Tips to support the mental wellbeing of your students

Jan-Wolter Smit

Head of Education

In this article, we cover 4 indicators of a potential mental health imbalance in your classroom. We offer some suggestions on what you could do to respond to:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Attachment
  3. Looked-after children
  4. Low mood

These 4 potential signals are inspired by a booklet on mental health and wellbeing in schools, written by the Anna Freud foundation. For more information on each point, please read the entire booklet and make sure you consult your government’s advice concerning mental health & wellbeing in schools.

1. Anxiety

While most young people worry about school sometimes, 1 in 10 experience severe anxiety while speaking in front of the classroom, and/or socialising with their peers. They will do their best to avoid these situations. It might get to the point that they experience physical and visible symptoms, such as panic attacks.

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How can LessonUp support you in helping your anxious students?

  • Help your students feel safe
    People with anxiety often do not like being singled out by a teacher, or risk outing an opinion that might not be popular for fear of rejection. By keeping your students' answers anonymous to the class (while still retaining results for your teacher's view) you encourage everyone to speak freely, without anyone being able to point out "who said what".

  • Help them find ways to face their fears gradually
    In some cases, it can be helpful to encourage students who dislike speaking in the classroom to work on this skill. The LessonUp digital spinner, for example, can be used to completely randomise participation. As the spinner decides whose turn it is to speak, there are no arguments about anyone being singled out. It gives everyone a fair opportunity to voice their opinions. Once the concept that "the spinner decides" is part of your classroom culture, participation will most probably follow,.

  • Give your students positive, constructive feedback
    Praise and reward big and small successes by giving them constructive feedback straight away. Use the student reports function at the top of your screen to really get to know your students' strengths, and help them overcome their fear of failure by offering direct feedback for improvement.

2. Attachment

A secure attachment helps children and young people feel safe and self-assured. When parents or other familiars are not able to provide them with consistent loving care, they may develop an insecure attachment to these people.

How do you identify young people or children with attachment issues? Keep an eye on kids who are unfocussed, disruptive, controlling, withdrawn, or destructive.

How can LessonUp support you in helping students with these feelings?

  • Help them explore their feelings
    Students with attachment issues may react disproportionally to situations, and, although very aware of their emotions, they may not be able to express them. By using very specific statements in a poll with happy to sad emojis, you can help them explore their feelings without writing them down.

  • .Provide your students with praise and direct feedback
    Students with attachment issues tend to value praise and direct feedback: positive, and with a clear, achievable purpose. Use the "comment" feature in the student reports to include encouraging messages to your pupils.

  • Help them visualise what they have achieved & what they know
    Using a mind map as a tool for reflection encourages students to be proud of their achievements, and helps them learn to measure their own accomplishments. This is a valuable way to encourage them to visualise what they have achieved on their own, in the classroom, or picked up outside the classroom (prior knowledge). They have a visual snapshot of their learning and knowledge. Each time, it helps boost their self-esteem.

3. Looked-after children

In some cases, kids might be removed from their family circle to be put in the care of foster parents, or of the local authority. This can affect their ability to focus, learn, stay positive, and form healthy relationships. Not all looked-after children develop mental health issues, but chances are higher that they might do.

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How can LessonUp support you in helping looked-after children?

  • Encourage your students to express their thoughts
    Looked-after children may struggle with emotional literacy, especially if they haven't had a stable home experience. By implementing open-ended questions in LessonUp, you encourage them to express their thoughts and understand their own emotions in the privacy of a safe digital environment.

  • Make them feel heard and understood
    Looked after children are all categorised under the same label, even if they have experienced widely different upbringings. Ensure your students feel like individuals: personalise content like homework through differentiation.

  • Be clear in your communication
    All children have the potential to misread body language and non-verbal indicators. Use components like the traffic light to signal to your class what they should be doing: working in silence, discussing with peers, or taking a break. Make sure your instructions are explicit by using visual reminders.

4. Low mood

Irritability, or an absence of feeling, pleasure, or motivation may be signs of low mood. These are fairly normal emotions. If consistent, and ongoing for at least 2 weeks, they may indicate something more. Sometimes low mood is related to challenging home circumstances, persistent bullying, or difficult peer relations. 

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How can LessonUp support you in helping students who experience an ongoing low mood?

  • Track your students’ satisfaction
    Use an anonymous poll with happy to sad emojis to assess student satisfaction throughout your lessons. This is a great way to track their  contentment levels, and spot students who harbour negative emotions.

  • Reward them for their commitment
    At LessonUp, we always promote education first. However, there are many benefits to rewarding your students for their dedication and commitment, while maintaining their motivation. Why not have a monthly reward quiz after they have finished their summative assessments for the term?

  • Monitor your students’ results
    Student results are safely stored in the student reports functionality. You can choose to share this information with relevant members of the school staff, such as the Child Protection team, or Pastoral Care. It is also an interesting way to track pupil mood and motivation throughout the term.

Check out our other blog on mental health