Strategies for Promoting Calmness and a Sense of Connection
1. Express Yourself: When we can share our sensations, thoughts, and feelings, we feel a sense of relief, safety, and calm, and artistic expression is one of the most powerful ways to regulate our nervous systems during stressful periods of time. The teachers I work with have used these questions before distance learning lessons, sharing them in packets sent home so students can have some time to express how they feel before the academic part of the lesson. These questions are also great discussion starters that families can use to explore children’s emotions.
2. Dual Drawings: Students working with a peer, the teacher, or a parent can create a shared drawing as each takes a turn and draws a line or shape and then passes the drawing to their partner to add their line or shape to the drawing within a specified amount of time. Each partner can add shapes, lines, and color and can observe how this shared activity produces a collaborative design. When I have done this, we usually create together without talking—when the time is up we discuss our creation.
This activity can be shared with students through packets sent through the mail over a longer period of time. The teacher can begin the drawings and send them home to students as a weekly or biweekly design unfolds. Once students have the starter drawing, they can also mail it back and forth to each other, rather than sending it to the teacher. The key step of reflecting on and discussing the creations can happen throughout the process by having students write short journal entries about what they added and why.
3. Dual Story Writing or Journaling: This activity designed for closure is similar to the dual drawings except we create a story together. This story could be created with images or words and could be a 30-minute, one-day or weekly family activity, or a distance learning collaboration. A student and a peer, the teacher or a parent can write a fictional story together, or create a dual journal by writing alternating entries to share experiences from their daily lives.
4. Brain Scavenger Hunt: This creates movement, shared and expressed feelings, and connection, and it can be a family ritual or a part of distance learning if students have an internet connection and a device. I have played this through Zoom with fifth-grade students, asking them to find objects around their home that answer these five brain-aligned questions in a specified amount of time. We place our responses on a Padlet so everyone can share what they discovered.