Summer Blog Series: 5 Ideas to Help Students Build Resilience

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As an educator, teaching students of various abilities can be challenging enough, but how do you handle all of the social-emotional factors that go beyond academic content, such as building resilience? In today’s elementary schools, teachers do much more than just teach; they also have to find ways to navigate what can feel like a minefield of emotions and behaviors. These can include things like anxiety, behavior problems, and stress from home. Teachers often feel a lot of pressure because they don’t always have the training or resources to help with these issues.

Throughout this series, we will explore three areas that teachers often struggle with in meeting these needs: helping students to find resiliency, learn social skills, and experience emotional regulation. We will provide ideas for social-emotional activities to help both students and teachers succeed in these common areas.

What Does it Mean to Be Resilient?

One goal for teachers should be to help students build resilience in the classroom, which will hopefully overflow into other areas of their lives. So, what exactly does it mean to be resilient? Resilience is defined as “the ability to recover from or adapt to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility”. Think of a rubber band being stretched and then bouncing back to it’s original shape.

Children who are resilient have the ability to overcome setback and problems. The more they practice overcoming challenges, the more confidence they gain. This allows them to feel more capable the next time they face a problem, and they don’t give up, even if something is difficult at first.

Why Students Struggle with Resilience

There are many reasons why students might struggle with being resilient in the classroom setting. Here are just a few reasons:

  1. Emotional Regulation: Elementary students are still developing the ability to manage their emotions. They may struggle with intense feelings like frustration, sadness, or anger, and find it difficult to recover quickly from disappointments or challenges.
  2. Cognitive Development: Their problem-solving skills and ability to think critically are still maturing. This can make it harder for them to find effective solutions to problems, which is a key component of resiliency.
  3. Social Skills: Peer relationships play a significant role in a child’s life at this stage. Difficulties in making friends, dealing with peer pressure, or experiencing bullying can impact their confidence and ability to cope with stress.
  4. Environmental Stressors: Factors such as family instability, socioeconomic challenges, or trauma can significantly impact a child’s ability to develop resilience. These external stressors can overwhelm their still-developing coping mechanisms.
  5. Perfectionism and Fear of Failure: Some children have high expectations for themselves and may fear making mistakes. This fear can prevent them from taking risks or trying new things, which are important experiences for building resilience.

Students bring their lives to school with them everyday and it really can affect their learning. There are a lot of factors that are outside the control of the teacher. However, educators can create a safe and supportive environment where students can feel comfortable stretching their problem-solving muscles.

Activities that Can Help Build Resilience

So how do you build resilience with activities that don’t feel like pulling teeth for you and your students? Here are 5 engaging ideas that you can try in your elementary classroom.

Group Activities

Working in teams on projects help students develop cooperation, communication, and conflict resolution skills. One of our favorite types of group activities for students to engage in are escape rooms or breakout games. These activities help students to work towards a common goal by solving a mystery or complete fun challenges. And they are student-led, which means that they have to persevere on their own to figure out the solutions instead of relying on the teacher.

Check out our variety of escape room activities, including our Escape Room Bundle shown below if you are in need of some breakout games for your class.

Weekly Puzzles or Brain Teasers

Give students age-appropriate problems to solve, such as puzzles or classroom challenges. Encourage them to brainstorm multiple solutions and discuss which one might work best and why. Here is a list of 45 various brain teasers that you can use with your students from prodigy

Reading Books with a Lesson

Read books that feature characters who overcome adversity. Discuss the story and relate it to the students’ own experiences, helping them to see resilience in action. The books below can lead to great discussions:

Gratitude Practices

Encourage students to regularly express gratitude. This can be done through gratitude journals, sharing something they’re thankful for each day, or creating a class gratitude wall. Find this gratitude journal from The Printables Fairy for free, along with some great ideas for getting your students to show gratitude.

Growth Mindset Activities

Encourage students to view challenges as opportunities to grow. Activities can include reading stories about overcoming obstacles, discussing famous failures and their successes, and praising effort rather than outcome.

Our Growth Mindset Journal and Posters shown above are a way to practice growth mindset by reflecting on the weekly quote and how it can be applied to their lives. Grab a free sample from this resource below!

Building resilience in students is not easy, but it’s worth it. By integrating these activities into the classroom routine, teachers can help students build the skills they need to become more resilient and better equipped to handle life’s challenges.

Looking for more ways to get students working together? Check out our blog post below:

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