Especially useful for high/special needs children
Ways to Welcome Every Child
Tell them what you are going to do before you do it and/or write simple agenda on the board.
- Often highly stimulated children need to know the structure before them, what is going to happen next. You can choose a different child to check off each item once it is completed.
- Create a consistent opening ritual with chalice lighting. Consider including check-in and joys/concerns (optional), but try and do the same things each week.
Give positive attention to appropriate behavior. “Thank you for sitting criss-cross-applesauce, Julie. Great job!” or “John is raising is hand, thank you, John!”
Relate lesson materials to concerns that children raise. Work to connect the lesson to the relevant things in their lives as they share them with the class.
Incorporate sensory motor activity as much as possible.
- When you begin your circle, begin with a game of Simon Says—you lead every time until you can trust that other children can lead. Make it more about creative uses of the body than “tricking” them with the Simon says part.
- Give fidgety or clowning children something to work with in hands like pipe cleaners or small amount of playdoh.
- Utilize outdoor campus and spaces when weather permits. Many children spend most of their waking hours indoor. A bit of fresh air can make a big difference.
- Charades to answer questions: have two children jump to the front and have them either act out their answer (charades style) or make a physical motion to go with their verbal answer. Have the whole class repeat the physical motion.
- You can also incorporate movement to simple chalice lighting words that you repeat every week. Chant them loudly, softly, super-fast or very slow. Chant them while moving certain body parts or dancing and make up new gestures each time to refine the gestures you already have. A good set of words to use:
We are Unitarian Universalists
This is the church of the open mind
This is the church of the flaming chalice
This is the church of the loving heart
This is the church of the welcoming hands.
- Begin with simple yoga exercise or sun salutation. Push the children to time their breathing (inhale/exhale) to specific movements.
When you are ready to settle down for your circle/story/sharing time:
- Ring the chime. Have them sit comfortable in their own space breathe deeply and close their eyes. Instruct them to only open their eyes when they can no longer hear the chime.
- Recite your covenant together in the form of promises, “I promise to ___________ “
- Use a talking stick or koosh ball. Only the person in possession of the item may be the one talking and they can choose the next person to share.
If behavior and disruption persists, here are some corrective procedures:
- Use the 1,2,3 eyes on me policy. 1) Kindly ask a child to stop a behavior that is undesirable. 2) Give the child a second chance by getting close to a child if need be and ask the child firmly to stop the behavior. 3) The third time the child has a consequence. The child is spoken to privately in love. They can come back to the circle or activity if they feel they are ready. It works well as long as a teacher is committed to the consequence. If we have a child with special needs, sometimes the consequence is doing another activity alone for a while until they are ready to come back to the group. Teachers who are warm and demanding work the best in my experience. You may need to redirect or ask some children repeatedly, calmly and non-punitively, reminding them of what the promises and expectations are for participation.
- Reposition a child who is distracting or encouraging others to misbehave. Seat them near another teacher or adult.
- Find a way for a child to help in RE outside of the classroom. Contact DRE or RE assistant and have them come get the child to be a helper. Like helping prepare materials or organizing supplies. This has given them responsibility and leadership in also serving their community. Also gives me the opportunity to get to know them personally. One child loves to walk around with me and take attendance in each class!
- Find opportunities for the children to take leadership role Can he/she lead a song, light the chalice, ring the chime, cut out things, hand out name tags, make sure everyone signed-in—be creative.
- Have a time for meditation/centering as part of the class ritual each week. These might be sitting in silence listening to a gong, a walking meditation in the labyrinth or around campus, painting on the magic yogi board, tai chi, yoga, etc.
Loss of turn or privilege
Sitting quietly, alone in chair for a specified amount of time
Joining DRE or RE Assistant for remainder of morning in the office.
Sitting with parents in church
You may choose other consequences providing they follow the volunteer handbook guidelines.
A note about participation expectations: While we do not require children to participate in any activity, they are not free to do whatever they choose or to be disruptive.
- It is acceptable and appropriate to require children to sit in your circle. They are free to “pass” when it comes to speaking/sharing etc. but they must indeed sit with the group. If one does not want to do a particular activity, she/he may choose to sit off to the side and observe.
- Use the behavioral covenant as your guide (it is posted in your classroom). There are listed consequences on that document and parents have signed it upon registration.
- Safety Issues: Children may not sit on top of or under tables—that is a safety issue. They may not leave the class without an adult, unless they need to use the restroom.
- Communicate with parents immediately after class. Please talk with parents when their child has had a difficult time in class. Do not wait until issues get worse, let’s involve parents in finding appropriate strategies and solutions right away. Please do not report only to DRE without parental notification.