some task, and then stands over his soul, watching whether he obeys. Sometimes a child is forced to obey. But children should have a choice - this is the only way education goes.
Another common mistake is not to follow the child's behavior at all. The parent gives the child instructions and forgets about it or is distracted by something else. An unsupervised child may disobey many times before it is discovered. Because of this, he develops bad habits, and it is difficult to get rid of them. Sometimes a parent gives a child an unfair assessment without having enough time to think things through or without listening to the child's point of view. He judges too hastily and accuses the child of disobedience when he was innocent or failed the task out of stupidity. An unfair assessment leads to unfair punishment and ineffective education.
Who is to blame and what to do: why children swear
How to help your child adapt to school: general rules for parents
5 simple games that will teach your child to read with pleasure
How to raise a child without screaming and punishment
The whole truth about how to choose a backpack for a first grader.
How to raise a child without screaming and punishment
Raising a child is a long, laborious and not always smooth process, during which we form his personality and give him basic settings for life. That is why it is so important to use only the right methods in the course of educational actions and to abandon harmful ones, such as screaming, tantrums and physical punishment.
What is the danger of shouting and punishment for raising a child?
The use of verbal and even more so physical punishment entails many negative consequences for the upbringing of children:
Children become embittered. Cruelty begets cruelty, therefore, over time, from upbringing in a raised voice, even the most good-natured and timid child can begin to be rude in response and become aggressive not only towards mom and dad, but also to the rest of those around them.
Over time, it becomes impossible to raise a child without screaming and using punishments. Children get used to the fact that what is said in a normal tone is not obligatory to be carried out and begin to act on instructions only when the parents begin to raise their tone. As a result, the child gets a completely distorted picture of the world and the correct methods of education.
In childhood, the psychological core of a person is formed and the foundations of communication with other people are laid. If in childhood your child suffers from constant screams and tantrums, in the future this may lead to the fact that the child will not be able to stand up for himself, will be unsure of himself.
Sometimes disobedience and tantrums occur for reasons that absolutely cannot be punished or shouted for, for example, physiological (pain, thirst, fatigue) or psychological (stress, fear). To make it easier for you to navigate the topic and educate your child, we recommend reading our material on children's tantrums.
What should mothers and fathers do to bring up an inquisitive, active and grateful child without shouting and punishment?
For your parenting strategy to work, it is essential that all family members who come into contact with the child, in particular grandparents, adhere to a single line of behavior and use the same methods to achieve results. For example, if a mother sets a rule for one candy a day, then under no pretext should the rest of the family break this rule, because it is with such inconsistencies that disobedience in children begins.
Train your patience. Remember that in any dispute and difficult situation, you remain an adult and the outcome of what is happening and the upbringing process as a whole depends on you. Yes, children are prone to tantrums, manipulation and other tricks that can piss them off. But it is important for moms and dads to understand just one thing - your child is only forming his worldview and your task is to educate him and patiently show him the right path, and also be able to accept his opinion, which may not coincide with yours.
To raise an obedient baby, from a very early age, show that it is the parents who are the main ones in the family. If you bring up children correctly, then sometimes one glance or half a word is enough for authoritative parents to achieve results. And this is not at all about the fact that the child will unquestioningly fulfill requests because of fear. No, just understanding from the very beginning a clear hierarchy in the family, he will accept these rules of the game.
Have a clear list of prohibitions and always justify them. Prohibitions must be supported by the fact that certain actions can harm the child or others. At the same time, everything else must be allowed, because he needs to know the world. For example, a ban on going out of the yard for a baby under 6 years old is quite justified, just explain to the child that this carries with it a number of dangers to his life. At the same time, arguments like “Because I said so” should not sound from your lips.
When educating, introduce the child to the household and solving family issues. A kid from a very early age should understand his importance, but only in the context of the fact that he is an integral part of the family and his opinion is taken into account. Of course, a child cannot participate in solving global and serious issues, but it is quite possible to entrust him with the choice of bread in the store or to involve him in discussing the color of the walls in his room. This will help instill in the child a sense of responsibility and belonging. Also, the child should have their own responsibilities depending on age. For example, from the first grade, he should be able to fold his school backpack. Of course, at first with the help of the mother, but the child should understand as early as possible that this is his responsibility. Also educating, you need to entrust children with simple tasks around the house, for example, wipe the dust, fold toys or make the bed. At the same time, domestic work should be a normal part of everyday life, but not a punishment for some wrongdoing.
Talk and spend time together. Play, draw, cook, go for walks, travel, read, etc. Only under the condition of regular and high-quality communication with children, it is possible to bring them up obedient and inquisitive without unnecessary screams, tantrums and breakdowns.
Accept the child as he is. The purpose of education is to reveal all the natural talents and capabilities of the baby, to show the basics of behavior in society, while maintaining his individuality. For example, if your child cannot sit in one place, you should not try to “seat” him at all costs, even when his activity does not interfere with anyone. It is better to find useful ways to release energy and then at the right time the child will behave more docilely and obediently.
In addition, in order to raise your child obedient, it is important to know about age crises, follow the link and read more about it.
How can parents develop their self-control and learn how to raise children without screaming?
If you understand that sometimes you can break into a scream or tantrum when talking and teaching a child, we recommend that you listen to the recommendations of psychologists:
Remember that initially mom and dad are the personification of all the best in the small world of a child. But with each release of negativity or aggression, even justified, towards the child, this image will collapse and in the future it will become more and more difficult for you to solve problems with children without screaming.
At the moment when you want to yell or punish a child, put yourself in his place. At this moment, he is already experiencing stress, is it worth it to increase it in order to release his emotions?
If you feel like you can't help it and emotions overwhelm you, move away from the child and count to 10, accompanying the count with deep breaths. As a rule, this time is enough to take a breath and continue the educational conversation in an acceptable tone.
Realize that any difficulties in raising children are temporary. The child is getting older every day. If yesterday he could still unconsciously draw a wall, then tomorrow he will no longer do it. Is it worth it in this case to waste your life resource and spoil the nervous system of the child?
Understand that any shortcomings in raising children are not theirs, but your problem. Accordingly, you need to reconsider your approaches, reactions and methods in order to get the desired result from the child.
During a stressful situation, simulate a future in which your adult and independent child screams and insults you. This technique sharply discourages the desire to raise your voice and solve problems by shouting.
What kinds of "punishments" can be used to raise children?
Own experience. You can educate by allowing the child to do what he wants. Thus, you allow him to punish himself. Of course, this method is not applicable in all situations. But even a few such moments will help him independently come to the conclusion that it would be better if he listened to his parents. For example, your child wants to watch TV until late and you have to get up early the next day, or wants to wear a warm jacket in hot weather. Sometimes it’s not worth arguing and letting the child understand for himself that he didn’t go to bed on time in vain and now he feels tired or he dressed so warmly in vain and now he is hot and needs to carry a heavy jacket in his hands.
Timeout. If a child throws a temper tantrum or misbehaves, such as bullying his siblings, remove the bad guy from the family circle for a while and give him time to think about his behavior in private. It is best to ask the child to go to his room and return when he calms down. In this type of punishment, it is important for you to show that you are extremely dissatisfied with the actions of the child and you do not want to continue the conversation with him now. At the same time, remember that in order to get the right effect from such an upbringing technique, it cannot be locked in a room, sent to dark and unpleasant places (corner, closet, toilet) and accompany your actions with offensive words. Children should understand that they are still loved, but now they have upset their parents and do not want to talk to them at this moment in time.
Deprivation. Experienced psychologists accept the use of deprivation to raise children. The main thing is to implement them correctly. You should not deprive a child of something they love simply in response to a bad behavior or act. It is important to agree in advance with the child. For example, if a kid misbehaves in a public place or is negligent in his studies, then for the first time he needs to make a remark, talk to him about the reasons for this behavior and warn him, if this continues, then you will have to take away his gadget or reduce the time of playing at computer. When educating, it is important to make it clear to the child that everything depends on him and you conclude an honest contract.
It is quite possible to raise children without screaming. The main thing to remember is one simple truth that our children are in many ways a reflection of ourselves. And even if in the moment you managed to cope with the conflict or disobedience by yelling at the child, you must remember that these methods never work in the future.