May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to bring attention to the importance of mental health and the resources available to support it. It is important to recognize the impact of good mental health on overall well-being, academic success, and economic outcomes. As an educator, you play a critical role in promoting mental health awareness and creating a positive and healthy learning environment for your students.

By promoting mental health awareness in your classroom, you can help your students develop crucial skills like emotional regulation, self-awareness, and empathy. These skills can improve their confidence, engagement, and overall academic success. Similarly, when you prioritize your own mental health and well-being, you can better support your students and create a positive and supportive school culture.

At Microsoft, we believe that technology can play a valuable role in supporting a student’s mental health. That's why we've developed tools for mental health like Minecraft Education subject matter kits and the Reflect app in Microsoft Teams for Education to help you promote self-awareness and social-emotional learning. These tools can also help you identify trends or changes in your students that are supported by data.

Building emotional intelligence through play

Minecraft Education is a game-based platform that inspires creative and inclusive learning through play. It has captured the hearts of millions of students around the world, and we've harnessed its power to create subject matter kits that can help students explore topics like history, math, and even mental health.

Gif of the Minecraft Social and Emotional subject kit home page

Our Minecraft Social Emotional subject kit is designed to help students practice mindfulness and learn about their emotions in a fun and engaging way. The kit contains a range of activities designed to help students develop emotional intelligence, learn to regulate their emotions, and build empathy and social awareness. Self-regulation is an important life skill that helps students to manage their emotions, behavior, and thoughts. Students who can regulate their emotions are better equipped to handle stress and cope with difficult situations.

In these activities, students can learn to identify and understand their emotions, reflect on them using Flip, and connect with each other through mindfulness. The kit activities also promote other critical skills like inclusive design thinking and problem solving through empathy.

I particularly like ‘The Mindful Knight’ world where you can go on a mindful adventure, including a breathing exercise levitation spell.
- Ellie Finch MA MBACP, counselor and social worker who specializes in supporting children and parents

Learn more about Minecraft Education at Get Started with Minecraft Education or Minecraft Education Teacher Academy. You can also listen to the Educator Insider podcast episode on The Mindful Knight.

Monitoring and supporting student emotions with Reflect

As an educator, you know that supporting your students' mental health is crucial to their academic success and overall well-being. Microsoft Reflect an app in Teams for Education, is designed to help you prioritize your students' emotional wellness by creating a safe space for them to reflect on their emotions and build self-awareness.

With our new approach to learning and new tools like Reflect helping students to understand their emotions more, we saw an immediate improvement in student growth and contentment while learning.  - Antoinette Hamilton, computing lead for Richmond Academy 

Using the Reflect app to manage emotions and improve focus

In addition to creating custom check-in questions, the Reflect app also incorporates breathing exercises to help students manage their emotions and improve their focus. Research has shown that just one minute of focused breathing can have a significant impact on student learning, and the Reflect app makes it easy for educators to incorporate this practice into their class routine.

Reflect's friendly character, the Feelings Monster, not only helps students learn how to manage their emotions, but also provides guidance on how to focus on their breath and engage in slow, deep breathing. This essential skill can help calm the body and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, making it easier for students to prepare their body and mind for learning. After checking in with the app, students can take a few seconds to practice deep breathing with the help of the Feelings Monster, thanks to Reflect's user-friendly design.

Gif of the Feeling Monster conducting a guided breathing exercise.

With the Reflect app, you can create custom check-in questions that encourage your students to open up and share their feelings while building emotional vocabulary. This helps you to get to know your students better and provide personalized support that meets their unique needs. By using Reflect, you can empower your students to develop important skills like emotional regulation, communication, and problem-solving.

The need for this information is quite high. The emotions are fantastic, and the children understand the range of emotions and have gotten used to using them. But the support we can provide the children now, the emotional support, is everything. Not every student can talk about the things that are bothering them as much, but in its cute little way, the Reflect monsters not only encourage them to use different kinds of language and explore their emotions, but they also actually open them up in a way that they wouldn’t naturally talk to an adult. - Antoinette Hamilton, computing lead for Richmond Academy

Regular check-ins with Reflect can help you monitor your students' emotions over time and identify any changes or patterns. And, with the new check-in ideas gallery and "Ask it again" button, it's easier than ever to come up with creative and inspiring questions that keep your students engaged and motivated. You can also use Together view in Reflect to get a quick read on how the class is feeling.

Together view makes it easy for educators to take a quick read on how students are feeling and if they are ready to learn.

Together view makes it easy for educators to take a quick read on how students are feeling and if they are ready to learn.

Reflect offers several new features to help you prioritize your students’ mental health. You can now select simplified emotion vocabulary when creating a check-in, which reduces cognitive load for students and provides them with fewer, more basic emotions to select. These options make it even more inclusive and accessible for all your learners. 

When students select an emotion word they get a visual cue with the Feelings Monster and a definition to help them identify their emotion.

When students select an emotion word they get a visual cue with the Feelings Monster and a definition to help them identify their emotion. 

In addition, the app allows students to hear the definition of each emotion word read aloud in a way that emotes the emotion, helping to develop their emotional awareness in a multi-sensory way. This feature is available in English, Spanish, and Japanese, and we plan to add support for more languages in the future.  

Reflect is a tool that can help your students build a vocabulary to talk about emotions and express themselves more effectively. This, in turn, can improve their communication and social skills, and help them build positive relationships with others. By prioritizing your students' emotional well-being with tools like Reflect, you can create a positive and supportive school culture that promotes self-awareness and prioritizes social-emotional learning.

Learn more about Reflect with these resources.

As educators, you can prioritize mental health awareness and create a safe and supportive learning environment for all students. Using tools like the Reflect app and Minecraft Education subject matter kits helps reinforce the skills your students need to succeed in and out of the classroom.

By helping your students understand self-regulation and self-awareness and providing them with the vocabulary to talk about emotions, you can positively impact their academic performance, social relationships, and overall well-being.

Let's celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month by taking action to support the mental health and well-being of our K-12 students.

Learn more about supporting students mental and emotional health with these resources.

Check out previous blog posts on well-being and Reflect.