You may have been wondering why I haven’t been publishing lately. Well, there is a good reason—I am writing a book! I feel excited, scared and proud all at the same time! My new book, Teaching with the Heart in Mind, is a practical guide to nurturing Social Emotional Learning in the classroom. It will cover many of the topics and tools that I have discussed in this blog (emotions in learning, importance of relationships), and some new ones (how adversity affects learning, teachers’ resilience). Read more
Posts tagged ‘Teaching Strategies’
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
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 Smarter Balanced Assessments, aligned to the Common Core Standards. 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!