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Emotionally Healthy Kids
October 8, 2015 | Volume 11 | Issue 3
Table of Contents
Making Emotional Development Accessible
Michael Nitai Deranja
Decades of research verify that emotional development is a crucial component of academic achievement (Payton, 2008; Bornstein, 2015). Although schools have a clear set of strategies for teaching topics like the multiplication tables, teaching about feelings can be murkier. But just like any good teacher uses strategies to break down complex content, there are approaches that can make supporting social-emotional development in the classroom more manageable. Here, I describe how to use action charts to simplify a complex social skill into a series of specific activities. You can use action charts to teach affective skills such as cultivating courage, making friends, working with others, or expanding sensitivity.
Let's focus on the skill of expanding sensitivity. Increased attention to music, nature, and animals can increase sensitivity. Once you identify these outlets, set up a series of exercises that use these focal points to draw out sensitivity. For example:
You can adapt these activities to your students' specific interests and aptitudes.
The next step is to provide a support system for cultivating social-emotional skills. Use the following action chart with the title of each activity listed in the weekly goals column.
Students select the goal(s) they want to try out (step 1 below) as well as the number of times they will try it (step 2). Then it's the teacher's job to provide a time each day when the children can fill out the chart (step 3) by checking whether they followed through on their intention.
At the end of the week, you can set aside reflection time so that children can share what they learned by practicing the skill and set intentions for the coming week. You can add enrichment items, such as identifying an animal that symbolizes the quality they are practicing. You can also discuss how others have used observation and reflection in their professional lives (e.g., Jane Goodall) or ask students to reflect on a related text or quotation (e.g., Helen Keller's quote, "The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt in the heart.").
With activities like these, teachers can cultivate emotional development in a way that is interesting and even fun for children. The interactive format gives children the chance to feel empowered by allowing them to make choices about what they want to work on. The group discussions give students the opportunity to connect with their learning and with their peers.
Bornstein, D. (2015, July 24). Teaching social skills to improve grades and lives. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/24/building-social-skills-to-do-well-in-math/
Payton, J., Weissberg, R. P., Durlak, J. A., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., Schellinger, K. B., & Pachan, M. (2008). The positive impact of social and emotional learning for kindergarten to eighth-grade students: Findings from three scientific reviews. Chicago, IL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.
Michael Nitai Deranja has 35 years of teaching experience. He is currently the codirector of Education for Life International, a network of preK–12 schools in the United States and Europe.
ASCD Express, Vol. 11, No. 3. Copyright 2015 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.
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