Tips for Prioritizing Student Health During Class
On average, students spend about 1/4 of their waking hours in school, which means what they do in class greatly impacts their overall health. Traditionally, schools mainly focus on students’ academic achievement. However, many schools are seeing academic, social, and emotional benefits when students adopt a growth mindset and there is a focus on student wellness.
Prioritizing student health and safety lays a foundation for trust between students, teachers, and faculty. Students who attend schools with this atmosphere feel connected to their peers, educators, and community.
More and more research shows that movement is beneficial to learning, but sometimes students do need to sit and focus during their learning. Use some of these tips to help your students get the most out of their seated learning:
Practice a Correct Sitting Posture
Teaching children to sit up straight may seem old-fashioned, but good posture is vital to helping their bodies work properly. Many studies show developing this habit at a young age can prevent children from suffering back pain, respiratory issues, and fatigue.
Developing this habit is especially relevant now that kids use technology while sitting for many hours, contributing to the adoption of slouched positions and signs of aging spines at an early age. In 2014, researchers Michalak, Mischnat, Teismann found people who sit in slumped positions are more likely to have negative bias than those who sit upright. Here are two ways you can make teaching good posture fun for your kiddos:
- Take a Stretch Break After sitting for a long time, children may start to slump, fidget, or lose focus. Choose a time and have the class take a stretch break.
- Teach the 90-90-90 Rule That means sitting with a 90-degree angle at the hips, knees, and ankles with feet flat on the floor while maintaining a slight spine curvature. To help students know what a 90-degree angle looks like, print these posters and hang them in your classroom. You can point to them whenever you catch students slouching. A good rule of thumb when using computers is to sit at least 20 inches (or an arm’s length) away from the computer screen and adjust it to the eye level. Here is a link with more in-depth guidelines on this matter.
Reduce Eye Strain
Optometrist Approved Methods to Try:
- Every 20 minutes, tell students to look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This 20-20-20 rule allows eye muscles to relax.
- Have students slow blink 10 times every 20 minutes to help rewet eyes.
- Prevent students’ eye focus from “locking up” by asking them to look at a distant object for 10-15 seconds, gaze at something up close for 10-15 seconds, then back at the distant object. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
- Adjust display color temperature on all student computers. Short-wavelength blue light has a more significant effect on eye strain than longer wavelengths such as orange and red. Modern devices have a quick setting to adjust display colors to the warmer end of the spectrum: Night Shift on Mac and Night Light on Windows.
Practice Guided Meditation Exercises
Researchers from the Universities of Udine and Rome in Italy found meditation reduces fear, anxiety, and depression. Covered by our blog as a helpful teacher stress remedy, Progressive Muscle Relaxation can help elementary students learn how to cope with their unique anxieties by releasing each group of muscles as they breathe in and out. Give it a try in your next class by following these instructions:
You can also help students master a powerful STOP Skill to prepare them for any worries during tests:
Stop. Whatever you’re doing.
Take a breath. Reconnect with your breath.
Observe. Notice what is happening inside you and outside of you. What do you feel? What is your course of action?
Proceed. Continue doing what you were doing. Or don’t; instead, use the information gained during this check-in to change course.
Start prioritizing student well-being during class with our research-based PK-6 SEL curriculum.
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