The relationships that children and youth establish with adults are critical for a healthy social and emotional development. When students and teachers establish positive, caring relationships, students are more likely to use their teachers as resource to solve problems, engage in learning activities, and better navigate the demands of school (Williford & Sanger Wolcott, 2015). Researchers have found that high-quality relationships between students and teachers are linked with students’ academic and social-emotional outcomes. Read more
Posts tagged ‘Teaching Strategies’
I recently met with a fantastic group of principals. Two weeks into the new school year and they were already discussing serious issues taking place at their schools. You could almost touch the tension in the room. We started the meeting with a simple breathing exercise, so we could all (including myself!) get our minds ready to engage and participate in meaningful ways. Learning ways to navigate emotions and deal with the stress of daily life is a major goal in Social Emotional Learning that applies to both students and adults. Read more
Empathy is the ability to be understanding of and sensitive to another person’s feelings and thoughts without having had the same experience. In an earlier post, Pelochino described empathy as the foundation of design thinking. Innovators and designers develop a deep emotional understanding of people’s needs, and they use this knowledge to address complex problems. How can empathy be developed in classrooms and schools? Read more
It is that time of year again… it’s testing season! In California, students in public and charter schools are taking the new Smarter Balanced Assessments, aligned to the Common Core Standards, for the first time! The stakes are high… teachers have been working hard to prepare students and now it is students’ chance to show what they know on the test. This time of year is stressful for everybody: teachers, students, administrators and even parents. Since emotions are contagious, if students are anxious teachers might become agitated too! Read more
When we present students with a new unit or project, we often explain what students are going to learn. As we were taught in teacher preparation, it is very important to have clear, explicit and measurable objectives for our lessons. Generally, we also explain how they are going to learn this content (through hands-on activities, going to the lab, searching the internet or all of the above). Something that is not so commonly shared with students is the social and emotional competencies that they’ll need in order to learn; in other words, the skills that will allow them to perform the proposed tasks (the how) in order to reach the learning objective (the what).
Why don’t we explicitly tell students the skills they’ll be using when engaged in certain activities in the classroom? You might say that students are ALWAYS practicing their self-control, their conflict resolution skills or their empathy. You’re probably right! However, you should explicitly tell students the key social and emotional competencies involved in a task to build their awareness and help them further develop these skills. For example, if students are participating in a classroom discussion about a literary text, you might want to emphasize that they will be practicing their:
- Self-management skills by regulating their emotions and waiting for their turn.
- Social-awareness skills by actively listening to others and trying to understand their opinions.
- Relationship skills by working cooperatively.
It is your decision which competency you emphasize for a particular lesson and/or activity. It will depend on your learning goal, the content itself and your classroom culture; the key is to explicitly share the skill or skills with your students. Here’s a suggested process:
1. Explicitly share social and emotional competencies involved. When you introduce a new unit, lesson or activity explicitly tell students which social and emotional competencies they will be practicing.
2. Gather evidence. During the activity, write down a couple of examples of students using the skills you emphasized when introducing the lesson.
3. Reflect. During your closing activity, ask students to reflect on how they felt practicing the skill/s. Did they notice anything new or different about themselves or others? What did they learn? After students share their thoughts, give them the examples you saw. Close by providing suggestions for further development or just congratulating for great work!
Being explicit about the social and emotional competencies involved in learning is a great way to integrate your SEL framework with the academic content you teach. It helps build awareness in students and offers meaningful situations to practice these skills. Try it out and let me know how it goes!
Last week, I was rereading my research data and came across this amazing quote from one of the teachers. We were discussing the connections between Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and academic achievement.
“I think that SEL is a foundation you need to have before you can get to the academic learning (…) It also reinforces the study skills that they use in order to learn. So knowing their emotions and know their needs has to come first and then it also goes hand in hand with the academic learning when they know their strengths and weaknesses and they can use those in order to learn better.”
We could spend a lot of time analyzing each sentence and seeing how this teacher’s insights speak to your teaching practice, as you are transitioning to the Common Core. However, today I want to focus on the last part of this quote: the importance of being able to identify strengths and weaknesses and using those to learn better. As an adult, I can say that it is not an easy task! Admitting your weaknesses is recognizing that you aren’t perfect… and using them to learn better means that there are certain things that you need to improve. Although this is difficult for adults to do (challenging performance review? Difficult conversation with a spouse/partner?), we often ask students to recognize their challenges, and we send them off to start working on getting better.
Students (and adults) who can identify their strengths will be more likely to build on them to improve their areas of growth; they will probably have a greater motivation and will be more self-confident. Also, working with students on identifying their strengths will help you to know them better, and learn things that they like to do and do well in other parts of their life. This is especially important for students that might be struggling in your classroom, don’t seem motivated or are having a hard time adapting to the new Common Core. You can use their strengths and connect them with the content you teach!
In addition to help students feel more confident and motivated, working with students to identify their strengths will make it easier to talk about their areas of growth, and set up some goals to improve them. Here are 3 suggested steps to talk with your students about strengths and challenges. These activities could be done during morning meeting, check-in time or advisory period.
1. Have students complete a personal inventory. This inventory should ask students to reflect on the things they like to do, the ones that they do well, and others that might be hard and/or boring for them. It should include different aspects of students’ lives, such as school subjects, sports and hobbies, relationships and family. Display these inventories (or a section) in the classroom, a powerful visual reminder that we all have strengths.
2. Help students set up goals based on their strengths. We sometimes tend to set up goals for improvement without reflecting on how our strengths can help us achieve these goals (which might lead to frustration if they aren’t met). When working with students, focus on their strengths as the catalysts for improvement!
3. Refer back to students’ strengths when providing feedback, and check regularly on progress for meeting goals. Students will be more open to hear feedback, if you start a conversation discussing their latest accomplishments or complimenting something they’ve done. Even when you are working with a challenging student, try to start the conversation by saying something positive! And check back with your students on their goals, so you can help them rephrase or adapt depending on the progress.
Helping students identify their strengths is a great way to build motivation, self-confidence and a closer relationship with your students. Creating a personal inventory with students, setting up goals based on strengths and using students’ positive attributes when providing feedback will help build self-awareness in your students, and develop stronger learners. How do you use students’ strengths in your classroom? Please share your thoughts!
In an earlier post, I described the 3 strategies to address SEL in the classroom that CASEL (2013) recommends. The third strategy encourages integrating SEL with academic content, which means that you connect the strategies and vocabulary of your SEL instruction with your subject matter. In Perseverance in Solving Problems we saw how you can do this connection in your math class. Today, let’s look at other subjects and see ways in which SEL can be integrated with the academic curriculum.
- English-Language Arts. There are several ELA Common Core Standards naturally aligned with social and emotional skills. For example, those related to describing characters in a story (RL.3.3), describing how a particular story plot unfolds and how the characters respond or change overtime (RL.6.3) or how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story propel the action (RL.8.3). When teaching these standards in the classroom, you will be helping students identify emotions (emotional literacy), analyzing the pros and cons of the characters’ actions (consequential thinking), and identifying how emotions and actions are connected to motivation or long-term goals. In addition, research has shown (Kidd and Castano, 2013) that continued exposure to literary fiction could increase empathy. My personal pick: Russian novels; exquisite in their description of complex characters and soul-searching processes!
- History. Teaching history offers a great opportunity for teachers and students to confront the complexities of humanity, in ways that promote critical thinking, empathy and moral development. The language provided by SEL around emotional literacy, self-management, social awareness and relationship building can help you create a safe environment for students to discuss subjects such as racism, immigration, diversity, human rights, etc. At the same time, historical figures can be analyzed through the lenses of social and emotional competencies. If you teach High School, you could use this lesson plan Nelson Mandela & The Fight Against Apartheid to analyze how Mandela used different social and emotional competencies through his fight against Apartheid. Also, Facing History and Ourselves has great resources for teachers (units, lessons plans, videos) to discuss complex moments in history and work with students to understand the range of human behavior.
- Music. The history of music is full of artists that struggled to find a place in the music scene, were often broke and sometimes lost hope that they would ever make it. Ask students about their favorite musicians and help them analyze these artists under the lens of social and emotional competencies. Another way to integrate SEL in your music class is analyzing songs through emotional literacy. I cannot think of a place where you can identify more emotions and feelings than in music (both with or without lyrics)! You can also discuss how music makes students feel and how different genres might generate similar/different emotions. Music is often therapeutic for a lot of us, try discussing with your students how music can be used to increase motivation or engage optimism!
In order to increase the impact of the SEL program in your class, you can integrate its content and language with the academic curriculum. Addressing Common Core ELA standards related to characters and plots, analyzing historical figures through the lenses of social and emotional competencies or identifying the emotions and feelings that music generate are a few strategies that will develop students’ social and emotional skills while they learn the specific academic content you teach them in class. How do you integrate SEL with academic content? Please share!