Redwood Elementary in Grants Pass, Oregon is one of the schools in our District Partnerships pilot program. Last school year, the school’s data team collected data about student behaviors that were most challenging to the staff. One of the challenging behaviors was defiance.
Initially the team started thinking about it from the teachers’ perspective, wondering what other tools could be used to deal with student behavior that appeared defiant. Before they implemented any tools, they decided to gather some information from students. Teachers talked to students individually and had class discussions. What they learned surprised them. As students shared, a pattern emerged: what the teachers identified as defiant behavior often arose from big feelings. It was a bit of an eye-opener that the students and adults had such different perspectives. And it invited a different kind of solution.
The data team proposed to the staff that each classroom teach or reteach the ‘Glad, Mad, Scared, Sad’ lesson from the Positive Discipline curriculum or another similar lesson from the Second Step program that would help students be able to grow their emotional vocabulary and name what they were experiencing. They also included feeling words in their morning announcements.
Soon something interesting happened. Students started talking about feelings with their teachers, with the adults who supervised the playground, and with the adults who supervised the afternoon pickup.
Annie Blanchard, a kindergarten teacher, took it a step further in her class. After students began to be able to name their feelings, she created a feelings check-in poster. When students arrived, they moved a clothespin with their name on it to the feeling they were experiencing in the moment.
Students began to be curious about their peers who weren’t feeling good. For example, one morning when a student noticed that another student had put her clip low, he asked Ms. Blanchard why the student wasn’t happy. Together they walked over, and the boy suggested to the girl that when he wasn’t happy, it helped to have someone to play with, and that he could be that person for her.
The feelings chart was such a hit that at the end of the year, Ms. Blanchard made a chart for each student to take home. They proudly made clips for each person in their home so that they could use it with their families over the summer.
Redwood Elementary kindergartners Tate, Sophia, and Felix show their feelings charts.
As the school started this year, staff decided to make space for teachers to have conversations with each family. As part of that conversation, teachers are asking about how families handle big feelings and sharing the work around vocabulary for naming feelings that they did last year in the classrooms.
Thank you Redwood Elementary for listening to your students and providing them opportunities to build their emotional vocabulary. We look forward to learning more about how feelings are incorporated at your school this year!
Jody McVittie is the Co-Founder and Director of Strategic Partnerships at Sound Discipline