Anger is one of those monster emotions that can sneak up on us from no where. It happens to adults, kids, and everyone inbetween, and sometimes it isn't easy to pinpoint exactly what makes us angry.
Anger can play a big part in our classrooms if we let it, but we can also learn to corral the emotion and support our students so that it doesn't play such a large role in their lives. In order to do this we much teach our students that while it is okay to be angry about something, it is NOT alright for it to ruin our day or even life. This post includes seven ideas for taming anger and helping students to work through it!
Watch for Cues
I know that sometimes our students can be complete mysteries to us, but this just means that we get to play a game of clue. Watch your student closely and see what really makes them tick. What makes them smile? What makes them frustrated? What really gets their blood boiling?
You can use all of these cues to your advantage when working with this student. If you find something that truly brings them joy, then jot that down because you can use that! If you find something that really pushes their buttons then you better remember that too so that you can be prepared for any time you know it is going to come up. The thing is, some things that push our students' buttons are easily avoidable, and should be. Other things are necessary as part of classroom culture and routine, but we can find a way to make it work for all our students.
For example, I had a student my very first year that absolutely hated the cooperative learning structure Quiz Quiz Trade. I mean he would throw desks on the ground, toss around supplies, lock himself in the bathroom to kick and scream. I mean, he was REALLY set off by this structure. Now, this structure is also one of my favorites, and something we used almost every day, so there had to be a compromise. I spoke with this student and he said that he really hated being put on the spot and feeling dumb when he didn't know the answer. Our solution was that he would get to practice with the cards by himself before we completed them as a class. This was really a win-win, because he got extra practice with the concepts, and he didn't disrupt our class when it was time to complete the structure.
Be Firm, But Fair with all Students
No one likes when things don't seem fair. Even as an adult I hate it and it can really get me worked up. The trick is showing your students what fair is, and that is that everyone gets what they need, not what they want.
Throughout the day in the classroom, but especially when it comes to discipine, it is imperative to be firm, but fair with all students. Keep your expectations high for your class, and enforce them equally. This will take care of a lot of frustration.
Teach That It's Alright to Disagree
As mush as it would be wonderful if life was always sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns that's just not the way that it works. Being a kid and coming to terms with this is hard. Being an adult and coming to terms with this is hard. It's just hard.
Model for your students that it is okay to disagree. It is going to happen. It is NOT okay to have a fit over someone not sharing your opinions. Show your students what it means to respectfully disagree and find a compromise. This is a life long skill that will benefit them.
Discuss Anger and What Causes It
Talk about it. Seriously. We have so many things that have to get done each day that sometimes we get wrapped up in the academics and we forget that we are entrusted with the small humans that are growing and learning how to be citizens of the world in front of our very eyes.
Take the time to talk about emotions, not just anger, but all of them and what causes them. Talk about what brings your students joy and make that a larger part of the classroom. Talk about what makes students frustrated or angry and how you can work through it together. Really, just talk about it.
Be Active-Release Endorphins
I don't mean to bust out any early 2000s trivia or anything, but it is one of my favorite movie lines ever. Ever.
Okay, so this is only vaguely related to what we are talking about here, but could I really miss out on including that little gem? I think not.
Really though, movement gets more oxygen to the brain, releases endorphins, and improves our moods. It is hard to be angry when you are laughing at how silly you look doing the chicken dance, or even how silly your teacher looks doing the chicken dance.
Movement is vital for our students and should not be ignored or just used as a reward. It needs to be used consistently throughout the day. If you are worried that you are missing out on academic time, then make it part of the routine. When I was in a primary classroom with spelling words we would body spell (reach up for letters above the midline, touch our waist for letters on the midline, and touch our toes for letters that formed below) or punch consanants and kick vowels each day.
Along these lines:
Recess is vital. Please don't take it away. I know that sometimes it feels like the only power we have over students, but don't. I have struggled with this myself, but they really need it socially, emotionally, and physically.
Role play is a great way for students to see possible endings to the same situation. I almost always chose to play the part of "angry person" myself, because I didn't want my students to be stigmatized.
Play the scenario out a couple of ways, but always be sure to include the best case scenario of how things work out. We all need a little more hope in our lives that things will turn out great!
I am way late to the meditation game. I now people that have been using it for years with great success. I always thought that my brain was too easily distracted for mindful meditation to be effective, but that it is exactly the opposite. When I commit to those few minutes a day, it helps me to stay focused all day long.
There a lot of really great YouTube videos out there along with meditation and relaxation activities on GoNoodle which my students really got into.
Still not sold on meditation? I am telling you I had a tough time coming around to it, but it really helped my class. We spent 5 minutes every day right after recess centering and calming ourselves and it was as close to a miracle as I have ever seen.
I will leave you with the video that finally got me to try it, because I mean, if it works in high school why not fourth grade?