SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING
Years ago I would get some disapproving looks when I mentioned how much classroom time I dedicate to social emotional learning. “What about the curriculum! You’ll never get through it all if you don’t start right away!”
But I did get through it all, often with time to spare. Why? If we solidified expectations for kindness, inclusion and self-management early, and spent a LOT less time on disruptions through the year. Plus, we were shaping future citizens; it’s not just about getting through this year – it’s about skills students will need for success throughout their lives.
That’s not to say that it was smooth-sailing every day. We still revisit and reinforce social skills daily. However, the overall atmosphere of peace and happiness allowed us to get through a lot more curriculum than we would have otherwise.
SETTING UP THE PROGRAM
So where to start? The program I use is call The Kindness Classroom, and I’ve given some examples for the first few units below. I print and laminate all the materials, and then I can use them again, year after year.
One of the reasons I feel this program is so engaging is that each unit contains a read-aloud story based on a Little Penguin and his friend Panda. Together, these two characters explore all of the social emotional concepts. I hear students referring back to the stories all the time when they make connections. There are also different partner plays based on the characters, which are fun to perform for the class. The eight read-aloud stories in the program, and they are included to share digitally or in print form.
I feel strongly that as teachers we are responsible for teaching the whole child. My goal is not just to teach academics, but to teach skills that help students recognize and manage their own emotions, foster a growth mindset and treat others with compassion and respect. If we can do this, we have succeeded!
Many students have never thought about their own emotions, and need explicit direction to recognize and label them. I have taught several children over the years who had great difficulty in reading emotions and body language in their peers. They also had trouble connecting specific emotions to the events that caused them. Also, they did not realize that people felt completely differently than they did about the same things. Emotions are temporary, and this is an important thing to realize, even for adults!
All of these concepts are explored in 28 different activities within the unit 1. Many of which are hands-on art, writing and small group activities. Best of all, there are teacher scripts (with questions embedded) for the group lessons. These help to guide the discussions and save on teacher prep time.
In Unit 2, we tackle mindset. There are 28 activities that introduce and reinforce the difference between fixed and growth mindset, including journals, art, and partner plays to share together.
A main focus is on making mistakes and how we can learn from them, as well as the “power of YET” in our positive thinking.
After four lessons learning about a growth mindset, we put our learning to the test with a STEM challenge! Students are encouraged to embrace challenges. They are prompted to look forward to learning from their mistakes. They know to expect that they will have to change ideas that don’t work out as they wanted.
It’s very powerful to watch students recognize their feelings of disappointment and discouragement, and then use their new skills to turn it into something positive. These are skills they will lean on throughout their whole lives.
Above is a closer look at the first two units, but there are 6 more units in the full year program. The rest of the units are pictured below, and the layout and content is very similar to those showed above. Click HERE or on the picture below to see LOTS of pictures and sample lessons in the preview!
Pin for later!
Pin for later!
Here’s a sample from Unit 1 – Exploring Emotions!
Students use any sort of clay or dough to make parts of the face. If students can read, they make facial features that match the sentence at the top, and check off the circles below using a ball of dough. Just print and laminate – they can be used with dry erase markers as well! Click below to grab them!