Fun Indoor Classroom Games

Fun Indoor Classroom Games

Planning for the school year is an opportunity to add new educational layers to curricula. Adding elements of social and emotional learning through classroom activities is always a good idea. Social-emotional learning fosters better development that can improve the classroom environment and prepare children for challenges and opportunities in their futures.

Fun Indoor Classroom Games

Developing fun indoor classroom games for kids with social-emotional learning requires choosing and framing fun interactive activities. (MakingCaringCommon) Several common indoor classroom games already provide social-emotional learning opportunities. They just need to be framed so that students get used to approaching activities with the right mindset to practice social and emotional skills.

Here are a few suggestions to start with:

Social-Emotional Games for Students

Most games are already predicated on skills like paying attention, practicing memory, understanding how to use rules to make goals and follow through on decisions. As a result, turning a fun indoor game into a social-emotional learning game might be as simple as pointing out the skills the game asks the students to practice. (GSE)

For example…

I Spy

Classroom Games

This reliable game is predicated on several important social-emotional skills. For example, it relates to focus, such as:

  • Practicing filtering between senses and impressions
  • Focusing in spite of distractions
  • Reacting to detailed instructions in a timely fashion

Framing this game to turn it into a social-emotional learning game might look something like this:

Tell students that this game is about exercising their “focus power.” Additionally:

  • Tell students they get to use “focus binoculars” to help them pay better attention to details. For younger kids, this might include miming holding a pair of binoculars to their eyes.
  • Make it clear that “focus power” involves more than just their sense of sight. They need to look, but they also need to listen for clues, and they need to make a point of thinking about using their minds to hush distractions.
  • When the game is over, moderate a conversation with the students. Get them talking about frustrations or distractions that made the game difficult, and discuss strategies for improving attention.
  • An important aspect of turning a game into a social-emotional learning activity is the roundup at the end. Educators can ask students to think about other times they need to use their “focus power,” and what that looks like to them.

The Name Game

With this game, students will be able to practice paying attention to what other people say. Find out about more listening skills activities here. This game helps students:

  • Practice active listening
  • It helps with memory, in particular, as it relates to social interactions.
  • It also helps with social skills.

Arrange students into a circle. Students take turns saying their name and accompany it with some kind of movement. Examples include raising their hand or sticking out a foot. Then all of the other students say that student’s name and imitate the motion. Go around the circle, repeating every new student’s name and motion and add it to a sequence. Frame this game by talking to students about engaging their “memory power.”

  • Before starting the game, ask students why remembering is important in and out of school.
  • Talk about all of the activities in life that involve “memory power.” Things like remembering where grandma lives, or which snacks you and your friends like in common, or the rules to games.
  • When the game is over, review with students the challenging parts of the game–talk about the easy parts too.
  • Talk with students about how to use memory power in their lives as it relates to making friends or other social skills.

Simon Says

classroom circle - fun indoor classroom games

The game of Simon Says creates opportunities for students to practice the following skills:

  • Community participation
  • Active listening
  • Paying close attention to what they’re doing

Frame Simon Says as a social-emotional learning activity by telling students how they can use their “stop and think power” to do well.

  • Set it up by talking about how powerful our minds are over our bodies when we are in the habit of stopping to think about our actions.
  • Talk through all the times, in and out of the classroom, that we need to stop and think about what we do.
  • When the game is over, students can talk through how they paid attention and what they did to help themselves control their bodies.
  • Have a class discussion about ways to practice stop and think power throughout the rest of the day.

Classroom Games for Kids

Games make excellent teaching tools. They create classroom bonding activities, and they provide learning opportunities that might not otherwise arise. In most cases, fun indoor classroom games can be turned into social-emotional learning experiences, if they’re framed correctly.

Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs for schools and homeschooling families. Our in-person and online programs provide training to educators to help them learn how to create social-emotional learning classroom activities. Additionally, Soul Shoppe provides direct-to-student curriculum such as the online course Tools of the Heart. Contact us for more information here to learn more about our online courses.

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Teaching Boundaries Activities

Teaching Boundaries Activities

Setting boundaries is important in leading a successful and emotionally rewarding life. (HarvardBusinessPublishing) Sometimes, when we feel uncomfortable we instinctively know when our boundaries are crossed. However, both children and adults often have trouble understanding what’s happening on an intellectual level at times when they have that instinctive sense that their boundaries are being crossed. Additionally, children might not always have a clear idea about how to process and respond to uncomfortable situations that result from violations of their sense of autonomy, however large or small those experiences are. (GSE)

A well-rounded education built with social-emotional learning can include learning opportunities that help children with boundaries. In order to develop into confident and well-rounded members of society, children need to learn how to define their boundaries, and subsequently, how to maintain those boundaries.

In order to create activities that incorporate teaching boundaries, it’s important to first define boundaries. Once you define these boundaries it also gives children an idea of different kinds of boundaries that need to be respected.

Here’s a brief overview of the seven (7) types of boundaries:

Seven Types of Boundaries

1. Physical Boundaries

People generally require physical boundaries in order to maintain a basic sense of safety. Everyone has different thresholds and triggers that give them a sense that their physical boundaries are not respected. Some examples include:

  • Unwelcome touching of any kind
  • How close a person is to their personal space (for example someone might be standing too close)
  • Sanctity of their things–is their lunch, school supplies, jacket, etc., respected?

It is important to recognize that different kids have different levels of comfort with physical boundaries. Some might need you to stand further away. Some don’t mind if their classmates touch their backpacks. Some kids love hugs and others don’t like to be touched at all. With this You Belong poster, kids come into the classroom in a line and touch the symbol of what they prefer – a hug, a high five, a handshake, or a fist bump.

Children need to be aware of what their preferences are when it comes to their physical boundaries. Then they can be encouraged to vocalize those boundaries.

2. Emotional and Mental Boundaries

kid apart from other kids - teaching boundaries activities

Children might not always recognize that their emotional and mental boundaries aren’t being respected because they haven’t yet developed the tools to recognize and articulate their feelings about what makes them emotionally and mentally uncomfortable. Therefore, with younger kids, especially, look for clues like:

  •  If the child has trouble talking about a particular subject
  • If the child is showing signs of embarrassment

These kinds of signs can mean the child is sensing that someone has crossed their mental or emotional boundaries.

3. Spiritual or Religious Boundaries

This is sometimes a challenging subject to approach in a classroom setting, but it might come up. Classrooms are full of kids with many different backgrounds. Educators will have to prepare themselves to moderate situations arising from a need for spiritual and religious boundaries.

4. Time Boundaries

School is an ideal learning environment to help children figure out how to create and defend their schedules. Adults, more than children, tend to have trouble setting boundaries with their time. Therefore, it’s valuable for children to learn how to recognize when people are taking advantage of their time so they can set boundaries in adulthood. For example, when a student is trying to complete an assignment and someone is distracting them, they can learn to say, “I’ll talk to you later. I need to do my work right now.”

5. Financial and Material Boundaries

play money

Children won’t need to worry about placing boundaries around finances in elementary school. Financial boundaries have more to do with adulthood. However, class stores and using play money can be introduced in elementary school to help them become aware of financial priorities.

6. Sexual Boundaries

It is never too early for children to develop an understanding of having and respecting bodily boundaries. While the youngest grades might not be the ideal environment for conversations about sexual boundaries, it is an ideal environment to start talking about respecting the physical comfort and safety of themselves and other people.

7. Non-negotiable Boundaries

Boundaries are about safety and comfort. Therefore, violation of those boundaries can seriously compromise a person’s sense of well-being. Because every child comes from a different background, every child will have unique ideas and situations that will inform personal non-negotiable boundaries. Both parents and educators can help children figure out those boundaries.

Boundaries for Kids

Kids will test boundaries. They will test their own boundaries, trying things to see how uncomfortable those things leave them. Their peers will have boundaries, and kids will test those, figuring out how the community will react to them. Teachers and parents will set boundaries, and kids will push against those boundaries to figure out how far they can be pushed. It’s not only natural to do it, but kids will learn a lot about how boundaries work by checking out how pliable the boundaries around them are. (UsableKnowledge)

As a result, one effective way to teach boundaries in a safe way is through demonstration. (ChildMindInstitute) Boundaries correlate with responding to actions, feelings, and social interactions. Therefore, children will look to their peers and the important adults in their lives to learn how to create appropriate boundaries.

Teaching Boundaries Activities

Here are a few suggestions for creating activities that will create more intentional learning experiences for children:

    • Board games and yard games. These are great ways to simulate life’s boundaries. Talk about why the rules are important. What happens when a rule is broken? etc.
    • Class discussions. Moderated conversations about the different types of boundaries help relate abstract ideas to experiences.
    • Role-playing. Children learn a lot from acting out complex scenarios. (HowtoAdult)
    • Value assessment. When children have to articulate what they find important they will also start thinking about protecting those values.
    • Reading with subsequent guided conversation.

Soul Shoppe encourages building healthy boundaries in children. Whether helping in the classroom or assisting parents at home, Soul Shoppe provides tools to help teachers and parents teach social emotional skills to children. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools or our parent support programs.

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Self-Efficacy in Teaching for Elementary Students

Self-Efficacy in Teaching for Elementary Students

If children leave school with a belief in their ability to successfully set then accomplish their goals, then their education has helped boost them towards success. Creating lessons that teach self-efficacy in the classroom can be some of the most valuable lessons that educators can provide. (GSE) We have created a guide for self-efficacy in teaching for elementary students. 

Self-Efficacy in Teaching

Teaching self-efficacy in the classroom means showing students how to plan their actions while feeling confident in their ability to carry out their plans. (SERC) Using engaging tactics will reinforce a sense of self-determination and personal effectiveness.

Here are some things to consider when setting out to incorporate self-efficacy into a teaching curriculum. (TheEducationHub)

1. Create Opportunities that Capitalize on Successes

Few moments reinforce confidence like experiencing successes. Often children, because of fewer experiences in their lives, haven’t yet experienced as many independent successes. Therefore, beginning a habit of believing that they can succeed is a valuable lesson.

Practicing extra gestures of positive reinforcement for both minor and major achievements is a great opportunity to improve self-efficacy. (TeachStart) For example:

  • Send children a letter or postcard praising them for their achievement.
  • Create an award where students can nominate each other for achievements they recognize.
  • Designate an achievement wall, where students can display their achievements for the class.

Creating a positive reinforcement feedback system goes a long way toward teaching children to believe in themselves.

2. Peer Modeling

child raising hand - self-efficacy in teaching

Peer modeling is the practice of recognizing students who will step forward to provide clarity in classroom dialogue. Students who are asked to rise to the challenge may be viewed by their peers as someone to trust to have the right answers on a given subject. This can bolster a child’s confidence. Encouraging peer modeling in the classroom is a great tactic in building self-efficacy. This process must be approached carefully, but if done well it can be an effective aid to self-efficacy in education.

3. Goals and Feedback

Setting goals is a key skill. Implementing exercises where students have to set goals, follow through with them, and deal with windfalls and setbacks will give them a valuable skill to carry forward into the rest of their lives.

Educators should help students set and keep goals, and at the same time they should create feedback opportunities so that students can learn how to assess their plans. Additionally, this will help them learn how to make adjustments to goals where necessary.

Goal-setting journals, worksheets, visual boards, and goal-tracking sheets are all helpful tools. Read more about goal-setting for students here.

4. Self-Assessment

children writing

The practice of self-assessment isn’t always used in curricula driven by test scores and grades. If children are encouraged through classroom activities to develop a practice of self-assessment, asking themselves to make critical appraisals of the quality of their own work, it will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Using self-assessment sheets that are reviewed, or even simply put into an anonymous dropbox, can help students learn how to assess themselves on a given task. Self-assessment is a powerful tool in self-efficacy teaching.

5. Create Problem Solving Opportunities

Perhaps the single most effective skill any educator can impart to their students is the ability to problem solve. When students are empowered to approach every experience in life with a problem-solving mindset, they will be prepared to cope with many of the puzzles life throws their way. 

An example of a problem-solving activity is the pyramid activity. (Wrike) Arrange students into groups and have them form a pyramid. Tell them they can only move two people but must reverse the pyramid.

6. Support Affirmation

A student’s self-confidence is affected by more than academic achievement. Since children spend a lot of time in school or engaging in school-related activities, it’s important for educators to help their students learn self-affirmations, as they pertain to parts of their personality other than academic achievement. Their social skills, hobbies like juggling or origami, their creative skills, or even their skills in being a good helper, are all examples. Self-affirmation is a large part of self-efficacy.

Teachers Teaching Self-Efficacy to Themselves

Kids learn a lot by example. Children are watching us all the time, and one of the most effective ways to teach them social and emotional learning skills is by living the lessons we wish to teach.

Educators who demonstrate self-efficacy will teach self-efficacy.

Educators who need help building lessons in social emotional learning can turn to Soul Shoppe SEL programs. Soul Shoppe encourages agency, self-confidence, self-affirmation, and other skills that prepare children for success in life. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools or our parent support programs.

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Anti-Bullying Activities

Anti-Bullying Activities

Bullying can be one of the most devastating experiences of a child’s life. Studies have shown that there are several negative effects of bullying that impact everyone involved, including the child on the receiving end as well as the child who does the bullying behavior. (MentalHealth) Bullying can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on a person’s self-esteem and general emotional well-being.

The reality is that most classroom settings can make bullying difficult to monitor and counteract. Students in a classroom outnumber their teachers, often thirty-to-one. Simple math makes it clear how hard it is for a teacher to even know about every instance of bullying behavior, let alone have the capacity to intervene. Therefore, being proactive can help mitigate the issue before trouble starts.

It’s important for teachers to recruit their students into a classroom-wide anti-bullying effort.

Anti-Bullying Activities for the Classroom

The fundamentals of teaching anti-bullying include (GSE):

  • Encourage students to be part of the solution. Children often rise to the occasion when they’re invited to do so.
  • Have honest conversations about the effects of bullying. For children, awareness of the consequences of their actions will help them make more empathic decisions.
  • Find opportunities to strengthen community and friendship. Stronger community ties help children both avoid bullying behaviors themselves and feel like they have choices when it comes to doing something about bullying when it occurs.
  • Use role playing. Learning through role play helps children use their imaginations and provides the opportunity to experience life in someone else’s shoes for empathy and understanding. It also involves problem-solving in many scenarios which helps prepare them for challenging social encounters.
  • Reinforce positive behavior. Children often look for reinforcement. Providing clear reinforcement of positive behavior through acknowledgment, rewards, etc. helps children to evolve.

These principles can be incorporated into anti-bullying activities.

Anti-bullying activities give students the chance to develop and practice the skills of empathy, fairness, and kindness. These activities will create a foundation for conversations about bullying and help children learn how to take care of each other.

Here are a few ideas for anti-bullying activities for elementary students to get started.

Anti-bullying Activities

Tube of Stuff Activity

The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate that actions have consequences that can’t be taken back. It’s appropriate for small children in kindergarten or first grade.

In this activity, children are given a tube of paint or toothpaste and a long roll of butcher paper. Children take turns squeezing the contents of the tube in a long line. When the tube is empty, they will be asked to put the paint or toothpaste back into the tube.

The teacher can then explain that what we say is like that paint or toothpaste. You can’t take things back. (MeraKilane)

Pledge Activity

pledge activity

Providing children with chances to take ownership of their actions creates opportunities for growth. Children, if given the chance, will often rise to the occasion if they’re asked to act with integrity.

Teachers can create an anti-bullying pledge that their students all sign. This helps show students that what they do matters. It also creates buy-in when implementing an anti-bullying classroom culture.

Gamify Kindness

Giving positive reinforcement for acts of kindness helps students feel excited about being kind to their fellow classmates. It also creates a precedent for children to carry kindness outside of the classroom, and into adulthood.

If educators create positive feedback loops for their students to receive small rewards for acts of kindness, it can help encourage a culture of kindness.

Create an “Acts of Kindness Chart”:

  • Acts of kindness receive gold stars.
  • Multiple acts of kindness within a specified period might lead to a classroom celebration.
  • Kids might play “I spy” to report acts of kindness that they see each other carry out.”

Compliment Circle

compliment circle - anti bullying activity for the classroom

This activity turns the practice of kindness into an interactive game. Have students sit in a circle. Students take turns saying something complimentary to every member of the classroom. Depending on the age group, encourage students to go beyond superficial compliments such as “I like your shoes,” to more meaningful compliments such as “You are always nice on the playground.” Go around the circle until everyone has had a chance to compliment the entire class.

Reading Books

Find reading lists that include books about understanding bullying and what to do about it. (WeAreTeachers) Books are some of the best ways for children to think through complicated social and emotional situations like bullying. Then, through questions and guided conversation, children can talk through solutions.

Anti-bullying through Social and Emotional Learning

At Soul Shoppe, we use social and emotional teaching techniques to help educators and parents. It’s important for all students to see the classroom as a safe place. Our Peacemaker Training teaches educators how to build anti-bullying environments in schools. Contact us with questions about creating anti-bullying activities for the classroom. 

Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools or our Peacemaker Trainer Certification programs.

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Friendship Group Activities

Friendship Group Activities

The classroom is a place that impacts a child’s social development greatly. Including friendship group activities in classroom curriculum can have a significant, positive impact on a child’s social emotional development.

Friendship group activities for elementary students, whatever form they take, can create positive associations between happiness and community engagement. (Harvard) These activities also promote important lifelong skills of cooperation, empathy, and respect.

Friendship Group Activities

We’ve provided a few friendship activity ideas below. They range in complexity between activities that only need a few minutes of prep and no supplies, to activities that require a longer timeline and need a few items. It would make sense to incorporate a handful of friendship group activities into classroom curriculum throughout the academic year.

The Greeting Game

Supplies:

  • None.

How to do it:

  • This game is good for the beginning of the school year when everyone is still learning names. The students take turns saying, “Hello, [name]” to everyone in the classroom. The student who remembers the most names without stumbling wins a small prize.

Why it’s a good idea:

For a lot of children, one of the most intimidating things they will face is starting a conversation with strangers. (Wired) Helping children create positive emotional associations with saying “hello” to people is a valuable skill they can carry throughout the rest of their lives. It will help them to get past nerves that come with meeting new people.

Group Art Activities

group art activities - friendship group activities

Supplies:

  • Paints, sidewalk chalk, crayons, or other art supplies, and a big surface that children can work on together.

How to do it:

  • Suggest a theme–birthdays, space, friendship, etc. Children will create a big mural on that subject.

Why it’s a good idea:

  • There are a lot of reasons creative group activities foster a sense of community. (HarvardGSE) Students have the opportunity to plan together, to see how other students solve problems, and to share in contributing to something they can all feel excited about. A shared sense of accomplishment is impactful.

Group Storytelling Activities

Supplies:

  • Notebooks, whiteboards, computers, or anything else where children can record the events of the story.

How to do it:

  • Start with a prompt. Either ask for volunteers or call on students to contribute a sentence or event to a story. Work together to build a cohesive story. Ensure that every student gets a chance to contribute.

Why it’s a good idea:

  • The stories that we tell hold our communities together. (Ed) When children cooperate to create a story, it promotes a sense of accomplishment and community. Because every child in the classroom gets a chance to contribute, every child receives the opportunity to feel a sense of personal accomplishment, as well as an opportunity to hear the ideas of their classmates. This activity also provides a give and take structure which is important in social interactions.

Blindfolded Obstacle Course

Supplies:

  • Blindfold.

How to do it:

  • First, have the children rearrange the furniture in the classroom into an obstacle course. Next, children will take turns putting on the blindfold and navigating the obstacle course. All the other students in the classroom call out instructions to the blindfolded child to help them get through the obstacle course. Take turns with different students and rearrange the course each time.

Why it’s a good idea:

  • Learning trust, earning it, and instilling it in other people, is one of the most important emotional learning skills a child can develop. (Visibly) An activity where students have to help each other out and trust that the help they are receiving will provide a positive outcome provides a chance to create strong social bonds.

Finding Things in Common

kids working together on the floor

Supplies:

  • None, or create a bingo card.

How to do it:

  • Organize students into small groups. Children sit down with their groups and find out things they have in common (e.g. like pizza, have a brother, love dogs). Make it a game by setting a certain number of things in common they need to find. Whichever small group finds that number of things in common first wins a prize.

Why it’s a good idea:

  • Finding common ground with others is an essential part of developing strong social bonds. (Gazette) A friendship group activity that encourages kids to learn more about each other is a great way to learn how to make friends in and out of the classroom.

Friendship Social Skills Group Activities

Educators who need assistance in developing friendship group activities for their students or other social emotional activities can receive help through Soul Shoppe. Soul Shoppe provides social emotional learning programs, online or in-person, for children and educators. Soul Shoppe strategies encourage children to build community and meaningful relationships with their peers. Whether helping in the classroom or assisting parents at home, Soul Shoppe focuses the discussion on social skills and emotional learning. Click for more information on SEL Programs for Elementary Schools, homeschool social emotional electives, or our parent support programs.

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