Start Your Lesson on a High
As an avid workout-holic, I am often awake by 5:30 am, all ready for my workout classes which typically start at 6 am. While my friends consider me insane because of this routine, what really keeps me going is the post-workout effect. I could probably sing to the tune of James Brown’s “I Feel Good” all day!
But of course, I don’t feel this great every day. There are occasions where spats with the kids over the most mundane things led to outbursts and meltdowns, ruining my entire morning and sometimes day, translating to poor driving etiquette while behind the wheel. When we are stressed, we just don’t tend to make good decisions, isn’t it?
And why is that? When we are experiencing stress, which is a negative emotional state, it impairs the functions of our frontal lobes in the brain which is responsible for managing higher-level executive functions. These include planning, organizing, initiating, controlling goal-directed behaviours1. At the same time, our primitive emotional responses (fight/flight) are strengthened2. Have you ever done something in the heat of the moment only to regret it after you have cooled down? You have the impaired frontal lobe to thank for that ?
How negative emotions and stress challenge learning
So what does this have to do with teaching practices? Just as we are susceptible to stressful events before entering our classrooms, so do our learners. While we wish for them to be like this….?
… it isn’t the case all the time. When our learners are experiencing negative emotional states, it can be more difficult for them to perform higher executive functions and make good decisions. More likely than not, their attention could be more focused on the source of their stress rather than the learning content itself.
Promoting a Positive Learning Environment
What can teachers do then? While we have no control over events that place our learners in a negative emotional state, we can surely promote and help create a positive learning environment, especially at the start of the class!
To help you elicit positive emotions in your learners, below are some simple activities designed to do just that. With ClassPoint’s built-in features in PowerPoint, these activities can be participated by your learners easily and conveniently.
These are some ideas to start your lesson on a super positive note that can help create a positive learning environment:
Activity 1: Affirming One Another
Receiving affirmations for little acts or even for a job well done always lifts our spirits. But affirming others may not be our second nature. So consciously encourage that among your students by having them do so in class!
With ClassPoint’s short answer function, students can easily respond to such an activity, and the best part is the whole class will be able to view all responses and appreciate every classmate’s unique strengths.
Activity 2: “My Favourites”
Most of us have our favourite hangout places whether it’s a café, park, gym or anywhere else. The places may differ but generally, these are our favourites for similar reasons…we experience positive feelings whenever we are there.
Having your students use the slide drawing function in ClassPoint for this activity not only helps evoke these feelings, but it also allows everyone in the class to get to know one another better and it creates a platform to find commonalities among one another. What a great way to build friendships!
Two other interesting questions you can also ask could be “What are things/people that make you feel great?” or “Something I look forward to at the end of the week”.
Activity 3: Hall of Fame
Being able to showcase their talents and knowledge is a great morale booster for students. Including this activity in your lesson not only allows you to gain valuable insights into the progress of your students, but it also allows them to “brag” about their newfound knowledge.
To go even further, students who are able to grasp difficult concepts could explain them to the class…what a way to encourage peer-peer teaching! Vyogotsky would be proud ?.
Some of you may be thinking “these sound like great ideas, but I don’t exactly have much time in class for activities unrelated to my lesson.” Yes, I hear you…the good news is there can be ways to link some of these activities to your lessons!
Find out how some of the activities can be linked to your lessons or different ways of using them by checking out the “Notes” portion of each slide. You can download the deck of beautifully designed PowerPoint slides with all the activities through the “Download” button below.
Taking the time to dedicate a SEL activity, even a short one, to elicit a positive learning environment not only helps counter negative emotions or stress, but also enhances students’ learning, comprehension, and memory.
- Brain Map Frontal Lobes. (2021, January 21). Queensland Health. https://www.health.qld.gov.au/abios/asp/bfrontal#:~:text=The%20frontal%20lobes%20are%20important,order%20to%20achieve%20a%20goal
- Arnsten, A. F. T., Raskind, M. A., Taylor, F. B., & Connor, D. F. (2014, October 27). The effects of stress exposure on prefrontal cortex: Translating basic research into successful treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352289514000101#:~:text=Exposure%20to%20stress%20markedly%20impairs,brain%20regions%20that%20are%20intimately