After reading the resource "When My Worries Get Too Big" By: Karl Dunn Buron, I decided it would be a good idea to start off the school year with my 6s by creating a mental health check-in. Students place their name inside the box for what number they are feeling like. Before we started this we took the first week of September (a number each day) and unpacked what each number feels like and strategies that we could do when we are feeling this number. For example a 5 is ready to explode or punch a wall in, or flip out, whereas a 1 is extremely hyper and over joyed. As a class, we decided that a 2 is the ideal place to be (relaxed, happy, calm & content). We discussed that if someone is always feeling like a 1, it is also not necessarily a healthy state to remain in. We charted what each number meant and the strategies to do to bring us to a 2 or 3 (neutral) in our classroom. I left those anchor charts hanging, all the way until winter break. When I took the chart down my students were quite emotional about it. This indicated to me that they were really emotionally invested in our system that we created. I empowered them and said they don't need the list of strategies for what to do anymore, because every day they had been telling me how they would bring themselves "down" on the continuum to a more healthy score of 2 (gradual release of responsibility).
At the beginning of the year, I use to ask my students (only if they felt safe sharing) who feels like a 5? a 4? a 3? and so on. I asked them to explain why and and how they were dealing with their emotions. Slowly over time, I started to ask students if anyone wanted to share what they were feeling like overall today? After a while of doing this, I stopped asking daily and started asking each week. I wanted students to be able to do this on their own and apply this ideal into their life over the long term and not rely on me and the chart in order to identify their feelings and how they would respond to them.
This visual cue informs me of how my students are feeling at the beginning of the day, after recesses and lunch. The check-in requires trust among all students and myself within the classroom and really builds a community of learners. If a student is feeling like a 5, I can go over and ask the student if they want to talk to me about anything, or if they are using any strategies to bring them-self down to a 2. This visual cue is also great for peer-peer interactions, because peers will know not to provoke students who are feeling really mad, anxious or depressed. It helps students become better community members and more empathetic towards one another. The visual cue is also great for students with themselves. Students who are able to identify their emotions are more readily able to cope. Lastly, I really love the check-in system because it is also a quick way of taking attendance!
As you can see, this design can be tweaked to fit your learners. I included a picture from my colleague who teaches grade 3 (Ms. S. Creelman). She does her check-in slightly differently. Instead of numbers, she wrote down feelings and students post their name next to the feeling.
Try out a check-in system in your classroom and post how it's working for you!
Thanks for reading!