Beginning Menstruation In Elementary School: How To Help

    I threw my parents and teachers a real curve the year I was in 5th grade. For months, I had chronic abdominal pain so severe it sent me to the nurse's office for hours. My mother was mystified and concerned. That summer, I started having light, irregular menstrual flow along with that same pain! Mystery solved! My menarche had been slow and irregular instead of sudden and heavy. 

     Menstruation brings a host of challenges that truly take a village to manage successfully. Research tells us that menarche, a girl’s first flow, is happening younger than ever, the national average being 12.5 years. 
     Middle school and high school students generally have resources in their schools to help. From sanitary supplies to a school nurse or counselor, to sympathetic teachers and friends, older girls often find help to navigate the journey.

Click here for a free planning checklist.

     Upper elementary school-aged girls, aged 9-11, can begin their menstrual cycles. These students have unique challenges. Some of them are:

✅ Though more girls are beginning menstruation at earlier ages, it is outside the norm to begin in the elementary grades. Experiencing something so essentially female can be difficult when you and your peers don’t understand what's going on.

✅ When any child, boy or girl, has a “first-time” experience related to their body, it can be an emotional event. Add hormones that can make a girl feel new physical sensations and emotions and you have added stress.

✅ Parents can be reluctant to begin these conversations with their young daughters. Sometimes they're just not aware of their child’s unique growth. Sometimes they don't know how to broach sex-related topics. This can mean that our girls are shocked, even traumatized, by a perfectly natural event.

     Teachers want to serve their students’ academic, social, emotional, and physical needs in the best ways possible. Here are some ways that we can support our girls through the experience of menstruation in the elementary years.
1.  Make a plan. 

Create a procedure with your grade-level colleagues. It’s so much easier when everyone is on the same page! Consider: 
  • How can a student approach a teacher in an emergency? 
  • Who will respond? 
  • Where will supplies come from?
  • Where will supplies be stored? 
  • How will you get supplies to a student?

Make sure staff is protected. Your plan should review what teachers can and cannot say or do when helping a child

Remember that male teachers may need special protocols to follow. While men can certainly be as compassionate and comforting as women, a young girl may not want a man to have that much information about her body. Men should not go in the girls’ bathroom and should certainly not be alone with a student to discuss such an intimate situation. Parents may not want a man involved. If you have male teachers on your staff, designate a female staff member who can step in as part of your plan.

2. Gather supplies. 

Consider all of the things a child might need in this situation, remembering that some kids have to wait out the day and ride the bus home. Include stick-on sanitary napkins, sanitary wipes, clean underwear, clean outer pants, and large zipper bags for stained clothing.

Get creative to collect supplies. Check out Lost and Found or solicit donations. Do you have parent volunteers? This would be an excellent project! Click here for more parent volunteer ideas.
3. Preserve privacy. 

If a child begins flowing at school, you’ll need a way to get supplies to her discreetly. My goal was to make it look like my student was running an errand for me when she left the room. I’ve handed girls manila folders and large envelopes with supplies hidden inside. Another option is to have a lunch bag filled and ready to go. It looks like you're simply delivering a forgotten lunch. You could also use a backpack, especially if extra clothes are needed.

4. Have emergency contacts. 

Sometimes a child needs to leave school. The reality is that many parents often cannot walk out the door to come for their kids. I ask my parents to always have a no-fail contact I can call for emergencies.

Get your free printable checklist here.

5. Communicate

Be proactive in addressing menstrual issues with parents. Remind parents that their input is vital. You want to partner with them for the best outcome.

You can communicate through email, text, or a mention in your Back-to-School letter. Be as discreet as possible to keep younger siblings from hearing conversations they might not be ready for.

Be cautious about having these discussions with your students. Only speak within approved curricular boundaries. If you must talk about any sort of “sex ed” topic, have administrative support first.

Encourage parents to begin these discussions at home. Remind parents that changes can happen without warning. They can avoid trauma by preparing their daughter.

Remind parents that you have a school protocol to follow. If their daughter begins menstruating at school and they want it handled in a specific way, they need to tell let you know.

We can't control what parents choose to tell their children. Discussions in this realm can be emotionally-charged. However, we wouldn't have a child gash their leg at school, be bleeding and in pain, and tell them, "Ask your parents." Neither should we dismiss menarche. 

          Thoughtful planning and communication can make a potentially difficult situation much more positive. I'd love to know how you handle girls who deal with menstruation in elementary school.

Download your free planning checklist. 

Growing Grade By Grade
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7 Reasons Why Games Are A Powerful Learning Tool

     Some of my favorite memories as a student and a teacher center around playing games. I was a student a long time ago, but I can still remember a sunny spring day and my first-grade teacher showing us how to safely play Dodge Ball. Finding and creating content games in my own classroom made my lesson prep more enjoyable.

     Playing games is a powerful tool for students! Games are fun, and they help us learn and master skills as well as apply those skills. The longer I work with children, the more I see the value of playing games.

Click here and download Guess My Number.
     Games can give you the same great practice as the best worksheets but games are vastly superior. Here's why:

1.  Games are more engaging than worksheets. Don't we all want our students to enjoy lessons? Children are typically attracted to games and more eager to participate. 
2.  Games can address curriculum standards as well as any worksheet.
3.  They're less stressful. We usually don't grade games so that pressure is off kids. We can also make games more cooperative, so there is no winner/loser stress. Children don't have to sweat the loser label.
4.  They are new and fresh each time they're played. Especially if the game includes pulling cards randomly or rolling dice, you never know what you're going to get.
5.  Once students learn a game, they can work independently. That's great for building confidence, for the smooth flow of a classroom, and for successful centers.
6.  We can differentiate many games. I often adapted card decks, set number limits, or gave time limits to support student needs. I've also assigned different games to students based on their needs.
7.  Games are typically one-prep or low-prep. Enough said.

     I have some games to share with you here! Subscribe to my newsletter and you'll have access to my FREE Resource Library. There, you can download my Valentine Fraction 4-In-A-Row game. Complete directions are at the top of the page. Copy in color or black and white. All you have to add are number cubes and markers.

     You can find even more games in my TpT store, Growing Grade By Grade, and add fun practice to your classroom!
     I'd love to hear how games work for you! Happy Math-ing!
Growing Grade By Grade
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Valentine Math Choice Board FREEBIE

We're heading into the Valentine season! There are so many fun and creative activities for this time of year and we can't forget that academics come first. I've designed a fun and creative, Valentine-themed Math Choice Board for you - and it's FREE!

     Kids can choose from among 16 different activities to practice math and get creative! I've included three different color versions and an ink-saving black & white version.

    How to get this Valentine Freebie? Sign up for my newsletter. You'll have access to the link and an immediate download.

     I'd love to know how you like it!

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