Fostering Good Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

Whether we’re looking up a recipe, getting directions, sharing a photo on social media or doing online banking — there’s no question: we’re living in a digital world.

And while there are many positive aspects to our connected world, there can be drawbacks and dangers, especially for young people who are still developing the critical thinking and interpersonal skills they need to stay safe and have positive interactions online.

Here are three tips shared by Ophea Canada in their blog post, Safe & Savvy Online, which I had the opportunity to contribute to and be interviewed for.

1. Connect to Curriculum:

The 2015 H&PE Curriculum includes expectations around online behaviour in the Personal Safety and Injury Prevention component of the Healthy Living strand, in the Human Development and Sexual Health strand and through the Living Skills—the personal, interpersonal and critical and creative thinking skills that are woven throughout the curriculum.

We want students to use Living Skills like critical thinking so they’re questioning what they’re seeing online and thinking about the integrity of what they’re doing, as well as the behaviours and actions of others.

2. Connect to the Community:

School administration, the OPP, Kids Help Phone or local police and public health for are great resources and sources of support. As teachers we can learn from professionals and subject experts about situations that have occurred, what resources are available, and what actions the school or community have taken in the past and can take in the future.

Collaborating with other teachers and various organizations (like the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) can also be a good way to stay up-to-date on trends in technology. It changes very quickly, and in most cases students know before we do as educators. Be willing to learn and comfortable knowing that your students will likely know more than you.

3. Connect to the Everyday:

Internet safety needs to be part of the everyday safety we’re teaching students. As teachers we can model positive behaviour and learning through “Think Alouds” as we Google search various topics connected to the curriculum.

Learning online is simply an extension of what we’re already doing. Teachers should be integrating online safety as they would any safety topics, including road safety, safe handling of food, and bullying.

By teaching students to think critically about what they read, see and share and then to act with kindness and integrity, just as we want them to do in real life, we’ll help to ensure our students success and safety—both in the virtual and the face-to-face world.

To read the original blog post through Ophea, click here.

5 Sweet Classroom Rewards that Aren’t Food

This post was originally shared on Ophea’s blog. View the original post here.

Rewards can be an effective way to encourage positive student behaviour in the classroom and around the school. When enforcing or revisiting desired behaviours, small rewards can often help students establish the activity and encourage maintenance of the new behaviour, with self-motivation eventually taking over, and outside reinforcement no longer being necessary.


Last week I was asked by a Hamilton elementary school’s Health Action Team to support their “Random Acts of Kindness Challenge” by teaching Kids Yoga to the classes which had demonstrated the most acts of kindness during their school wide challenge. This creative reward was suggested by their Public Health Nurse and selected by the students on the team. The day was fun for all and this creative idea aligned with the schools focus on healthy, active living, and mental health promotion.

While food rewards, specifically candy and other treats, are often used because they are inexpensive and easy to come by, these types of rewards can reinforce unhealthy eating habits, and undermine children’s diets and health. Providing food based on performance or behavior undermines Health and Physical Education curriculum instruction related to the healthy eating topic area. This includes expectations on making healthy food choices, as well as internal hunger and thirst cues, by encouraging children to eat treats even when they are not hungry.

Countless alternative rewards can be used to provide positive reinforcement for student’s behavior and performance. Consider these fun ideas when thinking of options for non-food rewards in your classroom.

1. Pick a different seat for a day. Students change desk locations with another student in their class. Consider letting students decide the arrangement of the desks for the day – who knows, you might like what they suggest and keep it!

2. Join another class. Individual student winners join a friends class for one special subject area (e.g., Phys.Ed., Art, Science).

3. Treasure box of fun school supplies. Individual students pick an item out of a treasure box with prizes that would support them during their school day including stickers, pencils, erasers, markers etc.

4. Theme dress day. If students wear uniforms consider a “no uniform for the day” pass for individual students or the entire class. Consider other theme days for the entire class including safari, favourite musician, sport star, or story book character.

5. Family night activity bag. Individual students take home for the weekend their choice of a “Family night” bag borrowed from the teacher including “sport night” (contains various balls and athletic games), “lego night” (containing various lego pieces and kits), and “movie night” (containing age and message appropriate movies).

So Teachers, how do you keep your classroom rewards healthy?
Share your thoughts in the comments below or send me a tweet @CatchingHeather!

Creating an H&PE Space that’s Bully Free

As Health and Physical Education (H&PE) teachers, the goal of maintaining both a physically as well as emotionally safe classroom is often on our mind. Physical safety is a relatively easy concept to overcome; use your common sense, act as a cautious parent and refer to your school board policies and the Ontario Safety Guidelines.

Emotional safety isn’t as easy. In H&PE, students are learning new skills, participating actively in a public space, exploring, learning, succeeding, and making mistakes in front of classmates. We’re discussing many personal topics which might be sensitive in nature (substance use, mental health, puberty), some of these topics are visible to the eye or they might be invisible, but they are personal all the same.

So, how can teachers create a space free of bullying that allows students to learn and grow? Here are a few of thoughts, and we would love to hear yours too!

1. Create an Emotionally Safe Environment
Emotional safety is a crucial aspect of a healthy learning environment. Teachers should provide a space for learning which emphasizes the importance of treating students with respect at all times, highlights the significance of being sensitive to individual differences, and provides an inclusive learning environment that accommodates individual strengths, needs, and interests. Students should be safe and feel supported when they make mistakes and they should work together and encourage each other. The Health and Physical Education environment should be one of support, not one of fear.

2. Focus on Living Skills
Thanks to the revised Ontario H&PE curriculum, educators can use nearly every opportunity that comes along in H&PE—whether it’s an argument over which team went out of bounds, a kid who feels discouraged after missing a shot or a student’s question about managing stress—to talk about conflict resolution, self-awareness, and a variety of other life skills that can help students to build resilience and interpersonal skills as they move throughout their day.

By authentically examining personal skills, interpersonal skills, and critical thinking skills in real life situations, students develop a positive sense of self, develop and maintain healthy relationships, and use critical thinking processes as they set goals, make decisions, and solve problems. They learn to get along and they learn how to respond when they don’t. They will learn to make choices that protect their safety and health, and they learn to become independent thinkers and responsible adults who are capable of developing strong relationships and who are committed to lifelong healthy, active living.

3. Be Present and In The Know
Depending on the facility available to you in your gym, there may be hot spots of bullying, ones you know and ones you might not. Reflect on the culture and rules associated with change room use. Are there stairs or hallway areas that go unsupervised? Consider as a core activity to have students participate in a “dot-mocracy”. Using stickers highlight areas on a map of the school that are known for bullying, then do something about it! Share this information with your division team, school safety committee, and consider having student leaders move fun and play into these areas and bullying out.

Self Check:
Wondering how your H&PE program is both physically and emotionally safe? Consider reflecting on some of these self check questions from the elementary Ontario H&PE Curriculum, 2010:
• Is instruction designed to ensure a positive experience in a safe environment for all students?
• Are all school board safety guidelines being followed?
• Are activities being modified as required to ensure that all students are included?
• Is exercise presented as a positive and healthy experience rather than being used as punishment?
• Does the program restrict activities in which students may be eliminated from play, and thereby deprived of opportunities to participate, practise, and improve?
• Are teams designated in ways that are inclusive and fair, avoiding potentially insensitive methods of selection (e.g., having teams chosen by student captains)?
• Are students’ diverse backgrounds taken into account when health topics are introduced, to ensure that discussions have personal relevance and that topics are addressed with sensitivity?

Looking for activities and lessons to support an inclusive and emotionally safe H&PE program? Check out those available for free, in English and French, from Ophea.

What strategies do you use to ensure your program is safe physically and emotionally? Share them here!