7 Effective Ways to Cultivate Student Resilience in the Classroom

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Resilience is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “the ability to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened”. Resilience is an important life-skill for children to acquire whilst at school. Reach Out Australia, for example, states that “When students feel like the outcome won’t affect them negatively, they are more likely to try new and more challenging things in the classroom. Being able to learn from mistakes and challenges in a place where they feel supported and encouraged will build their confidence, self-belief and resilience. Today, I’ve invited Jessica Robinson, educational writer at The Speaking Polymath, to write this excellent blog post describing seven ways to cultivate student resilience in the classroom. Enjoy!

“When we learn how to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience.”

Jaeda Dewalt

Life is a beautiful adventure that has its ups and downs. Unexpected things happen in this world and within moments your life turns upside down. Take the example of the pandemic: one day, suddenly, we got to know about a virus that had infected masses of people in China and within days the virus spread to multiple countries of the world. It caused wide-scale casualties, governments imposed lockdowns and the sad ‘new normal’ began.

Sudden events that happen in life can make you realize how important it is to be resilient. If we are resilient, we can withstand the storms that come our way and emerge victorious. During our days in quarantine, as I spent this trying time with my kids who were feeling anxious, I realized that the pandemic is a big challenge, especially for children. They are facing such difficulties at a very young age in their lives. This experience motivated me to start cultivating resilience in my kids. Every day, I make them engage in different activities that can empower their resilience. Watching them become emotionally and mentally stronger has motivated me to also work on cultivating student resilience in the classroom.

Here, I am going to share some effective strategies that have helped me turn my kids into more resilient beings. I have started using these strategies with my students too and I hope that you’ll also use them to help your students cultivate strong resilience.

#1: Make children engage in activities that challenge them physically

This is one of the best ways that have helped me cultivate resilience in my kids. Anything that challenges them physically, helps them gain confidence in themselves, their abilities, and their body. This self-confidence gives them the strength to bear difficulties in life with courage. So, you should try to make your students engage in activities that challenge them physically. You can make them play new games that require more physical as well as mental efforts and help them develop confidence in their physical and mental capabilities. As far as I am concerned, I make my students participate in different kinds of races to challenge their physical capabilities and scavenger hunts with challenging quizzes to help them develop confidence in their mental capabilities. Moreover, I also tell them to not compete with each other but strive to become a better version of themselves. Believe me, this tactic really works.

#2: Help them inculcate confident and influential body language

Do you know that your body language and your feelings are interconnected? Yes, this is true. That is why, whenever you are sad, you sit or stand with a hunched back, look down and your smile fades away. This is an example of how your emotions impact your body language. In the same way, your body language also impacts your emotions. You can use this connection between emotions and body language to help your students become more resilient. You can help them learn body language techniques to regulate their emotions. For example, power posing in a confident way can help your students face challenges with courage. To know more about power posing and the benefits of influential body language, you can watch the Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy. Further, you can also read different books and watch videos on Body Language to help your students inculcate confident and influential body language.

#3: Make them engage in creative pursuits

According to one study published by Colin G. Deyoung and Paul J. Silvia in the Journal of Positive Psychology, creativity encourages positive emotions that can unlock our inner resources for dealing with stress and uncertainty. This implies that we can help kids develop a strong resilience in an interesting way by making them engage in creative pursuits. If a child loves painting, you can let him express his creative self through painting for some time every day. If a child loves dancing, you can let him express his creative endeavors through dancing. By engaging in their favorite creative pursuits, your students will develop strong resilience over time. Along with this, they’ll also become happier and calmer versions of themselves which will ultimately help them become more resilient in life.

#4: Create a gratitude ritual and practice it together

‘Gratitude’, we have heard this word a lot and we have also received the advice to express gratitude from many influential people. But, we often feel that expressing gratitude cannot do us enough good as it is a very simple practice. We think that we need to look for something better and so on. But, believe me, we have been wrong whenever we have thought this way. I have seen tremendous positive changes in myself and my kids by following a gratitude ritual for the past two months regularly. We are happier, more optimistic, and therefore, more resilient too. Moreover, research also shows that gratitude can help us rewire our brains towards positivity. So, you should try to create a gratitude ritual and practice it with your students. A simple gratitude ritual is to write down three things that you are grateful for every day. You can try this one or create your own gratitude ritual.

#5: Help them build meaningful social connections

The American Psychological Association wrote in its resilience report, “Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family.” When you have supportive relationships in your life, you feel safe and protected. You know that there are always people you can count on whenever you get faced with any problems in life. This knowingness gives you the strength to withstand the challenges that come in your life. This implies that we can help our students build strong resilience by encouraging them to cultivate meaningful social relationships with others. We can help our students build strong friendships with each other and cultivate good relationships with us as well as other people from the school staff. This way, we can teach our students to form meaningful connections with people and boost their resilience.

#6: Make them engage in healthy risk-taking

The development of self-confidence is crucial for us to cultivate strong resilience. You can help your students become self-confident by making them engage in healthy risk-taking. For example, if your students are afraid of dogs, you can bring a little puppy and encourage them to play with it. No doubt, they’ll feel a little afraid in the beginning but then, after playing safely with the puppy, their confidence level in their abilities to take risks will increase. As a result, they’ll cultivate a strong resilience over time.

#7: Teach them some coping mechanisms to calm themselves under overwhelming situations

If you have the ability to help yourself calm down even under challenging times, you naturally have strong resilience. You feel confident about yourself and know that you can handle yourself even in difficult situations. So, you can help your students develop a strong resilience by teaching them some coping mechanisms to calm themselves under overwhelming situations. Belly breathing, focusing on the sounds that are happening around us, and feeling deeply are some simple coping mechanisms that help us calm our nervous system under challenging situations. Furthermore, you can watch YouTube videos to learn about belly breathing and then you can teach this calming technique to your students.

The pandemic has taught us that we should help children develop a strong resilience right from their childhood. It is only in the presence of a strong resilience that they can face any challenges that life throws at them and emerge victoriously. Furthermore, as teachers, we can help our students cultivate a strong resilience through the different ways mentioned above. Now, I wish you all the best, and may your efforts to help your students develop a strong resilience bear fruits.

An ardent writer, Jessica Robinson, works for ‘The Speaking Polymath’. She uses this platform to weave her magical words into powerful strands of content and share with her readers.

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10 Groupwork Activities That Can Be Applied to Any Subject Area

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

When students work together on a task/project that is well-planned and carefully executed, a number of incredible things happen:

It is very important to stress again, however, that group tasks must be very well-planned, otherwise they can “frustrate students and instructors and feel like a waste of time” [University of Waterloo].

So, the next question has to be ‘What types of group activities are most effective, and, ideally, won’t cost me too much planning time as a teacher?’. Well, I’ve got some good news for you – I’m going to pretty much answer that question in today’s blog post. As a high school Chemistry teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to try and test a large number of group-based activities over the past 16 years. What I present here will be my distillation of the top ten that work the best.

#1: Podcasting

Podcasts are all the rage at the moment, and have been for some time. In addition, forecasts by eMarketer, Grand View Research, and many others predict huge growth in this sphere for at least the next several years, and probably much longer.

In other words, the industry is literally booming, and getting our students involved in podcasting provides not only a creative output for their research projects, but also equips them with valuable key skills.

As a podcaster myself, I’m delighted to bring some excellent news to teachers and schools everywhere (garnered from lots of personal experience): podcasting is very easy, and virtually free to do.

Here are the steps that I personally suggest students should follow:

Step 1: Record the audio on any device available – a mobile phone, laptop computer, tablet, etc.

Step 2: Save the file somewhere. A .wav or .mp3 is perfect

Step 3: Download Audacity – it’s free sound engineering software that is just literally awesome (I use it myself for my podcast).

Step 4: Import and manipulate the sound file in Audacity (Hint: For podcasts, set Loudness Normalization to -18.0 LUFS, as this will make the voices of the students nice and clear – to do that, just select the audio, then go to Effect > Loudness Normalization, and keep the check mark the box that says ‘Treat mono as dual mono’).

Step 5: Export and save the file. I suggest exporting as an mp3, rather than a .wav, in order to compress the size of the file dramatically. Sound quality is not affected by this.

Once the sound file has been exported and saved locally, the students can then send that to the teacher in any way that seems appropriate – via e-mail, Google Classroom, uploading to YouTube (which requires another process that the students will have to learn), etc.

#2: Create a short lesson that contains some kind of practical element

Ironically, research shows that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach the topic that you have to learn. So, quite simply, ask your groups of students to prepare a lesson which they must teach to the whole class. To spice things up, the students could build a model, demonstrate an experiment, pass objects around the class or do anything that stimulates touch, smell, and, maybe, taste.

Allowing students to have some creative freedom over how they deliver the lesson should lead to some very interesting and entertaining moments.

#3: Cloud Computing

This is one area of education where Google really has the monopoly – and understandably so in my opinion. Their tools for students are second-to-none. Book the schools ICT lab, iPads/laptops or allow students to use their own devices in the following ways:

  • Google SlidesImagine you’re in a group of 5 people, each working on the same slide presentation simultaneously on 5 different computers. You’re all editing the presentation in real time – that’s what Google Slides is, basically. It’s really powerful, and I’ve found that students never grow tired of working in groups to create beautiful presentations. Get your students to present the slides to the class when the project is done and you’ve ticked so many boxes – collaboration, using ICT to enhance learning, leadership skills, courage, and on and on we could go. Just make sure you’re walking around the classroom to check on the students as they are doing the work, and ask the group leader to ‘share’ the work with you (this involves clicking a button, and selecting the teacher’s school Gmail address to share it to).
  • Google Docs: This is similar to Google Slides, albeit with a slight difference: the students collaborate on a word-processed document in real time, rather than a slides presentation. It’s great for producing leaflets, infographics, reports, booklets, summaries and traditional ‘assignments’.
  • Google Sheets: As the name suggests, this is a spreadsheet application that the students can collaborate on in real-time, in groups. As a science teacher I find that this is perfect for data collection and processing as it can be used to generate graphs and charts. It’s also good for keeping lists (e.g. lists of revision websites).
  • Google Forms: Great for surveys and peer-assessment tasks. Students can create forms for other students to fill in, share these forms with their peers, receive responses and the software will even generate pie charts of the responses for quick analysis. It’s a fun way to use ICT to enhance learning, and a quick way to gather interesting data.
  • New Google Sites: This is Google’s amazing website creation software. In a matter of a few clicks, students can create their own websites that are securely linked to the school’s G Suite server. I’ve just recently used Google Sites with my Year 7 students to create ePortfolios. These ePortfolios act as online records/journals where the students can record their reflections on their work, school achievements, extra-curricular activities and photographs of schoolwork they are really proud of. At many schools, these ePortfolios act as an ‘entire’ record, with students adding work to them throughout their time at school. It’s something meaningful that the students can take pride in, and spend significant time developing.

I’ve written a separate blog post about using Google Apps in teaching which you can find here.

#4: Create a Quiz

Quizzes can be a really fun way to test student knowledge, and when done via a group-creation project they can be much less stressful for students than traditional testing. Furthermore, there are a number of great, free multiple choice and graphic quiz creation tools available on the web:

  • Kahoot!: Students can create an account (Attention: Make sure the students use their school e-mail address for safety) and then create a great multiple choice quiz. Always specify the number of questions you’d like the students to create. When ready, the group can present the Kahoot! to the class, and the students watching/playing will use their mobile devices as multiple choice ‘clickers’. The software comes with music (so use your classroom sound system, if you have one) and shows a running student ranking after each question. It’s great fun, and I’ve never known a student to dislike using Kahoot!.
  • Quizlet: This comes in the form of virtual flashcards that the students create (e.g. key word on one side, definition on the other), but the fun starts with Quizlet Live. Basically, when the group has finished making their Quizlet, they activate Quizlet Live which automatically puts all the students into new groups to compete with each other. Again, music and a main screen showing the real-time progress of each team make for a very lively, active classroom experience.
Quizlet Live teacher screen (showing real-time group progress) and student screens [Courtesy of teachwithtech.com]
  • Wordwall: This app allows students to be more spatial in their quiz creations – offering word-matching, category brainstorms, rank orders and many more activities. You can read more about the wide-range of tasks that students can create with Wordwall here.

Can you think of any others? Please do feel free to comment in the comment box below this blog post.

#5: Marketplace activity

In a marketplace activity, the following steps are followed:

  • Step 1: Students are placed into small groups and given material to learn. They could spend perhaps ten minutes learning about one aspect of the topic you’re teaching (each group can learn a different aspect/sub-topic, or each group can learn the same sub-topic).
  • Step 2: One person from each group goes to another group to teach them what they have learned.
  • Step 3: This ‘designated teacher’ also gets taught by the group.
  • Step 4: The assigned person goes back to their original group and teaches them what they have learned

I have drawn a diagram of the process below (if my handwriting is too small to see on your screen, then please feel free to download the image and zoom in):

You can read more about marketplace activities here.

#6: Model building

Get your students to build things. Materials like plastic bottles, bottlecaps, cardboard, coloured paper, plasticine/modelling clay, straws, shoeboxes and old rope can all be used creatively by students to make models of the concepts they are studying. I’ve used this technique across my teaching in Science to get students to create everything from atomic models to makeshift ‘eco gardens’. Here’s a model atom that one of my IGCSE Chemistry students made out of rudimentary materials a few years ago:

#7: Making videos and stop motion animations

Movies and stop-motion animations are fun projects which can really encourage students to approach a problem from creative perspective. The result? – Memory of the concept is greatly enhanced when compared with traditional teaching methods.

Stop-motion animations do take a long time, and are more suited to processes and systems (e.g. DNA replication, corrie formation, steps in differential calculus, etc.), whereas movies have a wider-range of applications.

You can find out more about how to make a stop-motion animation at this great ACMI webpage here. The students will need everyday objects and inexpensive materials (e.g. modeling clay, coloured paper, straws, etc.) and someone in the group will need to ‘film’ the project. Due to the high-amount of thought and planning involved, stop-motion animations are best suited to complex topics, as the level of thought and immersion needed by the group will lead to useful long-term memory of the concepts.

#8: Create a news report

A suitable example might be a group of three students being assigned the task of creating a news report about a chemical explosion. One student might be the best at art, and could be assigned to produce the graphics. One student might be great at verbal communication in front of an audience, and could be the ‘news anchor’. One student might understand chemical calculations really well, and could provide the script for the news anchor for that particular part of the task.

Students can get really creative with news reports, as nowadays there are so many ways in which they are done:

  • Webpages (e.g. created using New Google Sites)
  • Audio reports (e.g. for podcasting or internet radio)
  • Video reports (e.g. for standard terrestrial TV, internet TV or a Vlog)
  • Social media posts (If you go for this, then ask the students to compile an array of posts – one for IG, one for Facebook, one for Twitter, etc. – and make sure they link to a webpage the students have created)
  • Print media (e.g. a newspaper, magazine article, newsletter, etc.)

This works great when you can provide the groups with a menu, like the one above, from which they can choose what to create.

#9: Create a puzzle booklet

The beauty of this task is that it is both fun and lends itself really well to delegation – one person can create a crossword, one person a word search, one person a fill-in-the-blanks, etc.

Another great thing about puzzle-building is that there are literally tons of free, puzzle building websites out there. Check these out:

#10: Create a classroom display

A warm, inviting classroom that’s colorful, fresh and light can really benefit your students. In fact, expansive research published by the University of Salford shown that well-designed classrooms can improve learning progress in primary school pupils by up to 16%.

This was the first time that clear evidence of the effect of the physical classroom environment on learning was established.

Oftentimes, teachers are stuck with the classrooms they are given. If your furniture is old, natural light is bad or the air-conditioning isn’t perfect, then it’s tough luck. One thing we can change, however, is the quality of our displays. Other aspects of the classroom environment can also be adjusted alongside this (See my article about this here: The Starbucks Protocol), so don’t neglect that side of the equation either.

So what are the best ways that we can create beautiful classroom displays? Good news – I’ve written a whole, separate blog post this very topic (with examples and instructions) here.

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