Teaching beyond the curriculum

If you’re a teacher – you already know that teaching is more than Math, Reading, Writing, Science, and Social Studies. If you’re an elementary teacher – you probably already know that what your students will remember you for, is definitely more than the fact that you taught them to read/count.

I teach in a Title 1 school – our students struggle with more than the curriculum. Yes – I think it is very important that we teach the curriculum and hold our students to high standards to help them succeed in their educational journeys.

However, I also think it is vital that we teach them emotional intelligence, how to be a friend, and resilience/growth mindset/grit.

If you struggle to find the time – or engaging ways to teach these things – I have some resources for you! We used these resources for a summer school program we did that focused on these things. I used 2 of these resources last year with my class and they LOVED them!! I was able to meet and learn from the authors of two of these resources at a conference for teachers of at-risk youth (NAREN = national at risk education network).

Here they are!

Rhythm to Recovery

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This book is amazing for building/developing emotional intelligence and self awareness. It is a program that is used with children/students in Australia. This book includes activities that can be used in a drum circle, using music and movement to help students feel empowered and have fun while developing emotionally. Simon has used this, and similar programs, with a variety of groups.

Many students in Title 1 schools are living with trauma – because of their environments. Our school is working on becoming a trauma-sensitive school. This program is definitely something I am excited to incorporate into my classroom.

Over the summer we used the desks as drums – but I have collected old water drums so that I have a class set of “drums” to use. Our music teacher also worked with students to create their own drums which they took home (they used old coffee tins/cans, cat litter tubs, etc)

Who is it geared towards?

  • Upper elementary grades, middle, and high school

When could you embed/incorporate this?

  • Talk to your music teacher about using this as part of their curriculum
  • Have a drum circle once/twice a week for morning meeting
  • You could run an after school program using this resource
  • If you have a behavior specialist or someone who works with social groups – share the resource with them
  • The activity and discussion doesn’t have to be long – could be done in 10 – 15 mins

Why use these activities?

  • They provide a fun and engaging way to discuss emotions and self-awareness with students
  • Here is an excerpt from the website: “Rhythm2Recovery programs utilize the latest neuroscience on the use of rhythmic exercise as a therapeutic medium for supporting people with emotional disorders. Primal brain structures that regulate the ‘stress response’ can be positively impacted through rhythmic input and assist people gain control over their emotions, reduce anxiety levels and increase well-being.” 

Mindsets in the Classroom

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These books are perfect if you teach growth mindset and/or grit. There are many activities, and resources that help students not only understand what growth mindset is, but why it works. There are hands on activities to help students make sense of some of the more abstract ideas; such as neural connections.

There are also resources for parents and ideas on sharing growth mindset beyond the classroom.

Who is it geared towards?

  • Elementary grades (could be easily adapted for Middle School)

When could you embed/incorporate this?

  • Morning meeting a couple of times a month could be used to introduce concepts, but can be referenced throughout the school day

Why use these activities/this book?

  • Teaching students what growth mindset is great, and teaching them phrases that help them build that mindset is great too – however, this book digs deeper than that.
  • The activities are fun and student friendly
  • The book includes book lists, videos, and games that help develop growth mindset

Experiential Activities for Enhancing Emotional Intelligence

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This book is amazing for incorporating fun team building activities that also promote emotional intelligence. Each activity comes with a specific lesson purpose – and discussion questions to help students make the connection between the activity and their lives. It is a little pricey, but there are enough activities to get you through the whole school year.

Scott has some free activities available on his website.



Who is it geared towards

  • All grade levels (most suited to intermediate grades)

When could you embed/incorporate this?

  • The activities range in duration – and can be used during transitions, or morning meeting activities.
  • Students may even be willing to engage in some of the activities during recess
  • These can even be used with staff to build school culture

Why use these activities?

  • They foster an effective learning community
  • If students feel like they are a part of a community – they are more likely to take risks during the school day.
  • Peer support is essential for students to be in the right state for learning to take place.
  • The activities don’t feel like team building games – which some older students (and teachers) may be resistant to


What resources do you use to teach beyond the curriculum?

I’d love to hear from you!

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