Movement, Play, and SEL: Create a Picture Book Dance Story

By Connie Bergstein Dow, author of From A to Z with Energy! 26 Ways to Move and Play

Over my long career as a dance educator, I have especially enjoyed teaching creative dance to young children. I love inspiring their enormous and fertile imaginations to explore ideas through movement. Picture books have been the catalyst for many of our lively, creative dance sessions. Each book we read is a rich source of movement ideas. Children enjoy revisiting the book, and through a teacher’s open-ended movement prompts and the children’s own kinesthetic responses, the resulting explorations can be energetic, playful, and enriching.

Movement, Play, and SEL: Create a Picture Book Dance Story

How Children Benefit from Dance Stories

Children love to bring stories alive using dance and music. In addition to the dramatic play and the joy of being physically active and moving to music, this activity offers many other benefits, including learning concepts from the early childhood curriculum, as well as SEL skills:

  • Comprehension
  • Making predictions
  • Sequencing
  • Identifying with and understanding different characters in a story
  • Exploring and learning about the story’s setting and background
  • Vocabulary acquisition
  • Recognition of rhyme and rhythm
  • Alphabet knowledge and letter recognition
  • Listening skills
  • Body control and awareness
  • Creativity
  • Problem solving: Both individually and as part of a group
  • Curriculum enrichment: Adds the “A” for Art (Dance) and the “R” for Reading to expand STEM subjects from STEM to STEAM to STREAM
  • Manipulating Props: I often add props to the stories (for example: white shower scrubbies for snowballs if it is a story about winter, sparkly streamers if it is a story about the night sky). Children learn to control and manipulate objects while they are moving, in addition to learning to be aware and considerate of other children in the space who are also using props.

Bonus Benefits

Expand the format: Dance stories can also be created from songs and poems.

Great for informal group productions: Use your dance story as the basis for a performance for families and friends. Add optional costumes, props, and scenery!

Two Dance Stories to Use with Your Group

Below are two dance stories. The first is from a concept picture book, and the second is from a picture book with a story arc. Both have a number of action words to inspire playful movement ideas, and both wrap up the activity by bringing the children to a quiet finish. A dance story can be a very short activity (10 minutes or so), or can be expanded into a much longer one. The two dance stories below would take about 20-30 minutes including reading the book, going through the various prompts, winding down to the story, and bringing the children to a calm and quiet ending.

Dance the Alphabet!: A Dance Story Based on My Book From A to Z with Energy!

The underlying theme of my rhyming alphabet book, From A to Z with Energy!, is the joy of being active. Begin by reading the story aloud to the group of children. Then ask them to spread out in the available space. This dance story can be done with each child in their own spots (invite them to move around on their spots if they are to stay in one particular area), or with everyone moving throughout the space. Play some upbeat instrumental music, if available, and call out the prompts below, one by one. Allow plenty of time between prompts so children can fully explore their ideas.

A: What activities do you like to do? Dance about something you would like to do outside today!

B: How many ways can you move the different parts of your body? First move your head, then your arms, shoulders, fingers, torso, legs, feet, toes. Now try to move all of the parts at the same time!

C: Can you clap your hands over your head? Behind your back? While you are bending forward? How else can you clap your hands?

D: Can you clap and dance at the same time?

E: How do you move when you are very tired? How about when you feel energetic?

F: What do you like to do that is the most fun for you? Dance about it!

G: Run in place as fast as you can! Ready, set, GO!

H: Play a pretend game of hopscotch.

I: Put on your imaginary ice skates. Skate around the ice!

J: Jump as high as you can.

K: Imagine you are swimming outside on a warm summer day. Float, kick, splash!

L: What do you like to eat for lunch? Sit down and take a break to eat your pretend lunch.

M: Your muscles are stretchy, like rubber bands. Stretch your arms, legs, and torso.

N and O: Let’s imagine we take a nature walk outside. Hike, climb, and wade through a creek. What do you see? What do you hear?

P: Pretend you are at a playground. Swing, slide, and walk across a balance beam.

Q: Put on your snowsuit, and slide quickly down a big hill on a sled!

R: Line up at a starting line, and imagine you are racing.

S: Using a pretend soccer ball, try dribbling down the field, passing to a teammate, and scoring a goal.

T: Twirl one way, then the other! Slowly fall and imagine landing in the soft grass.

U: Stand at home plate with a pretend bat in your hand. Imagine a pitcher throws a ball. Swing the bat, and hit a home run! Watch the ball as it goes up, up, up, and then over the fence.

V: All of this dancing is very tiring! Let’s start walking home at the end of a long day.

W: Continue walking, and imagine you are walking home. Look up at the moon!

X, Y, Z: Take a big exhale! Yawn and stretch. Lie down, and close your eyes. Sweet dreams! Zzzz. 

Let’s Create an Impossible Garden! A Dance Story Based on Jayden’s Impossible Garden by Mélina Mangal

As in the dance story above, start by reading the book aloud. Play some quiet instrumental background music, if available. Then proceed with the following movement prompts, allowing time for children to respond to each:

1. Jayden loved nature. He liked to imagine he was in a tree house. Pretend to climb a tree, like Jayden did in his imagination.

2. He wanted to show his mother that nature was everywhere, even in the city. Jayden saw squirrels scurrying around. Be a squirrel! He saw cardinals. Can you fly like a cardinal?

3. Imagine you are Mr. Curtis. Pretend to move your wheelchair toward the apartment building by holding onto the big wheels and pushing them slowly. Feel the cool breeze and the sunshine on your face.

4. Can you build a secret fort? Collect wood, boxes, stones, and sticks. When you are finished, stand back and admire it. Now climb inside!

5. Plant a magical garden. Collect pots and decorate them. Put soil in each one. Add seeds. Water them carefully.

6. Can you be a busy ant, like the ones Jayden and Mr. Curtis saw? Now pretend you are the caterpillar that was the guardian of the garden. Crawl around, find a leaf, and munch on it! Can you imagine you are a spider, weaving a web?

7. Make a tiny hammock for your fort, just like Jayden did.

8. Gather together Mama and other people from your neighborhood. Show them all of the different things in your impossible garden. There is nature in the city!

9. Fly like a butterfly. Now fly like a hummingbird, beating your tiny wings very fast.

10. Finish by imagining you are flying like a dove, then landing gently in your nest on the hammock on top of your fort.

The general format of these two dance stories can be used over and over. Children will look forward to hearing you say, “Now let’s dance the story!”

For more movement resources, ideas for a variety of activities, and dance stories I have created from picture books and original stories and poems, visit my blog. All have detailed instructions, prop suggestions, ideas for expanding the activities, and much, much more!

Connie BergsteinConnie Bergstein Dow took her first dance class when she was four years old and has been dancing ever since. After attending Denison University and earning an MFA from the University of Michigan, she danced professionally in the United States, Venezuela, and Guatemala. Connie has had a long career as a dance educator and has written two books for teachers about integrating movement into the early childhood classroom, articles for magazines and journals, and verses for Highlights. She shares her passion for dance by writing, teaching, volunteering, visiting schools and libraries, and offering movement workshops to early childhood professionals. Visit Connie at

From A to Z with EnergyConnie is the author of From A to Z with Energy! 26 Ways to Move and Play

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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How to Set Positive Summer Screen-Time Limits for Children

By Elizabeth Verdick, author of  Screen Time Is Not Forever

How to Set Positive Summer Screen-Time Limits for ChildrenConfession: I’m writing this with three screens in front of me. The laptop I’m typing on, the phone I’m using for an interview, and the iPad playing an episode of The Office like white noise. (The fans blowing in the room aren’t blocking out household sounds, so the folks at Dunder Mifflin are helping do the job.) I suspect this will be a familiar scenario for many of you who are working from home. Screens are our routine.

And now our children have screen routines of their own.

Over the past year, many children relied on screens for learning and for staying in touch with family and friends. With so much time spent indoors avoiding crowds, kids also turned to screens for much of their entertainment, which increased the number of hours spent gaming and going online. Families now must adjust, figuring out summer screen rules for kids who’ve become more dependent on technology while also becoming more independent in their use of it.

How do you tell kids to cut down on their technology use? How can you do it convincingly if you’re in front of a screen yourself much of the day? It’s not easy.

My eight-year-old nephew and his parents are dealing with this problem. Lucas’s dad, Charles, discussed how he’s noticed that his son has spent so much of the past year on his iPad that he’s lost some of the social skills he was gaining at school and in team sports. “Now Lucas always talks about how everything is boring,” Charles told me. “The iPad kept his attention and now he wants it all the time. Lucas sets up two screens, one for his video game and one to FaceTime a friend playing the same game. It’s social, in a way. But maybe not the best way.”

Lucas’s mom, Erica, also faces the frustrations that come with their son’s gaming fascination. She said, “Lucas loves watching YouTube videos of gamers playing games while loudly commenting on every move!” Setting time limits on his video viewing leads to conflict, and sometimes she ends up just giving in after a long day of work. She’s learned that the best way to get Lucas to give up the screen is to have something planned to get him out of the house, like a game of tennis or a trip to the park. This is the point in the interview when Lucas himself chimed in: “She bribes me with Robux too!” (Robux are in-game currency for the game Roblox.) He then told his mom he’d give up the iPad for a week if she’d buy him two million Robux.

It helps to have a sense of humor about it all.

I’ve been writing about social and emotional learning (SEL) issues for years now, and I have a new set of books called Screen Time Is Not Forever, with a board book for toddlers and a more in-depth paperback for kids PreK-3. I wrote them for kids like Lucas, kids who love their tech but need limits so they still make time for friendships, fitness, and learning. (I’ll try to keep my sense of humor when Lucas tells me my new books are boring.)

As parents, we need lots of tools in our child-raising toolbox. As we help children move past the pandemic and find balance in their day-to-day activities, I think it’s important to keep our messages to kids positive, not punitive. Screen time isn’t “bad”—it’s a fundamental (and fun) part of modern life.

How can you present screen-time limits in a positive way?

Put real-world experiences first.

Have a daily routine that focuses on play dates, exercise, outdoor time, and face-to-face interaction. Marieka Heinlen, the illustrator of Screen Time Is Not Forever, has stuck to the idea of keeping screen time to a minimum by setting a good example for her two kids. Marieka said, “I’ve always wanted my kids to spend a lot of their time outside with friends or doing creative activities with their hands. We really try to spend time as a family off screens, just having fun together. Now that my kids are older, setting this example—as much as possible—has paid off.”

Make a family media plan.

You can check out the website by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for a family media plan that suits the ages of your children. The site allows you to customize items that apply to your kids and how you want media to fit into their lives. Another option is to keep things simple by making a screen-time schedule for your child each day.

Family Media Plan Schedule from Screen-Time Is Not Forever

Put computers and televisions in a shared area of your home.

This way, you can monitor what your child sees on screens and be part of the experience too.

Create screen-free zones.

Experts suggest having tech-free zones throughout the home so children and adults have places where they know screens stay off. For example, maybe you decide no tech at the table during family meals, or you make a rule that children can’t have screens in their bedrooms.

Monitor your own screen use.

Check in with yourself to see how you use screens in front of your children. Do you text instead of play with your kids at the park? Are you on social media while your kids are in the room with you? Do you have the TV on in the background as you go about your day? We all do these things at times, so the goal is not to feel guilty. Instead, just ask yourself if there are behaviors you want to change.

Think quality over quantity.


Lucas doesn’t spend all his time on screens. He also loves hockey, his friends, and the family’s two new kittens.

Some days, you may need to let your child spend more time on a screen than you’d like, but that’s okay. Look for high-quality educational content, or seek recommendations from Common Sense Media, where you’ll find age-based suggestions for television, movies, games, and apps.

Remember, it’s okay for kids to be unplugged—and bored. That boredom can lead to creativity and innovation once children get used to going tech-free at certain times of day. Have a go-bag of items such as toys, books, stickers, art supplies, and sports equipment at the ready. Get outside together and have some fun.

And if all else fails, there’s always the Parental Controls feature.


Elizabeth VerdickElizabeth Verdick has written children’s books for kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens. She has worked on many titles in the Laugh & Learn® series. Elizabeth loves helping kids through her work as a writer and an editor. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and their two (nearly grown) children, and she plays traffic cop for their many furry, four-footed friends

Free Spirit books by Elizabeth Verdick:
Try-Again TimeScreen Time Is Not Forever paperbackClean-Up Time


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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When Students Return: How to Create a Safe and Welcoming Learning Environment

By Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., author of Self-Regulation in the Classroom: Helping Students Learn How to Learn
Part of our Cash in on Learning series by Richard M. Cash, Ed.D. Click to read other Cash in on Learning posts.

When Students Return: How to Create a Safe and Welcoming Learning Environment As summer comes to a close, many of us are looking ahead to the beginning of a new school year. Some of us may feel trepidation about the coming year, considering what we all went through over the past year. I know that many students are feeling anxious about the full-time return to in-person learning. So, to assist both our students and ourselves in getting back into the swing, I have some suggestions for you to start the year off right.

As I’ve stated many times, “How we feel about a learning setting determines the focus of our attention.” Significant research suggests that a student’s emotional state has a strong impact on what and how much they learn. To ensure that students are ready for the complexity of thinking, we need to ensure the learning environment is safe, welcoming, and nurturing of each child’s development.

In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced his theory of human motivation development through a hierarchy of needs. His theory postulates that we move from meeting basic human needs such as food, shelter, and water, security, and safety, to the psychological needs of belongingness and self-esteem, to ultimately reaching self-fulfillment such as achieving one’s full potential. I’ve used this model to craft ways to start your year off right by building a solid foundation of the basic human needs and a sense of safety in the classroom. Consider the following four categories to support the emotional growth of your students from the very beginning.

Predictability in the Environment

Students who may be dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety need to know what they will encounter each day. This is also true for students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), or a learning difference (LD). Additionally, some students have highly unpredictable home settings. Making sure students know what to expect and how to make changes throughout the day will be critical at the beginning of the school year.

Ideas for establishing predictability:

  • Ensure that classroom rules/norms are clearly understood by every child and that these norms are framed in the positive. Three or four general statements are all you need, such as:
    • Be prepared to learn.
    • Be accepting of yourself and others.
    • Be helpful to others.
  • Post timelines, schedules, or schedule changes for all students to see.
  • Clearly state and address lesson objectives throughout the learning cycle.
  • Ensure that students know the consequences and rewards for classroom interactions and behavioral expectations.
  • When changes do happen, give students sufficient time to adjust or prepare for the shift.

Feeling Secure in the Learning Environment

One of the most basic functions of our brain is to seek out safety. In fact, our brain is constantly scanning the environment for those things that could injure or kill us. To move students’ brains out this fear-based survival mode and into higher cognitive functioning, here are some ideas for creating a safe classroom space:

  • Teach students that mistakes are opportunities to grow. Share your own experiences and growth from making mistakes! Kids need to know it’s okay to make mistakes and that your classroom is a safe place to do so.
  • Establish guidelines ensuring that all classroom members use positive and affirming language—there is no room in any classroom for deficit thinking, sarcasm, put-downs, or bullying.
  • Organize the classroom in a way that promotes interactions among learners, such as pods, desk groupings, or students facing each other during the learning process.
  • Guide all students to be supportive of each other and offer encouragement when things get challenging.
  • In the classroom, post student work that shows exceptional effort and success.

Consistency in Mood and Management

Along with the desire for predictability in the classroom, students also need to know there is consistency in how the classroom is managed. Equity and accountability are the cornerstones to developing a socially just learning space. To ensure consistency, I suggest:

  • Apply classroom rules/norms equally and equitably.
  • Be sure that all students understand and agree to the norms of respectful classroom interactions, discussions, group work, and independent work. Such norms might include:
    • All students’ ideas are valued.
    • Intellectual risk-taking is encouraged.
    • Each person contributes to the best of their abilities.
  • Reference learning objectives routinely throughout the learning process.
  • Strive to remain even-keeled when dealing with stressful or difficult situations. The reliability of the teacher’s persona is particularly important to creating an enjoyable learning space.
  • Demonstrate organization and display a sense of confidence.

Feeling Comfortable in the Classroom

Another of our human traits is to want a space of our own. Students will spend anywhere between 45 minutes to six hours a day in the classroom, so it’s important that it be comfortable and conducive to learning. Here are some ideas to increase the comfort of your classroom:

  • Be sure that each student has a seat or other place of their own to conduct their learning. This can be a desk, a beanbag, a couch, a high-top table, or a space on the carpet. Allowing students some flexibility around where and how they like to learn gives them a sense of ownership.
  • Make sure the lighting is appropriate to the learning situation, such as not being too low when viewing a screen and taking notes.
  • Keep noise to a minimum and ensure that it’s appropriate to what’s happening during learning.
  • Avoid strong odors, such as heavy perfume, air fresheners and incense—these can be very distracting without students recognizing it.
  • Smile, smile, smile! There a science to smiling—when we smile, our brain stimulates our reward system and increases the level of “happy hormones,” or endorphins.

You may have noticed that the ideas in this framework are tied into social and emotional learning (SEL). In fact, SEL is a key part of developing self-regulation for learning (SRL). To support our students’ needs, we must make sure our classroom environment pays attention to their social and emotional growth as well as their development of self-regulation.

Let me know how these ideas work for you, and what other ways you encourage kids to feel safe, secure, and a part of your classroom community as you begin the school year.

Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit Publishing. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.

Free Spirit books by Richard Cash:

Self-regulation Advancing Differentiation Revised and Updated Edition

Differentiation For Gifted Learners

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom: How All Teachers Can Create an Environment that Supports SEL

By Jonathan C. Erwin, M.A., author of The SEL Solution

Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom: How All Teachers Can Create an Environment that Supports SELSEL: Suddenly that acronym is ubiquitous in education journals, books for teachers, education websites and school districts’ professional learning plans. SEL was creeping into the education world before COVID-19, but now SEL is spreading faster than the virus was a year ago. Maybe that’s because the last year has been a social and emotional disaster, and educators are realizing SEL’s importance, not just for students, but for everyone. Or maybe it’s because CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) has provided educators with over 20 years of irrefutable, research-based evidence of the benefits of teaching social-emotional concepts and skills to students: from reducing behavior problems to improving students’ attitudes to significantly boosting their academic performance.

Whatever the reason, as an educator who has been teaching and promoting SEL for over 25 years, I’m thrilled that, after the last 10+ years of the de-humanizing obsession with standardized testing, SEL is now a major focus in K-12 education. While SEL is not new, (“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”—Aristotle), just the letters SEL are creating stress for many teachers, who after years of sticking to their state’s or county’s academic script, are unsure how to “do SEL.” Also, I’ve heard many teachers complain in SEL workshops that “I can’t teach SEL in algebra,” or “I have so much content to cover, I don’t have time to teach SEL.” If you are one of these teachers, or just want some ideas of how to integrate SEL in your classroom, this blog is for you.

According to CASEL’s research, three of the most important characteristics of an effective SEL initiative in the classroom are:

  1. Building a supportive classroom environment
  2. Explicit instruction in SEL concepts and skills
  3. Integrating SEL into the core curriculum

While, particularly at the secondary level, the ELA, social studies, or health teacher might be the best choice to provide explicit instruction, and those courses, because they involve human behavior, best lend themselves to curriculum integration, ALL teachers can build a supportive classroom environment. And that’s key for SEL.

The Five Characteristics of a Supportive Classroom Environment

Creating a supportive learning environment involves addressing basic human needs. Many psychologists, economists, sociologists, and educators (think Maslow, Pink, Deci, Glasser, et al.) have theorized about the universal human needs. While they don’t agree on the terminology, there is general agreement on five categories of human needs. By addressing these five needs, teachers can develop the kind of classroom climate that leads to high-quality learning and performance.

1. Survival, Safety, and Security

This set of needs involves the universal need to feel physically and emotionally safe in an orderly environment. If students don’t feel a sense of safety and order, their brains default to the fight-flight-freeze response, shutting down the frontal cortex and making learning impossible. Some things you can do to address this need:

  • Provide clear academic and behavioral expectations.
  • Develop a routine.
  • Post (and adhere to) a daily/weekly agenda so students know what to anticipate.
  • Teach procedures for practical tasks (entering the room, getting the teacher’s attention, getting materials, cleaning up, going to the restroom, etc.).
  • Replace punitive or consequence-based discipline with restorative practices.
  • Use proficiency-based or competence-based grading system, replacing low grades with additional chances for success on summative assessments (no Fs, just incompletes or Not Yets).

2. Relationships and Belonging

This set of needs involves the drive to feel accepted, to belong to a group or community, and to have positive, trusting relationships. In direct opposition to the old “teacher college” adage “Don’t smile until Thanksgiving,” the newer “Students don’t care what you know until they know that you care” is far more accurate. In order to take a risk (and all new learning involves risk-taking to some degree), students need to feel they can trust the teacher and peers. Some things you can do to address this need:

  • Greet every student as they enter.
  • Let student get to know you beyond your role as teacher (appropriate personal information, outside interests, family, background info).
  • Admit mistakes.
  • Hold community meetings or restorative circles.
  • Clarify roles (My job is/Your job is/Everyone’s job is).
  • Use class-building games and activities.
  • Implement cooperative learning structures.

3. Personal Power

This is the need to feel competent, to learn, to be good at something, to be heard, to make a difference. This is really the basic need that schools are meant to address, giving students the knowledge and skills to lead successful lives. Some things you can do to address this need:

  • Use community meetings as a venue to listen to students’ stories, concerns, questions, etc.
  • Encourage a growth mindset:
    • Praise effort, progress, and strategy rather than ability, talent, or natural intelligence.
    • Use Not Yet instead of low grades, giving students additional chances to succeed.
    • Share quotations and posters that support growth-mindset thinking.
    • Share times you have struggled with fixed-mindset thinking OR when you were able to learn something that was difficult for you.
  • Recognize student success:
    • Publish student work.
    • Send positive parent postcards.
  • Name a student of the week (and every student is student of the week at some point):
    • Every week, turn over part of class to a student and allow them to share specific information with the class (favorite music, activities, people, etc.).

4. Freedom and Autonomy

This need involves choices and novelty. When people feel trapped or forced to do (or learn) something, they lose motivation to do what they are being asked to do. While school is compulsory for most students, there are still some things you can do to address this need:

  • Provide choices. Some choices teachers can provide:
    • Seating
    • Learning partners or cooperative groups
    • Community meeting topics
    • Homework (odd- or even-numbered questions)
    • Assessment (Sometimes, you can assess student learning by allowing them to play to their strengths—perform a rap, write a skit, write an essay, create a model, paint a picture, etc.)
  • Provide novelty. While it’s important to have a routine, it’s also important to break up the monotony with something new and different. Some things teachers can do:
    • Teach in a different place (outside, in the auditorium, from a different part of the room).
    • Bring in guest speakers.
    • Take students on field trips (or virtual field trips).
    • Have students work with a partner they don’t usually work with.
    • Change up the routine.
    • Have students teach.

5. Fun and Play

This is the need that all mammals have, the need to play. The purpose of play in all species is twofold: the first is to bond with members of the same species. The second is to learn. If you watch kittens, puppies, even baby hyenas, you will see them playing. Through the ways they play, they are learning skills they will need as adults to survive (hunting, working as a pack, etc.). Children, too, when they play, are bonding with each other and learning important skills they will need later in life (sharing, cooperating, competing, etc.). Some things you can do to address this need:

  • Use humor.
  • Do class-building games and activities.
  • Create learning games for content.
  • Have a Joke Day (students are assigned to bring in an appropriate joke).
  • Throw celebrations of learning (We achieved 100% competence on this test!).

Be addressing these five universal human needs in the classroom, you will find students’ attendance and their attitude toward learning improves. Most importantly, though, it sets the stage for high quality learning, both in terms of subject area content and for SEL. By giving students what they need, you will be getting what you want, improved behavior and better learning.

Author Jonathan C. Erwin, M.A.Jonathan C. Erwin, M.A., has been a secondary English teacher, a professional development specialist, a college professor, and the director of training and curriculum for a federally funded character education program. His previous books include The Classroom of Choice (ASCD, 2004) and Inspiring the Best in Students (ASCD, 2010). Jon is currently an independent educational consultant, a senior faculty member at the William Glasser Institute, and a trained HealthRhythms facilitator. Jon’s work focuses on providing research-based approaches to teaching, managing, counseling, and training that appeal to people’s intrinsic motivations and help children, adolescents, and adults develop physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. A musician and martial arts enthusiast, Jon has earned a second degree black belt in karate and a first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He lives in western New York.

The SEL SolutionJonathan Erwin is the author of The SEL Solution: Integrate Social and Emotional Learning into Your Curriculum and Build a Caring Climate for All.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Enter for a Chance to Win a $200 Free Spirit Gift Certificate!

Enter for a Chance to Win a $200 Free Spirit Gift Certificate

We’re giving away a $200 gift certificate to use at to one lucky winner!  Last month we provided a variety of professional learning resources in three subject areas (early childhood education; differentiation, gifted, and special needs; and mental health and SEL) for your summer professional development. This month, we want to hear about what you are learning.

To Enter for a Chance to Win: Leave a comment below with one thing you have learned on your summer PD journey.

You haven’t started yet? It’s not too late! Visit to choose your subject and start learning. Whether you have a few minutes or a few days to devote to professional development, you’ll find a resource that fits your needs.

Entries must be received by midnight, July 23, 2021. The winner will be selected at random and contacted via email on or around July 26, 2021, and will need to respond within one week to claim the prize or another winner will be chosen. Winner must be a US resident, 18 years of age or older.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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