4 Teaching Strategies to Increase Self Awareness in the Classroom

Picture of a little girl in an empty classroom looking out the window thinking about something.

4 Teaching Strategies to Increase Self Awareness in the Classroom

By Reem ZohnyPicture of a little girl in an empty classroom looking out the window thinking about something.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is an important element of any school, not in the least an Islamic school. One of the components of SEL is Self-Awareness. There are easy ways to integrate self-awareness in any classroom and subject. Below are four strategies that can work as a starting point for increasing self-awareness for students.

1. Take opportunities to connect lessons back to real life.A teacher and a student pointing towards a large globe of the Earth during a lesson.

In any lesson, whether it be math, science, or P.E., find a way to relate it back to students’ lives. Using current events, primary sources, and cultural references, make the material more relevant and encourage students to think of the material as it relates to them. If discussing a time in the history of social change, encourage students to think of a time when they sought a change in their daily lives and how they went about it. These parallels can help them connect to the material as they also reflect on their own process of engaging in personal change. The self-reflection will, in turn, assist in increasing their self-awareness.


A checklist with completed tasks

2. Help students set individual goals.

By encouraging students to set individual goals you help them realize how they can frame challenges in a way that helps them achieve their goals. By teaching students to set realistic goals for their skill level, they build confidence and improve rather than setting themselves up for failure with goals that are out of their reach. For example, if a student says to you “I want to get all A’s this semester”, you can encourage them, but also offer an alternative, shorter-term, and more achievable goal, i.e. “One thing that will help get you there is if you hand in all your homework on time this week.”



3. Increase metacognition (ability to think about your thinking)

The ability to think about how we think is linked to higher achievement. There are many ways that you can make this a habit in your classroom. One way is with a learning journal where students are prompted with questions not about what they learned, but about how they learned it. For example, “What was easiest for you to learn this week? Why?” or  “What was most challenging? Why?”A girl reading a book and thinking about what she is reading. A thought bubble is illustrated coming from the girls head.
If time doesn’t allow for that, make a habit of leaving a few minutes at the end of certain lesson plans to reflect on how student’s ideas have changed from the beginning to the end of the lesson. By prompting students to think about their learning, they gain a better understanding of what is most effective for them in the long run.

4. Practice mindfulness meditation.

The ability to focus and control our thoughts is a skill that is developed over time. By taking a few minutes of your class to practice mindfulness, you help cultivate this skill in your students. It’s as simple as asking students to spend a few minutes focusing on one thing such as their breath, something they can hear or smell, or a singular blessing in their life such as having food to eat.
A women meditating in front of a lake while the sun is setting.
Increasing one’s self-awareness is an important first step in students achieving their highest potential. Imam Ghazali said, “Know that the key to knowing God is to know your own self.”
Let us help our students achieve their best selves by engaging them in daily practices that help them learn more about themselves, in turn facilitating a stronger identity as a Muslim and a stronger relationship with Allah, inshallah.

Reem Zohny, LMSW, Social Worker and Counselor at Austin Peace Academy


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