News Release, Charles County Public Schools
Indian Head Elementary School launched a new program this school year to focus on the social and emotional needs of students. Called “Move This World,” the program provides students with strategies to express emotions in a positive way. Students learn about and use 10 “emoger” strategies to display their feelings. The emogers focus on breathing, counting to 10, giving someone a smile, hug or fist bump, walking away quietly, drinking a glass of water, meeting in the middle, putting yourself in another’s shoes, active listening, looking for help, and tightening and releasing muscles.
At the start of each school day, students watch a 5-minute video that features a specific emoger lesson. Classroom teachers then talk with students about the lesson, what they learned and how they can use the strategies at home and at school. At the end of the day, teachers work with students on calming techniques and ask them to reflect on their day. “The lessons talk about stressors but also tie in a positive reflection process,” Shane Blandford, principal at Indian Head, said.
Some mornings, teachers use restorative circles to discuss the Move This World lesson. Restorative circles are a group activity designed to improve communication and interactions among students. The circles allow students time to sit down and talk, be heard and positively communicate. “Restorative circles can be used for anything. They give each kid a voice and can be on any topic,” Blandford said.
Fifth-grade teacher Robyn Dalton recently held a restorative circle to work with students on showing gratefulness. During restorative circles, speakers pass a symbolic item to signify whose turn it is to share. Students passed around a stuffed item when it was their turn to speak. Some shared they were grateful for their parents and family, while others shared they are thankful for the school and their friends.
Fifth-grader Ethan Hatton shared that he is thankful for his family. “They do a lot for me. I am in the band and my Mom comes to see me play and helps me practice,” Hatton said. He said he likes the Move This World program because it helps students keep their anger and emotions in check. His favorite lesson so far is the matchmaker theme. During the matchmaker lesson, students pair up with a classmate who is having the same emotions. “It is helpful to see when you are feeling happy or angry that someone else in your class is feeling the same way,” Hatton said.
Indian Head fifth grader Yaliyah Reyes said she uses emogers at school and at home. She often has minor arguments with her siblings and said she likes to focus on the emoger sleep on it to calm down. “It helps me wake up with a better mindset the next day,” Reyes added.
She also likes to focus on an important topic emphasized throughout the Move This World program: celebrate yourself. “You can use this whenever you achieve a big win. I play soccer and like to celebrate myself when we crush the other team. I also celebrate myself when I get good grades,” Reyes said.
As a result of Move This World, teachers are seeing increased positivity and kindness in the classroom. Second-grade teacher Jasmine Thomas said her class reviewed the emogers during the first two weeks of school, and now she sees students using them daily in class. “Some of my friends in class will tell others when they are not showing active listening. I also have students who are creating their own emoger from a mix of current strategies. Some may need more of a prompt, but the kids are getting creative,” Thomas said.
Indian Head is the only school in Charles County using the program. Blandford said she wanted to address social and emotional learning without adding more work for teachers. “This is an easy way to focus on social and emotional health without adding more to a teacher’s plate,” Blandford said.
Indian Head administrators also built emoger strategies into parent communication. When students are sent home with a behavior communication form, the emoger strategies are listed at the bottom for parent review. The goal is for parents to help reinforce at home what their children are learning at school. “We want our parents to be able to work on strategies at home to help their children better manage emotions both at and outside of school,” Blandford said.
Move This World content features age-appropriate material and lessons for students ranging from prekindergarten through fifth grade. As a result of the program, Blandford is seeing positive student gains. “We are seeing lots of students showing strategies during the day. In the afternoon, we focus on calming techniques so students can reflect on their day and leave school on a positive note,” Blandford said.