Try these 3 ideas for fostering your ELA students' SEL this year.
Here we are, already marching (creeping?) along in August, about to start—or having already started—a new school year! As educators, we know that feeling of being a bit excited and ready to go but having that one foot dragging, still in summer mode. Also, this year requires a whole lot of special attention as we reacclimate our students to a year of in-person learning (hopefully). With that in mind, we on the ELA content specialist team at Carnegie Learning want to help you get ready to take that big step forward in preparing for teaching literacy with your secondary students.
This year, we must help our students adjust to our transformed environment and support them through the many social and emotional challenges that they may face. Something to consider for a great start is how to foster social-emotional learning right from the beginning of the year. Here are some thoughts on how to do it effectively using Mirrors & Windows: Connecting with Literature.
Seeing Is Being Seen: Building Empathy and Compassion
As students get back into classrooms, we must support them as they activate the social-emotional skills necessary to work in a collaborative setting, focus on their goals, and persevere through challenges.
CASEL (Collaborative For Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), the leading organization working to build demand and capacity for SEL, defines SEL as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions” (italics added).
How can we offer guidance and support to our students in gaining understanding and empathy for others?
Try this: Utilize the questions found before and after reading selections in Mirrors & Windows to give students an opportunity to share their perspectives and apply their points of view to the overall theme of the selections. Teachers can use these questions to lead small group discussions, as a stimulus for a written response, or as an oral response using FlipGrid, which is fully embedded in our online learning environment.
With these questions, students will make meaningful, authentic connections to what they are reading, and they will learn from their classmates’ perspectives, too. This will create SEL experiences for students as they will not only see themselves in the literature but also see things from another’s perspective—mirrors and windows at work.
Take a look at this example of questions after Amy Tan’s personal essay, “Fish Cheeks,” from a 7th grade unit, Experiencing the World:
In the selection, Tan explored a time she was keenly aware that her family’s customs were glaringly different from their guests’. These questions could facilitate a discussion about judging others and how we treat newcomers to our school, neighborhood, and even society, building empathy and understanding for others’ experiences—even when they do things differently.
So, let’s practice social-emotional learning in our classrooms by helping our students grow in their understanding of themselves and others, leading to deeper empathy both in and out of the classroom.
Whole Novels for the Whole Child: Culturally Responsive Teaching
Another important way to build social-emotional learning into your curriculum from the start of the year is to incorporate tools that create a culturally responsive learning environment.
In Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, Zaretta Hammond defines cultural responsiveness as:
While classes in all subject areas should practice culturally responsive teaching, ELA teachers have the unique opportunity to respond to and build cultural knowledge, as well as create a safe space for learning, through the power of literature. What’s even better is when you can teach whole novels, practically a luxury in today’s fast-paced classrooms, which allow for sustained engagement with diverse portrayals of human experience. This year, take advantage of our resources that support your students’ engagement with novels.
Try this: Use Mirrors & Windows’ Novel Studies, which allow students to choose novels that connect with their identities and interests. Novel Studies are student-centered guides to more than 100 titles (and growing!) that you and your students can choose from. All you need to do is select and provide the novels, and you already have full lesson plans to guide your students through meaningful discussions and activities that capitalize on their cultural knowledge.
It’s like inviting your student groups to participate in small book clubs to read and critically discuss novels that resonate with them! All with flexible instructional support that fits in and around your core curriculum.
Here are some of the titles you can choose from:
See the full list.
Culturally responsive teaching validates students’ diverse experiences and leverages those funds of knowledge as a platform on which they expand their understanding of the human condition, develop critical thinking skills, and build empathy for others. Whole novels do all three, so we hope you’ll use the Novel Studies resource to support you this year.
Together We Learn: Student Engagement and Collaboration
Finally, build social-emotional learning this year by getting learners working together.
For many students, working collaboratively with peers leads to better engagement in classroom activities. According to Cornell University’s Center for Innovative Teaching, there are several benefits of collaborative learning:
Try this: Make the most of the variety of collaborative learning tools featured in Mirrors & Windows:
Learning effectively in a community builds social-emotional competencies, which leads to strengthening the many communities we and our students belong to. So, let’s set some ground rules and establish our expectations to help get everyone started!
Time for a Strong Start
It’s time. Time to turn our focus from our own summer reads to what our students are reading. Time to think about what we can do to build our students’ perspectives and engagement with their reading, their peers and their independence. It’s time to bring us all back, to the best of our abilities, to read, learn and grow together.
Michelle Alcaraz is a former high school teacher of English Language Arts, and she has worked in both Montessori and public schools throughout the country. She has worked as a literacy coach for the past 6-years and is enthused about her new role at Carnegie Learning. Michelle is originally from Chicago and now calls Philadelphia, PA, her home.Explore more related to this author
Cory Armes has eighteen years’ experience in K-12 education as a general and special education teacher and educational diagnostician, specializing in working with students with learning disabilities and behavioral issues. She has worked in Texas throughout her career and is glad to be on the ELAR team at Carnegie Learning.Explore more related to this author
As an educational consultant for the last 20+ years, Tracy has worked with hundreds of teachers, reading coaches, and administrators across the nation. She has worked closely with schools in implementing school improvement plans in the areas of reading and math by providing professional learning and facilitating data meetings. Tracy has worked with at-risk students in Detroit Public Schools, been a financial supporter of Birmingham City Schools’ National Board-certified teacher training initiatives, and actively served as organizer and facilitator of “World Math Day” in Montgomery County Schools. Before pursuing a career in education, Tracy was an on-air reporter for the NBC affiliate in Lima, Ohio, and the ABC affiliate in Lansing, Michigan.Explore more related to this author