It’s fall and that means it’s time for… pumpkin everything. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread, visiting the pumpkin patch, carving pumpkins, and more. Since pumpkins are already all around you, why not make them a part of your lesson plans too? We’ve rounded up 100 activities you can use to bring pumpkins into the classroom.
- Bring a set of pumpkins into the classroom and have students order the pumpkins from smallest to largest by size, stem height, weight, or another attribute.
- Give each student a pumpkin and have students measure the pumpkin. How tall is it? How wide is it? What is its diameter? How much does it weigh? Practice estimation skills by having students how much it will weigh before they weigh it.
- Use a balance to compare the weight of a pumpkin to other objects in the classroom. For example, how many counting bears does it take to equal the weight of the pumpkin?
- Practice counting skills by counting pumpkins. You can count the number of pumpkins you see at the pumpkin patch or bring in small pumpkin candies for children to count and group.
- Sing the “Five Little Pumpkins” song (“Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate, the first one said, ‘Oh my, it’s getting late…’”)
- Most pumpkins have seeds inside. Place students in groups and give each group a small pumpkin. Cut open the pumpkins and have students count the number of seeds inside. Then each group can add their results to a graph. Practice estimation skills by having students predict how many seeds they will find before they look in the pumpkin.
- Make a pumpkin seeds counting book. Wash and dry pumpkin seeds and have students glue the correct number of seeds to each page of a counting book. You can also use dried pumpkin parts to make a book about the life cycle of a pumpkin.
- Did you know that the largest pumpkin ever grown weighed over 2,000 pounds? Research the largest pumpkins in history, compare their characteristics, or create a graph to see how much they would have to grow a day to reach that size.
- Turn a pumpkin into a geoboard. Add push pins to the pumpkin and stretch rubber bands around the pins to make different shapes.
- Bake a pumpkin pie (or something else with pumpkin in it) or make a no-bake pumpkin recipe to help students work on measuring and reading directions.
- Make a shape-o-lantern. Cut out different shapes (circles, triangles, rectangles, etc.) in different colors of construction paper and have students glue them together to make their own shape-o-lantern.
- Play an online pumpkin math game, such as Farmer Fred’s Pumpkin Patch or Pumpkin Multiples.
- Determine how much a pumpkin will cost by setting a price per weight, weighing a pumpkin, and determining the final total.
- Find two sets of three pumpkins that are nearly identical in size and color. Make a grid on a large piece of cardboard or by placing tape on the ground and play a game of pumpkin tic-tac-toe.
- Study the life cycle of a pumpkin. How does a pumpkin grow from a seed to a full-grown pumpkin?
- Create a diagram of a pumpkin and label the different parts (stem, seed, vine, etc.)
- Conduct a pumpkin investigation. Have students analyze the pumpkin and describe the outside, the inside, how many seeds it has, how many lines it has, and other important features.
- Discover what happens to a pumpkin when you drop it from different heights. Does it break apart more when dropped from higher heights? What factors cause it to break apart or stay together?
- Use candy pumpkins and toothpicks to create bridges and other amazing structures. Talk with students about what makes one structure sturdier than others.
- Get a large tub of water and predict whether a pumpkin will sink or float. Place it in the water and see what it does. Try different sizes, shapes, and varieties of pumpkins. You could also empty out a pumpkin or poke holes in it to see if that changes the results.
- How long does it take a pumpkin to decompose? Place a piece of pumpkin into a container of dirt and regular monitor it. How long does it take the pumpkin to completely disappear?
- Monitor a rotting pumpkin by having students keep a pumpkin outdoors. Have students regularly go outside to observe the pumpkin. In a journal, students can draw a picture of the pumpkin and write a brief description.
- Grow a plant inside a pumpkin. Open it up and leave some of the guts inside, add some soil and a few plant seeds, and wait for your plant to sprout. Discuss with students what elements of the pumpkin might help a plant grow inside it.
- Create a pumpkin elevator. Challenge students to build a structure they can use to lift a heavy pumpkin. Reward students who can lift the heaviest pumpkin and lift a pumpkin the highest.
- Make a pumpkin volcano. Scoop out a pumpkin, put in some baking soda, add a bit of vinegar, and watch the pumpkin erupt. To make it more fun, add a few small holes for the foam to seep out of.
- Roast some pumpkin seeds with students. Have them look at the seeds before they are roasted and after they are roasted and note how they change.
- Dissolve candy pumpkins in different liquids (water, oil, vinegar, and soda). See how long it takes the pumpkin to completely dissolve.
- Empty a pumpkin, light a candle, and put it inside. Then put the lid on the pumpkin. Talk to students about why the candle goes out. Carve the pumpkin, light a candle, and put it inside. Talk to students about why the candle stays lit.
- Write an acrostic using the word PUMPKIN. Have students come up with a word or sentence related to pumpkins for each letter.
- How many words can you make from the letters in the word PUMPKIN? Challenge students to come up with as many words as possible. To make it easier you could add another word, such as PUMPKIN PATCH or PUMPKIN PIE.
- Have students draw and write a description of the ultimate jack-o-lantern. How big would it be? How would they decorate it?
- If a pumpkin could talk, what would it say? Have students write a short story about a talking pumpkin.
- Read a fiction book about pumpkins. Good books to start with include Spookley the Square Pumpkin and Too Many Pumpkins.
- Have students look at the inside and outside of the pumpkin and describe both with adjectives. Is it slimy on the inside? Bumpy on the outside?
- Create a recipe for a sweet treat using pumpkins or pumpkin candy. Students’ recipes could be something they could actually try to make or something crazy.
- Write pumpkin metaphors and similes, where students compare themselves or other objects to a pumpkin. For example, I am like a pumpkin because sometimes I feel bumpy.
- Write a poem on a pumpkin. Give each student a pumpkin and a permanent marker and let them write poems about fall or pumpkins right on the outside of the pumpkin.
- Create an advertisement for a pumpkin. Have students try to persuade others to buy their pumpkins (or pumpkins from their pumpkin patch) by creating a poster to advertise them or create a make-believe commercial.
- Research the largest pumpkins in history, pumpkin festivals around the world, or another element related to pumpkins and write an informational report.
- Organize nouns related to pumpkins based on whether they are a person, place, or thing. For example, “farmer (person), pumpkin patch (place), seed (thing).”
- Learn vocabulary words related to a pumpkin patch. Some words include: vine, seed, tractor, pulp, tendril, hay, pick.
- Write the letters of the alphabet around the edge of a construction paper pumpkin. Call out a letter of the alphabet. Using a hole punch or dot marker, have students find and mark the letter.
- Visit a pumpkin patch and talk about the role the pumpkin patch plays in your community.
- Create a map that shows how to get to a local pumpkin patch or have students create a map after they visit the pumpkin patch. Students can also follow a map through a corn maze at the pumpkin patch.
- Discuss with students the path a pumpkin takes to get from a seed to a pumpkin pie on the dinner table.
- Did you know that 90% of pumpkins grown in the United States come from a 90-mile radius around Peoria, Illinois? Do some research on the state of Illinois and its pumpkin crop.
- Do some research to figure out the top 5-10 pumpkin producing countries in the world.
- Decorate pumpkins to represent different flags of the world or different states in the United States.
- Paint a world globe onto a pumpkin. Use it to talk about concepts such as the equator, longitude, and latitude.
- Why do people put out jack-o-lanterns on Halloween? Do some research to figure out the reason behind the tradition.
- How have pumpkins been used throughout history? Have each student find one use and write a report on it.
- Eat pumpkin like the Native Americans by cutting it and roasting it over a fire.
- Read the book The Pumpkin People and talk about different personalities and types of people that exist in the world.
- Play a game of pumpkin trivia. Put together a set of historical questions about pumpkins and see how much students know.
- Sing the song “5 Little Pumpkins.”
- Sing the “I’m a Little Pumpkin” song to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot.” (I’m a little pumpkin, orange and round)
- Use two paper plates taped together with beans inside and painted orange to create pumpkin tambourines.
- Use soft mallets to tap on pumpkins and see what sounds they make. Do they make different sounds once they have been cut open?
- Replace the black dots on music notes with tiny pumpkin pictures on a silly tune about fall or Halloween for beginning learners to play.
- Make up a clapping or stomping rhythm as kids spell out the word pumpkin.
- Fill a plastic tube with dried pumpkin seeds to make a musical shaker.
- Play a game of musical pass the pumpkin. Have students stand in a circle and pass around the pumpkin while music plays. Whoever is holding the pumpkin when the music stops is out.
- Say a rhyme such as “Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater” while having students clap along. Try to say the rhyme faster and slower.
- Have students make up a pumpkin dance, a dance that they think a big, round pumpkin might do or a dance they can do while holding a pumpkin.
- Play students part of the soundtrack from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and talk about the different sounds you hear.
- Sing the song “Where is Thumbkin?” but insert pumpkin and pull out a pumpkin or two as you say the lines.
- Play a game of PUMPKIN instead of HORSE. Students shoot baskets and try to avoid getting the letters in “PUMPKIN,” earning one letter for each missed shot.
- Set up a hopscotch game using construction paper cutouts of pumpkins instead of squares.
- Create a pumpkin workout where each letter of the word PUMPKIN stands for a different activity. For example, “P” could stand for 10 push ups.
- Hold a pumpkin rolling challenge. Give each student a pumpkin to roll from one end of the room to the other. See who can roll his/her pumpkin first.
- Hold a pumpkin lifting challenge. See which student can lift the heaviest pumpkin or carry the most pumpkins at once.
- Play a game of “Steal from the Pumpkin Patch.” Give each student two flags to hang out of their pockets and have students try to steal the other team’s pumpkin from the patch without getting their flags stolen.
- Play a round of pumpkin bowling. Set up empty soda bottles and roll a pumpkin to try and knock them down.
- Follow the pumpkin path by laying down construction paper pumpkins around the room. Challenge students to walk around the room by only stepping on the pumpkins.
- Have students try to walk around the room while balancing a pumpkin on their heads.
- Pass a pumpkin around the room, but don’t let students use their hands. A smaller pumpkin works best for this game.
- Go on a walk through a pumpkin patch.
- Play pumpkin ring toss and have students try to land a cardboard ring on a pumpkin’s stem.
- Hold a pumpkin relay race, where students must race while holding a pumpkin, and pass the pumpkin to a different team member at certain points in the race.
- Have a pumpkin toss. Let two students toss a small pumpkin back and forth. With each successful toss, they take a step back. The pair of students who toss the pumpkin back and forth the longest win.
- Get out the finger paints and let students paint their pumpkins however they want.
- Use yarn or string and have students wrap their pumpkins to create fun designs.
- Blow up an orange balloon and wrap it in yarn coated in glue. Once the glue dries, pop the balloon and remove it. Add a stem and leaf to complete the pumpkin.
- Cut an apple in half, dip it in orange paint, and stamp it on paper. Add faces and stems to create pumpkin faces.
- Tear up pieces of orange tissue paper or construction paper. Have students glue them onto a pumpkin shape.
- Remove and dry the seeds from a pumpkin. Have students glue the seeds to construction paper to create patterns or fun pictures.
- Place a piece of construction paper on a pumpkin paper and rub a crayon on it to create a fun pumpkin rubbing.
- Make construction paper pumpkins with a variety of different faces which will also help students learn about emotions.
- Cut out construction paper shapes and tape them to pumpkins to make different pumpkin animals.
- Cut strips of orange paper and arrange them to create a pumpkin shape (gluing them at the top and bottom of the pumpkin. Add a construction paper stem and leaf.
- Make a thumbprint pumpkin patch, by having students put orange thumbprints on a piece of paper, and then drawing in stems and leaves.
- Sponge paint a white paper plate with orange paint. Add a construction paper stem and let students draw or glue on construction paper shapes to make a face.
- Practice mixing red and yellow paint to make orange, and then use the orange paint to paint a picture of a pumpkin.
- Glue googly eyes and stems onto orange pom poms to make a pom pom pumpkin patch.
- Have students make construction paper pumpkins and cut out pictures from magazines to glue on for the facial features.
- Have students make a fence out of construction paper strips and glue on five construction paper pumpkins to accompany the song “Five Little Pumpkins.”
- Have students create a square pumpkin to go along with the story Spookley the Square Pumpkin.
- Paint rocks orange and paint on faces with black paint to make small jack-o-lanterns.
- Make pumpkin sculptures by stacking pumpkins in unique ways and gluing them together with hot glue (used with teacher supervision).
- Let kids use a hammer and a nail or a drill (with supervision) to make holes in a pumpkin. Add a candle to see how the light shines through.
Have more pumpkin ideas? We’d love to hear them. Share them in comments. Visit Help Teaching for more fun fall activities and printables. Happy Fall from Help Teaching!
From popular television shows like Law & Order: SVU to CSI: Miami, forensics has captivated countless audiences by providing a bridge between chemistry and the law. Help Teaching understands the challenges of engaging students in chemistry as a discipline and as a practice. Here are some ideas and strategies to help make chemistry come alive through forensics.
The Importance of Chemistry
Without chemistry, many modern-day forensic techniques would not be possible. Spectrophotometry, for example, uses knowledge of the reaction of substances with light to identify specific drugs, like morphine, present in corpses. Connections like these can help students to see the connection of chemistry to solving crimes and can serve as a way to motivate students every day. When presenting concepts in chemistry, try to find connections to forensic science that put real-world applications of chemistry into perspective. Some examples might include the following:
- The use of chromatography to identify tartrazine (yellow #5 dye in M&M’s that can cause allergic reactions)
- The use of atomic emission in flame tests to identify compounds that are fatal to humans, like potassium chloride
- How arsenic’s chemical and physical properties are used to identify it as the poison responsible for various murders
When making these connections, also be sure to include one or two real-world case studies that involve the concept being explored. This can help students to find concrete meaning and relevance in the topics that they are learning, no matter how abstract. As you read this, you might be thinking to yourself, That’s all well and good, but how do I find these connections? It’s important to consult a variety of web-based resources, both formal and informal, for this purpose. Here are some invaluable resources to help bridge the gap:
- Careers in Forensic Chemistry – What better way to kick off the beginning of the year than by introducing students to the possibility of a career in forensic chemistry? Students will love the idea of being able to work with and analyze blood, poisons, and metals in bullets.
- Chemistry & Forensic Science in America provides a historical timeline of how chemistry was used to make important advances in the field of forensic toxicology. This timeline can be consulted throughout the year as a resource to motivate and intrigue students. Some possible points of interest include an exploration of chemical and physical properties of the element radium in early 20th Century America and an introduction to types of chemical reactions through a discussion of the Marsh Test in detecting the presence of arsenic in human tissue.
Using Forensic Science to Promote Rigor in Chemistry
With increased demands for rigor in the classroom, chemistry teachers also are faced with how to incorporate discussion and literacy, while still delivering content in a relevant and accessible way. Books and literature directly relating chemistry to forensic science provide vantage points from which to plan activities that can promote college and career readiness. Specifically, by identifying the chemical principles and properties involved in forensic techniques, like the Griess test for ballistics analysis, students can begin to think more actively about why knowledge of chemistry matters. At the same time, students can be taught important skills, including annotation and asking questions showing evidence of critical thinking. Having students engage in laboratory activities and write reports centered around the scientific method builds a classroom culture of inquiry-based learning. To foster a culture of rigorous learning that’s also fun and engaging, start with these resources that you can start using in your classroom today:
- The Poisoner’s Handbook can be used as a video to kick off a unit on nuclear chemistry or on the Periodic Table, with a focus on early American medicine. The Poisoner’s Handbook has also been published as a book, which could serve as a book that students refer to throughout the year to encourage discussion and literacy in chemistry to support the Common Core Learning Standards.
- Chymist – Forensic Chemistry provides a list of invaluable resources from which to download class readings and investigations as they relate to important topics in forensic investigation. These articles help to encourage literacy and can serve as introductions to experiments that students conduct in the classroom.
Resources for Forensic Science Lessons in Chemistry
Incorporating forensic science into chemistry requires careful planning to ensure that delivery of content and skills does not fall to the wayside. With this in mind, it’s important to find resources that will help to build and enhance your units of study most effectively. To that effect, below are some key resources that we’ve compiled here at Help Teaching to help you get started:
- ACS: Celebrating Chemistry provides a list of fun and engaging forensics-based activities to try with your class.
- Forensics from nclark.net provides links to a multitude of resources that relate forensic science and chemistry to one another. Using these resources, you can find various experiments and activities to cover topics and skills that are being taught in your classroom, while simultaneously engaging students.
Teaching chemistry to students who have no prior experience can be a daunting task. However, approaching chemistry from the perspective of society and the law can open new doors and leave a lasting effect on students.
Have other ideas about how to teach chemistry through forensics? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments section below. Also, make sure to check out Help Teaching for chemistry worksheets and online chemistry lessons.
Looking for more great science teaching ideas? Read our Ultimate Guide to Teaching Science!
Parent-teacher conferences can make parents, students, and even veteran teachers feel like they are on pins and needles. As parents, we want our children to be successful and happy. We love to hear about their accomplishments and it can be challenging to accept feedback on areas needing improvement. Developing a strong partnership with your children’s teachers is essential to ensuring academic progress. Enter your next parent-teacher conference prepared, with an open mind, and ready to collaborate with these five tips.
Involve Your Child
While some teachers invite students to sit in on parent meetings and some schools have moved to student-led models, many still offer traditional parent-teacher only conferences. Yet, this doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t be part of the conversation. After all, the meeting is about her success! Chances are your child will have some apprehension and curiosity about what goes on during the meeting. Alleviate the stress by talking with her beforehand. Ask your child if there is anything she would like you to share with the teacher. Maybe there is something she has enjoyed about being in class that the teacher would appreciate hearing. Or, if there is a concern she isn’t comfortable voicing on her own, this is an opportunity to bring it up. This is also a good chance to look over student work together. After the conference, reassure your child that you and her teacher as working as a team to help her succeed. Emphasize the positives that came out of the meeting as well as share any strategies that will be implemented going forward.
Do Your Homework
Your child has been working away at school and doing her homework. The teacher has pulled together student work samples, gathered data, and discussed your child’s progress with other teachers and specialists involved in her education. Now, it is your time to prepare for parent-teacher conferences! Start by looking over some of your child’s work. Read a writing sample. Try a few of the math questions from the last test. Develop a solid sense of the work your child is doing.
Next, write a list of questions you want to ask during the conference. The teacher may answer many of your questions during the natural progression of the meeting, but having a checklist will help prevent you from wishing you had remembered to ask about something. Some questions to consider include:
- Is my child performing at grade level?
- Is my child making sufficient academic progress?
- Where does my child sit?
- How is my child’s individualized education plan (IEP) being followed?
- Do you have any concerns about my child’s social-emotional development?
- How much time should my child spend on homework?
- What can I do at home to better support my child’s learning?
- Does my child show strong interest in any topic or subject?
- Is there anything I should share with next year’s teacher?
Finally, jot down about what you would like to share about your child with her teacher. Perhaps your child is passionate about a particular sport or book series. Sharing this information may help the teacher better connect with the student. If there are changes in the home environment or medical concerns that may impact your child’s performance at school, let the teacher know. Include information from last year’s teacher on strategies that helped your child succeed in class.
Respect Time Limits
Whether your conference time is set for ten minutes or thirty minutes, be mindful of time limitations. Show up ten minutes before your allotted meeting time. Use that time to look over your prepared questions. Spend a few minutes admiring the student work displayed in the hallway. During the conference, the teacher will most likely have an agenda and keep the conversation moving forward. If a topic comes up that needs to be discussed in more detail, make a note, but allow the conversation to progress. While discussing your child’s academic progress is the purpose of having a parent-teacher conference, it should not be at the expense of another family’s conference time. When you reach the end of your time, leave things on a positive note and exit the room. Doing so allows the teacher to make her own notes about the conference, prepare for the next meeting, and keeps things running on schedule.
Have a Conversation
A parent-teacher conference should be a conversation rather than a confrontation. Both of you share a common goal, the academic success and well-being of your child. View the meeting as a collaborative session between teammates. Like any productive conversation, a good conference should involve both participants listening and speaking. The teacher will most likely lead the flow of the conversation. Listen actively to what the teacher says. Take notes that you can refer to later and record actions items that you need to follow through on after the conference ends. Ask questions and share information about your child where they naturally fit in the conversation. Towards the end of the conference, read through the notes you prepared ahead of time and bring up any items that were not mentioned. Don’t forgot to discuss anything your child asked you to share with her teacher!
Make a Plan
The final couple minutes of the conference should be spent developing an action plan for how you and the teacher will best support your child going forward. This may include scheduling a follow-up meeting to further discuss anything that came up during the conference which couldn’t be fully covered in the allotted time. Review the things that you and the teacher will do to support your child as well as any expectations that need to be communicated with your child. Make sure you know the best method of contacting the teacher and determine a timeframe for when you will next check-in on your child’s progress.
Family engagement is vital to student success. Your parent-teacher conference attendance shows your child that you care about them and what goes on at school, as well as opens a dialog with the teacher. Share your tips on how to have a successful conference in the comments.
“I’m never going to use this!” Chances are, if you teach math, you’ve had a student say something along these lines. Yet, math is a vital part of our daily lives. From checking the temperature or deciding what to wear, to knowing if you have enough money to purchase an item or figuring out how long it will take to get somewhere, math is a part of everyday life. Here are nine ways to make math relevant for your students and inspire them to embrace math in the real-world.
1. Follow Current Events
Connect math to social studies by following current events in the news. Students may be surprised by how frequently numbers are cited in news stories. Start by identifying a grade appropriate print, online, or video news sources like PBS NewsHour Extra. Then, have students keep a journal of articles that cite numbers and analyze how the data is presented as part of the news story.
2. Partake in a Math Competition
Quality math competitions will challenge students to apply their knowledge in ingenious ways. Encourage creative problem-solving and build teamwork skills by enrolling students in a competition like Odyssey of the Mind.
3. Teach Personal Finance
If there is one math skill every person should master, it is money management. Although students typically learn how to add and subtract money, learning how to budget, invest, and manage debt are essential when it comes to ensuring a secure financial future. Get started with these ideas on teaching personal finance.
4. Play Games
Games are a fun way of incorporating math learning into the classroom while engaging students in play. Many classic board games help develop counting skills, number recognition, and fact fluency through the use of dice, spinners, and cards. Online math games are a high-interest activity for today’s tech-savvy students and many also support math standards and curricula.
5. Plan a Road Trip
Planning a road trip can help students hone their math skills while also studying geography. Divide students into groups, provide a budget, and have them research, design, and present a print or digital travel brochure of their road trip. Require that each group provides a breakdown of costs, including miles per gallon for fuel, meals, lodging, and admission fees to attractions.
6. Get Cooking
Many kids love to cook. Apply math to daily life by having students practice their culinary math skills. Not only does cooking allow students to practice skills like conversions, fractions, and proportions, but they also get a tasty meal or snack at the end!
7. Root for the Home Team
Whether you have students who participate in sports, play sports video games, or simply love to watch a good game, statistics play a key role in athletics. Challenge students to watch or participate in a sport, then record and graph data about the game. Alternatively, look for sporting events that provide educational materials like these Iditarod math teaching resources.
8. Study the Mathematics of Music
From patterns to frequency, music is mathematical. Elementary students can connect the arts and math by listening to music and identifying patterns. High school students can dig deeper into the mathematical structure of music by studying harmonics or looking at new ways of seeing music.
9. Celebrate Math Holidays
Math holidays and theme days are a great hook for inspiring students to learn math. Join Global Math Week in October, connect math and literacy on Math Storytelling Day in September, or celebrate any of the multitude of math holidays throughout the year.
Twenty years ago, schools had fire drills and tornado drills. Today, they’ve added drills for handling bomb threats and active shooters. In addition to these types of tragedies, students also have to deal with suicides, overdoses, car accidents, and other tragic events that take the lives of their peers. As parents and educators, we have a responsibility to help students work through these tragedies and provide them with the support and resources they need.
Give Them Hope
We live in a world that is full of evil, but not everyone who lives in the world is evil. In fact, there’s a lot of good going on every day. Talk about some of the positive things students are doing in the classroom and in the community. Look at resources such as the Good News Network which highlight the positive things that are going on in the world. Draw their attention to the Random Acts of Kindness movement and talk about how they can spread kindness and do good work in their community every day.
Give Them Safety
When tragedy strikes, many kids and teens worry that it could happen to them. Take some time to reassure kids that despite the attention these events get in the news, they are rare and not likely to happen where you live. Explain some of the procedures you have in place to protect students should something bad happen and, if they are not convinced, encourage them to come up with some ideas of their own. Let them know that while you cannot promise bad things will never happen, you will do all that you can to ensure that students are safe and taken care of.
Give Them Relief
Often, kids and teens don’t know how to express negative emotions in a healthy way or are afraid to let them out. Instead, they bottle them up inside. Even if kids and teens are able to share how they’re feeling, the weight of those feelings can weigh them down. Recognize that when tragedy strikes, some students may need help shedding some of the heaviness they feel. During these times, extend a bit of grace to students. Give them an extra day to complete homework or even offer a homework pass. Overlook minor outbursts. Provide plenty of opportunities and activities, such as coloring pages, silly games, meditation activities, and brain breaks, where students can decompress and unwind.
Give Them Attention
“I try to talk, but no one listens to me!” Many kids and teens have uttered this phrase. Make it your goal to ensure students never say this about you. When tragedies strike, make yourself available. Be willing to listen without judgement and answer any questions they may have. If you don’t have the answers, offer to help them find the answers or direct them to someone who can help. If students do not want to talk, that’s okay too, but regularly check in with them and let them know your door is always open. If you work in a school, set up a safe space where students can go to talk or collect their thoughts during the day and let them go without judgement. Will some students take advantage of the opportunity? Yes. However, the benefits to those who need it will far outweigh the few who take advantage of the situation.
Give Them Support
As students talk and share their feelings, let them know that you are there for them and that you always have their best interest in mind. If students express needs or desires, take them seriously and try to offer whatever support you can. Don’t be afraid to ask students, “What do you need from me?” They may not have an answer right away and you can encourage them to share those needs with you when they arise. If a student says, “I just need you to lay off my case for a few days,” then respect that. If a student says, “I need you to be very positive,” then be that that person. If a student says, “I need you to understand that this a big deal,” then let them know that you recognize the magnitude of what they’re facing. Avoid phrases such as “get over it,” “move on,” or “let’s try not to think about it right now.” Those phrases downplay what kids and teens are feeling and can come off as very insensitive.
Give Them Love
Adults show love to students in different ways. Parents might want to give their kids extra hugs, tell them that they’re proud of them, and say “I love you” every day. Teachers may want to smile at students, write positive notes to give to them (or send home to parents), and incorporate their interests in class. There are many different ways to show kids you care about them.
Give Them Purpose
Tragedies often leave kids and teens feeling hopeless. Finding ways for them to help after the tragedy can help relieve some of that hopelessness. Students may write letters of encouragement and support to families who have lost loved ones. They may collect bottled water and toiletries to send to people affected by a hurricane. They may collect money to send to an organization that is providing aid. Organizations such as the American Red Cross often create lists of items that they need. News organizations and people on social media are full of ways people can help too. Before donating money or supplies, do a little research to make sure the request is legitimate. If it is, give students a chance to help. Doing so may help them work through some of the negative emotions they’re dealing with.
Do you have any advice for parents and teachers who are helping kids work through difficult situations? If so, please share it in the comments.