Today, I read Dina Strasser’s article, Creating Classrooms That Teach the Whole Kid about creating collaborative classrooms. She writes that teaching is “about the whole kid – the entire kit and caboodle of what they need to know to be happy, healthy, contributing members of society. As a result, respectful, fruitful collaboration among students is not “nice” for your kids to master before they make their own way in the world – it is absolutely necessary. It’s especially necessary when problems get in the way of our goals.”

She describes 3 classroom processes to create this kind of learning experience. Include students in creating classroom norms; this can occur in any classroom, and I would add that these classroom norms be built on any school initiatives (e.g., PBIS language or other school-wide positive actions). The students can have the opportunity to think through the school-wide expectations in connection with their peers and in turn better see their own role in upholding the norms. Secondly, practice language that respectfully asks for clarification, or express disagreement with others. Strasser suggests also posting these “sentence starters” so kids can see them, and refer to the posting often. Model their use. Finally, when kids make poor decisions, violate the norms or otherwise disrupt learning, use the incident as a restorative opportunity: walk the student through their feelings and thoughts that led to their actions and include the student in finding a way to repair the harm, to self or others.

When I read this article, I reflected that these kinds of classroom processes can be furthered in play at recess, and will simultaneously help foster a recess that is safe and inclusive—an optimum recess where children are able to autonomously engage with each other. The classroom environment will extend to the playground where children are able to practice collaborative, problem-solving interactions with peers outside the classroom.

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Dr. Cathy Ramstetter is the founder of Successful Healthy Children. Cathy is a Health Educator with experience in school health leadership, community-level health promotion, service learning and teaching. Cathy’s work focuses on community-engaged and school-based collaboration for communities to promote health-sustaining environments and to foster children’s healthy growth and development—intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically. She led Participatory Action Research with a local elementary school to promote health through the Coordinated School Health model and facilitated work with 12 municipal-community teams in local communities for the CDC’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant. She co-authored the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy on Recess in collaboration with pediatricians in Ohio.

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