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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Stress Management in the Classroom



With new, common core demands, challenging homework, and competition for high grades, many students stress about school performance.  However, many of these students do not know how to manage their worries, and this can lead to trouble sleeping, panic, tantrums, health concerns, a sense of learned helplessness, and even high levels of anxiety and depression.  So, what can be done to help students manage their academic work load while maintaining their emotions?

Help your Students Understand the Pitfalls of Stress and Worrying:
1) Stress Interferes with Learning and Makes it Difficult to Concentrate:  
Stressful thoughts become a distraction and causes students to miss important lessons. Here is an informative NY Times article on this: Click Here
2) Stress Has a Negative Effect on Memory:
Research shows that stress and worries make it challenging for the brain to access memories.  In fact, prolonged stress can cause large amounts of cortisol production in the brain which can even shrink the memory center of the brain - the hippocampus. You can learn more: Click Here
3) Stress Makes Us Unhappy and Unhealthy: 
Worrying can harm the body and lead to illnesses.  Harvard News and WebMD offers more on this topic.

How Can You Help Your Students to Manage Their Worries?
1) Bring Movement into the Classroom:  When you feel that you are loosing your students focus, offer short, kinesthetic breaks.  In addition, encourage your students to get participate in sports and other physical activities.  The research shows that exercise has been shown to reduce stress.  In fact, students that exercise regularly manage stress better than those that don't.  Come learn more in this NY Times article.  
2) Monitor Your Homework Load:  Communicate with other teachers so, homework loads are manageable for your students.
3) Provide “Personal Days” with No Homework: Occasionally offer your students a day with no homework or allow then to use a "pass" when needed.
4) Maintain a Worry Box: Sharing worries can be embarrassing or students may be afraid that they will be criticized.  Offering your students a worry box, where they can submit their concerns, will allow you to address problems individually or as a class.
5) Teach Time Management Strategies:  Break large assignments into manageable activities with clear expectations and deadlines.  In addition, brainstorm time management techniques as well as ways to prepare for assignments and tests in advance.
6) Integrate Short Mindful Meditations: Before stressful events such as tests, offer the option of participating in a short mindful meditation.  Here are two free meditations that focus on stress relief: Meditation 1  Meditation 2.  
7) Offer an Organized System for When Students are Missing Materials:  It can be challenging for students to catch up after missed days of school.  As a result, create a system where missed material, notes and homework can be available on the internet, through email or from a peer or advisor. 
8) Return Assignments as Soon as Possible: Quickly grade and return assignments and tests.  Also, offer students the opportunity to learn from their mistakes by providing comprehensive comments or by setting up a session with you or a support staff.
9) Allow Extra Credit for Test and Assignment Corrections:  Help students learn from their mistakes by offering extra credit or additional points for completing comprehensive assignment and test corrections.
10) Set an Example for Your Students:  Students can learn how to let go of their worries vicariously if you, too, exhibit this behavior.  Think out loud and let your students hear how you manage your own worries. 
If you have any other ideas, please share them below the post.

Cheers, Erica

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials. She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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