22 Common Sense Tips to Help Improve your Classroom
We focus a lot of time, energy and thought on safety and supervision in the classroom. However many of the challenges we face in the classroom could be due to common everyday decisions that most do not think about. Listed below are items that we all need to review and think about. Could these simple items be the solution to your stress? I encourage each of you to incorporate at least 5 items below to help enhance your classroom.
Waking children up while they are in their REM cycle. Humans sleep in five-stage cycles. Waking up in the middle of a REM stage (when you sleep deepest) leaves you groggy and grumpy. But if you get up during one of your light-sleep stages, you will rise feeling refreshed and alert. Work with families using website such was sleepyti.me to help discover the child’s sleeping patterns.You also need to be aware of your own sleep cycles. Being refreshed and alert is imperative for all early education professionals.
Give the brain a treat! Does listening to music give you chills? That’s your brain rewarding itself with dopamine, the same way it reacts to eating sweets or falling in love. So play music in the classroom as often as you can and encourage the children to sing along. (The deep breathing associated with singing has been shown to improve heart health)
Dress for success. When you dress nice and professional it make you look and feel more competent. The way you dress and look really does make a difference in your quality of work.
Stand out as an original. While coming to work in dress code is part of the job, studies has shown that adding an offbeat element, such as red tennis shoes to the traditional dress code can make you look more competent because you seem unique.
Express yourself with your favorites. Wearing your most beloved clothing could improve your own mood, according to a U.K. study. Children who are struggling with self-identity or esteem issues should be encourage to wear their favorite shirts with objects that are important to them.
Put away the junk food, both at school and at home. You are what you eat and you eat what you see, according to a study in Health Education and Behavior. People who keep foods such as cereal, cookies, and muffins in plane sight tend to weigh more than those whose treats stay tucked away. On the other hand, keeping healthy foods visible correlates to slimness. Keep this in mind when enriching your dramatic play and science centers.
Wander away from wandering. A Harvard University survey of more than 2,000 volunteers found that when our minds wander, we are more likely to become unhappy than when we are focused. This makes engagement in the classroom even more important than ever! Keep your children (and yourself) focused on the task at hand.
Another reason why literacy is so important. A volume of recent research shows that reading fiction not only engages our fickle brains but also increases empathy, fostering a deeper understanding of new experiences and views. Reading stories to children multiple times a day will help keep children in their executive state and help them avoid the survival state of the brain.
Enrich the classroom with real life plants. Voltaire’s Candide was probably speaking in metaphor when he said each of us should tend our own garden but a slew of research shows that workers with actual flowers or foliage are more productive than those without. One study even found that people surrounded by plants perform better on tasks involving memory and attention. Review those allergy alerts and get non-toxic plants and flowers into your classroom.
10. Encourage more and more water consumption. According to research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, increasing your daily water consumption by just one cup could reduce your total daily calorie intake, as well as your consumption of saturated fat, sugar, and sodium. Encourage your children to drink water as often as possible through-out the day.
11. Encourage more doodling activities in the classroom. Doodlers may look as if they are tuned out, but chances are they’re retaining even more info that the active listeners. In one study in Applied Cognitive Psychology, subjects who monitor a monotonous phone message for names of party guests recalled 29% more information later if they had been doodling during the call. Meanwhile, among science students who were asked to draw what they had learned during lectures and readings, doodlers not only retained more information but also reported more enjoyment and engagement with the material. Often, early educators discourage this type of behavior telling children to “pay attention”, however these doodlers are only doing what their brains needs to retain and learn.
12. Take your breaks away from the classroom and center environment. Step outside instead. A study at Northwestern University found that people who get the majority of their daily sunlight before noon have lower BMIs than those who catch some rays later in the day. With summer approaching, adjust your outside times to give children more opportunities to play outside in the mornings and reduce the amount of time spent outside in the afternoon.
13. More pictures of cute animals in the classroom. Cuteness releases oxytocin, and oxytocin reduces stress. One study at Hiroshima University in Japan found that people who look at pictures with baby animals before completing a task performed better than those who observed photos or adult animals or neutral subjects.
14. Another reason to avoid screen time. The average head weighs 10 to 12 pounds, but when you let it hang down to look at a phone or tablet, it’s the same as putting 60 pounds of stress weight on your neck, according to a study in Surgical Technology International.
15. Don’t take that potty break unless you absolutely need it. According to a study published in Psychological Science, people tasked with finding solutions on a full bladder tended to make better decisions, thanks to what researchers called “increased impulse control in the behavioral domain.”
16. Another way to reduce illnesses. For those of you using touch screen check in systems or tablet for daily reports, studies have found that these screens house nasty bacteria, including fecal. Clean these items with the proper disinfectant designed for electronic devices.
17. Use disposable towels. A random study shows that 75% of sponges and rags have bacteria such as Salmonella growing on them.
18. Reflect on physical movement, even the bad experiences. Letting a past physical movement activity enter your head actually can motivate you to get up and move more, found by University of New Hampshire researchers. Even participants who thought of negative physical movement memories still performed these activities more than those who didn’t think of any.
19. Use the children as your exercise partners. People who exercise with a partner exercise more than people who do it alone. If you do not have a physical fitness partner, let the children be your support. Plus, they will also benefit with the daily routine of physical movement.
20. Lower the lights a tad during mealtime. When Cornell University scientists altered half of a fast food restaurant to include low lighting and atmospheric music, customers in the modified section not only ate slower but also consumed fewer calories and reporting enjoying their food more than customers who ate the identical meals in the standard dining room. While maintaining appropriate classroom supervision, lower lights and play soft music during meal times. Make mealtime one of the most relaxed and memorable part of your day.
21. Add soft surfacing to your classroom for active calming times. Can a padded chair help cushion your verbal blows? According to a study from MIT, Harvard, and Yale, sitting on soft surfaces actually make people more flexible and accommodating, that it why Bruce Feiler, author of Secrets of Happy Families, suggests moving heated conversations to a soft or cushioned seat. This is not only a great tip for active calming in the classroom, but also a great idea for Directors. Have soft areas to sit on while having difficult conversations with parents.
22. Worship or meditate! Women who get out to attend religious services or meditate at least once a week have a 20% reduced risk or death, regardless of whether they smoke, drink, or exercise, says a study of more than 92,000 women by Yeshiva University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Researchers credit the emotional support and respite from stress that going to regular services and mediation can provide. Teach your children how to give the brain a break, clear their thoughts and practice gratitude. This meditation will help them be better students, reduce aggression, and increase empathy in the classroom.
Earn one-hour of training after reading and reflecting on this material.