It is during the final weeks of January and the first weeks of February that most teachers and children in the Southern Hemisphere begin their school year. Parents breathe a sigh of relief as the long holidays come to an end and teachers and children look forward to the year ahead with mixed feelings ranging from the excitement of a new adventure to anxiety or even dread. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Children’s Mental Health Week falls in the first week of February.
Children’s Mental Health Week
Children’s Mental Health Week runs from 3 – 9 February this year. The purpose of the week is to encourage children to look after their bodies and their minds. A positive classroom environment that is both welcoming and supportive helps to ensure children stay happy with healthy mental attitudes. It supports the development of self-esteem, self-confidence and the development of social skills, including getting along with others.
Here at readilearn, we can help you establish a supportive classroom environment and provide you with teaching resources that focus on developing social-emotional skills. While these are appropriate for any time of the year, a special focus during mental health week provides opportunities for reading books and engaging children in activities that are conducive to positive attitudes.
Of special note this year is that many children in Australia may begin the school year distressed by what they have personally experienced or may have seen or heard about the bushfires that have caused so much damage to our country.
While I am unable to give specialised support for dealing with trauma, this article in the Conversation has suggestions to help teachers support students, and includes links to other information. It is pleasing to see that extra funds have been made available to assist teachers and students who have been affected by the fires. If you have been affected and I can support you with a free subscription to readilearn, just let me know.
Resources for a supportive classroom environment
You can find suggestions for establishing a supportive classroom in these previous posts:
In addition, these readilearn resources from the Classroom Management collection help ensure you are organised from day one:
This week we have uploaded three new sunflower-themed resources to coincide with the International Year of Plant Health:
And this new resource for helping your students get to know their buddies in their buddy class.
readilearn resources promote mental health
Self-esteem and confidence
The post by Kathy Hoopmann Teaching children with ASD — ideas for the classroom presents ideas and resources to help teachers when working with children with ASD or other issues.
The Song Bird Superhero series by Karen Tyrrell is also useful for discussing empowerment, self-confidence and being true to yourself.
Other books with themes relevant to mental health were also featured in the readilearn Author and Illustrator Spotlight series; including:
World Read Aloud Day
World Read Aloud Day on 5 February aims to encourage people everywhere to “read aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a human right that belongs to all people“.
Perhaps no one knows better than teachers of young children the importance of reading aloud. Children who come to school having been read to at home have the advantage of more extensive vocabularies and proficiency with language, greater general knowledge and interest in the world around them, and an interest in books and learning. These advantages contribute to success in school and life.
Making time for reading aloud in a busy class program is a priority for teachers of children in their first three years of school. Opportunities occur in every subject area, and it is not difficult to find ways of working a few extra stories into the program. Why not use World Read Aloud Day as an excuse to read a few more books than usual (as if an excuse is needed).
If you are unsure where to start selecting, visit the library and ask the librarian for suggestions, or take the class with you and ask them to each choose a book they’d like to hear.
Five of my favourite read-aloud picture books
(of which there are hundreds so impossible to list) are:
Koala Lou by Mem Fox
Where’s My Teddy by Jez Alborough
The Very Blue Thingamajig by Narelle Oliver
Circle by Jeannie Baker
One Less Fish by Kim Michelle Toft
Of course, picture books are not the only books that are perfect for reading aloud to young children. Children love listening to longer stories and using their imaginations to visualise events. They love to experience the development of character and plot that occurs from chapter to chapter and eagerly await each session.
Five of my favourite read-aloud chapter books
(of which there are many so impossible to list) for reading aloud to young children are:
The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
readilearn read-aloud resources
Responding to the Iron Man by Ted Hughes suggests reading aloud the introduction to The Iron Man and using it as a stimulus for discussion and writing.
Author Spotlight and Illustrator Spotlight: Any of the books highlighted through these author and illustrator interviews are on the readilearn recommended list, including the chapter books by Rebecca Johnson and Karen Tyrrell.
While not strictly a read aloud, Storytelling with Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake is another great way of engaging children with language and story.
Get children in the mood by encouraging them to Write their own “I love” poem by innovating on the traditional camping song I love the mountains. The free resource includes everything you need, including:
- teaching suggestions
- a copy of the poem that can be displayed on the interactive whiteboard
- a template that can be used for collaborative writing or printed for children’s own writing
- a chart for brainstorming things children love
- a ready-to-print card in which children can publish their poems.
Or you could get them to make their own I Love You This Much card
or a Chatterbox for writing secret messages.
Library Lovers’ Day
This is a perfect day for visiting the library, reading stories and appreciating a librarian. Why not book a time to read with a librarian or write a note to tell your librarians they are appreciated.
If you are unsure (and how would that be possible?) of the importance of libraries, read this guest post by amazing author Dimity Powell: Libraries — A wondrous universe to explore,
or this one
Libraries books and reading = infinite worlds to explore, and watch this video by the wonderful Neil Gaiman.
You could also celebrate by reading books from the free digital library at Library For All — a wonderful resource making a difference to literacy education all over the world.
International Book Giving Day
What’s not to love about giving joy through books. Visit the International Book Giving Day website to download a free poster, bookplate and bookmark and to get ideas for celebrating the day. Why not give a book to a child or leave a book somewhere for another to discover — free; or donate books to charities. There are many ways you can bring joy to another by giving books.
This year, Pancake Day falls on 25 February. Why not make pancakes with your class? Learning to read and follow recipes is an important life skill. Children learn many skills, including literacy, maths and science, while cooking in the kitchen. They learn for a practical purpose which becomes even more meaningful when they get to eat the results! Adult help will be required for the cooking part, but children can be involved in the reading, measuring and mixing. It works particularly well in either literacy or maths groups.
Before February begins
And before February begins, we still have days to celebrate in January, including:
- Chinese New Year
- Australia Day
- Puzzle Day
- Multicultural Children’s Book Day
Check out teaching ideas and teaching resources in this free resource: January Days and Events to Celebrate in the Classroom.
A free list of these February Days and Events will be available before February begins. Be sure to keep an eye out for it.
Remember to check out the complete readilearn collection of
over 390 teaching resources for the first three years of school
Resources beyond worksheets – lessons for teachers made by teachers.
Let readilearn lighten your workload.
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