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Routine and Novelty: How Can We Keep a Balance?

It's important to keep routine in our daily life, especially when it comes to children. Routine brings a sense of security and builds confidence in children. Knowing what to expect in their day makes them feel in control of their surroundings. It helps them build the courage to take risks.

But routine can also become boring.

Routine and Novelty: How Can We Keep a Balance? This blog post explores why we need both routine and novelty, and how we know when to "shake it up."

Brain research tells us that brains need both routine and novelty to grow. Yes, these words are antonyms, but both are necessary for learning to happen. Too much routine can become tedious and dull. Too much novelty becomes confusing and chaotic. How can we find a balance?

The best way to find that balance? Pay attention to your students! This is probably the most important part of being a teacher or a parent: know your students! Watch for signs that they are happy, bored, confused, or content. This is how you know they should continue with a routine, or are ready for a "shake up." 

The beginning of the school year, or right after a break, sticking to a routine is essential. They find comfort in that routine, and are happier and more content. 

But after a while, that same routine becomes the enemy! They need something different. A change. But as we all know, many people fear change. It's a rocky road, so proceed with caution.

Start with something simple. I always love to change the seating arrangement when boredom starts to set in. They get to come into a classroom that's familiar, but there's something different. When they find their new spot, there are loads of smiles! Plus, I love the giggles when they start to walk to their old spot, then realize they don't sit there anymore!

A few other ideas for an easy change from the routine: 

  • change the schedule (be careful, this could cause a domino effect with children who receive services)  
  • bring in a special snack to go with your lesson
  • speak with a funny voice, or use an accent
  • take a break from what you're teaching and have a special lesson
  • take your lesson to a different spot... outside, in the hall, cafeteria, or any extra space
  • wear something unique that will spark their attention
  • introduce some new team building games See these blog posts: Space Balls, Paper Bag Dramatics, Team Building Activities  (these games can often be altered to fit academics)
  • have them wear something to go with a theme
  • bring in a guest teacher or guest reader
  • do some Reader's Theater in the classroom See this blog post: Dramatics in the Classroom
  • plan a craft or art project to go with your lesson
  • get some new books for your classroom library
 
Once the children are able to handle small changes, it's time for a BIG change in routine!

Here in New England, the winters are long, dark and cold! By mid-January, we always need something big to shake things up! By this time, the children are quite secure in their routine, and basically dealing with "cabin fever" and are absolutely sick of everything! (No matter where you live, I'm sure the children get to this point!)

These are some things I do to help shake them from this state:
For more information about Routine and Novelty, see this blog post: Predictability and Novelty
 
 
Routine and Novelty: How Can We Keep a Balance? This blog post explores why we need both routine and novelty, and how we know when to "shake it up."

 

Political Conflict: How Can We Help the Children?

America has been struggling with political conflict. 

As teachers and parents, how can we help the students through these difficult times?

 
There has always been conflict in our world. Unfortunately, it seems like there's a lot more lately.

I hate to give away my age, but I remember quite a few instances of conflict and pain, including these assassinations: John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy. 
 
I was teaching during the Challenger explosion, Columbine, numerous school shootings, and teaching drills such as lockdown, shelter in place, evacuation, and reverse evacuation.

My own daughter remembers 9/11, various school shootings and other mass shootings, the Boston Marathon bombing (while living in Boston), various hurricanes and wildfires, Black Lives Matter protests, and now, the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Young adults in her age group are very familiar with violence, unfortunately.

There are no perfect answers on how to deal with events like this, but here are some things to think about:

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

Every child is different, and every child has his or her own tolerance for what they can handle. I personally don't believe in giving children any more information than they can handle, and this is a rocky road. It's important to give them true information in the form of facts, but be careful not to give too much information that will confuse or upset them. Avoid letting them watch the news, as many children don't have the tools to cope with what they see. Approach with caution! 

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

In order to understand what they know and how to help, it's important to listen to them. Find out what they understand and what needs clarification. Ask questions. Learn more about what's going on with them. What are they thinking? Help them.

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

There are all sorts of mixed feelings these children might be experiencing. They may not even understand what they are feeling. We need to have lots of conversations, giving them a chance to explore and express their feelings. Art is a great way to let out feelings. Let them draw, paint, or create something to help them figure out what they are feeling.

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

As the children explore their feelings, help them identify what they're feeling by sharing your own. If they are confused, tell a story about when you were confused about your own feelings. If they are frightened, tell them about a time you were frightened. Even better? Include information about how you dealt with those feelings.

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

This one is so hard! I assure you, both sides of any conflict truly believe they are saying and doing what is right. Families of all your students belong to both sides of any conflict. It's important to keep opinions out of the classroom. But it's important for children to know that breaking the law or causing harm to others is never OK. One of my most valuable teaching lessons was learned while taking my students on a field trip to the local police station. When children asked about what happens to "bad people," they were answered with this comment: "There are no bad people, just people who made bad choices."

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

One or two good conversations might be enough for some children, but there are others who need a constant checking in. You know your students. Watch them closely. There may need to be frequent check-ins with several children to make sure they're OK. Some may need private conversations. Some may need group conversations. Morning meetings are great places to have these conversations.

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

Children do open up in many situations. For some, it's a group discussion, such as Morning Meeting. For others, it's expressing themselves with art or music. Sometimes, a distraction is just what they need. Amazing conversations happen while simply playing board games. (My favorite is Apples to Apples... and I use the excuse that they're practicing reading skills, so I squeeze it into reading group time!)

Books are also an awesome way to get children to open up, and figure out the words to explain how they are feeling. It might be tough to find perfect books for the perfect situation, but reading some "feel good" books would be a great idea. You know these books... old favorites, happy endings, upbeat, joyful, and heartwarming. The kind of story that makes the children feel safe.
 

Things I truly believe:

  • Most people have good souls.
  • The children's mental health is far more important than academics.
  • They need to be heard, and they need to be loved.
  • Good will prevail.

 

Political Conflict: How can we help the children? They're smart. They know there's a lot going on, and they're scared. Here are some ideas on helping them understand and worry less.

 


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