Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Creating a Calm Classroom- Supporting Our Students

ENERGETIC BRAIN BREAKS AND MOVEMENT have long been popular in class, following the belief that kids, especially ones with attention issues, need high energy movement in order to re focus and pay attention, in essence to get the 'wiggles out'. Over the course of my career, I have often integrated these types of activities in my elementary Spanish classes, but during the last several years I have begun to notice a trend that has had me integrating alternatives, ones that focus on being calm, with more purposeful movement and action, and take into account the amount of stimulus a child experiences throughout their day. During my Keynote address at the NNELL Summer Instititute in July, 2018, I talked about ‘Being the calm classroom’, finding ways to balance those energetic activities with quieter ones, as well as building a more tranquil classroom environment overall.

Creating a Calm Classroom to support Students

HOW TO INCORPORATE CALM MOVEMENT IN CLASS: I am finding that, more and more, my students get really ramped up during high energy activities, and then can't come back down, or take a long time to do so- having the opposite effect of what I am trying to achieve! Instead, consider activities that require purposeful movement such as Brain Gym, Yoga, or Tai Chi, which still have kids up and moving but foster self control (another skill I notice kids are lacking!). You may have noticed that mindfulness has gained traction in the last few years, and for good reason; children, like adults, crave the balance that these disciplines provide, even though they are unable to articulate it. For links and other resources visit my Pinterest board here!

RELAXATION AND NATURE SOUNDS as an alternative to popular music. I love a great upbeat, fast paced song just like the next person, and often use them in class. Balancing them with quieter sounds has become a particularly helpful component, however. Perhaps you've listened to one of those cds of a babbling brook, or ocean waves...they are intrinsically soothing and work in the classroom just like at home. Youtube has a ton of videos of this kind, many of which feature beautiful images to go along with the sounds. A particular favorite of mine is this Youtube channel, Nature Relaxation Films, featuring videos from a variety of locations around the world, making it a win-win in terms of also providing visual content of the target language countries. I often play these in the background when kids are doing an activity in small groups or individually, or have one playing as they enter the room to set the tone for class.

LULLABIES are in the same vein as the above, with the additional component of being directly part of the target culture, thereby providing a cultural experience in addition to providing a calm moment. These can be particularly great as a bridge from a higher energy activity to one with greater focus... I like to have our voices get softer and softer as we sing, bringing the energy down gently. Lullabies have been one of the MOST effective classroom management tools in the past few years for me! And, why not turn the lights off, hand out stuffies, and "take a nap"? Kids love the novelty of this imaginary play and there is lots you can incorporate language wise- "goodnight", "sleep tight", "I'm sleepy", "I'm tired", "stars", "moon", "night time", "I'm going to bed/sleep", "Wake up", "dreaming" and so on.

SOFT SURFACES such as pillows, rugs, stuffed animals, etc can lend a a calming feel & touch as well to your space. Consider props, bins, containers, etc that are made from fabrics as opposed to plastic, or hang some curtains in the windows if you have your own classroom. And don't forget PLANTS! They, too, can lend a softer feel to a room- I've also added some aromatic plants that release a scent when touched; these play into our senses and have been shown to provide students (and adults!) a more peaceful aspect. (I don't suggest plants that are too strong-smelling; I have basil, mint and other herbs that do require some touching to have the smell emit from the plant, in case you have students for whom smell is a sensory issue).

BALANCE IN ALL THINGS, RIGHT? This is what I am advocating, not jettisoning high energy activities altogether-they most definitely have their place- just replacing some of them with calmer, more peaceful ones to allow kids a quiet moment in their day.

CREATING THESE PEACEFUL MOMENTS is also truly a gift for our anxious kiddos, those with trauma, those with ADHD, shy kiddos, and our "regular" kids... when you stop to visualize a typical day, it is fast paced and highly stimulating from sun up to bedtime..providing a quiet island amidst the swirl often is just what they need, so consider being the CALM CLASSROOM.

Resources & Supports:

Yoga Cards Set in Spanish French German Russian

FREE Mindfulness Breathing Exercise Mats Spanish French Russian English