As an educator, I always felt I knew my learners extremely well. While it is great if an educator or parent knows their kids so well, it’s actually not enough. The real magic comes when we teach kids to start understanding themselves and develop strong self-awareness skills. Self-awareness is having a strong understanding of oneself. That includes understanding our thoughts, emotions, strengths, challenges, needs, and dreams for the future.
Self-awareness is important for children and younger learners because it sets the stage for success. If kids have a better understanding of their emotions, actions, and abilities, they can make better choices to help them be successful in and outside of the classroom.
Here are a couple quick examples of why self-awareness matters:
Imagine a child who just starts crying in class. The child is so upset that they can barely get a word out, and no adult in the room understands what happened. Finally, the child points to the math worksheet they were working on. It has answered scribbled out. The teacher finally realizes that the child was frustrated with the work and did not know how to solve the problems. If that child had stronger skills for self-awareness, he or she could have asked for help, tried a new strategy, asked a peer, or taken a break if their frustrations were escalating.
Next, let’s consider a student with stronger self-awareness skills. This learner knows they want to play on the basketball team this year, so they make a concerted effort to improve their skills and talk to the gym teacher about how to join. By understanding their hopes for the future, this learner has a much better chance of achieving their goals.
The good news is that self-awareness skills can be taught and practiced on a regular basis. Of course, it’s important to note that self-awareness skills don’t develop all at once. Learning them is a process that takes time and practice.
If you want to get started right away, consider checking out this Self-Awareness Unit developed specifically for
Here are some strategies you can try to get your learners started:
Encourage kids to use their strengths. If a student is strong with technology, let him or her be the technology support staff in the room. If another child loves music, let them help pick out some calming selections to play during morning work. The options are endless. All kids deserve a chance to shine.
Teach skills for confidence. Confidence provides a great sense of self-understanding and self-awareness. Feeling confident doesn’t usually come on its own, though. Teach kids how to be confident by learning how to take risks, develop a growth mindset, and celebrate their wins.
Have kids compliment themselves. Encourage students to write a “compliment list” about themselves. They can post this list somewhere at home or keep it in their binder to remind themselves of their strengths
Let kids share their passions. Give a weekly show and tell time that allows kids to share something important to them. Whether a student is playing the flute for their classmates or telling about a new insect they found, these are moments that can help each child develop a stronger sense of what they are most interested in.
Try new things together. We are all works in progress! Kids need lots of opportunities to try different things and find out what they are most passionate about. Play different genres of music, read different types of texts, and encourage activities that students might not have tried before. Every new opportunity is a chance for students to learn about who they are.
Teach about emotions. Even if students have a basic understanding of feelings, they may fully grasp other more in-depth emotional concepts. Teach students to learn a larger emotional vocabulary, explain that emotions have different levels (slightly annoyed to irate), and discuss how you can feel multiple emotions at once. Learning about emotions will help children understand their own feelings on a day-to-day basis.
Create a daily emotion check-in time. Children benefit greatly from understanding their own feelings. Give 5 or 10 minutes each morning to allow students to check in with themselves. You can have them write in a journal or fill out a check in form to share how they are feeling.
Embrace a growth mindset. All kids should know that they can accomplish more when they work hard and have a positive mindset. Teach what it means to have a growth mindset. Practice a
Discuss hopes and dreams. No matter the age, everyone should have aspirations to look forward to! Give time to discussing hopes and dreams for the future. You might discuss where students want to travel to, what activities they want to try, and what they hope to be like in the future. Note that hopes and dreams can change over time, so this is something you can revisit time and time again.
Research career interests. It’s never too early to consider future career paths! You can assign careers to students or let them choose. Have kids find some interesting facts about that career and share it with the class.
Develop and monitor goals. Meet individually with students and help them come up with specific goals they want to work on. Again, this is something that can be done with all ages. Whether their goal is wanting to read three chapter books or complete all their homework, SMART goals can help kids have a greater understanding of where they are and what they need to do to improve.
Schedule student conferences. Meet with each student individually on a regular basis. This might look different depending on how many students you work with. The more regularly you can meet with your learners, the better. Spend just 5-10 minutes discussing how the student is doing, what is working well, and what they could improve. This student conference format can help kids gain understanding into where they are and what they need to do to continue working towards goals.
If you are looking for resources to teach self-awareness skills right away, check out this Social Emotional Learning Unit for Self-Awareness or this Social Emotional Learning Curriculum for the whole year.
Whether you decide to start teaching the lessons right away, or just implement a few small strategies throughout the year, know that self-awareness is an important skill for all learners to develop!