As Hellen enters her second-grade class, she is greeted by pupils of six and seven. They are a good group who show potential, but today’s topic, social-emotional learning, is a difficult nut to crack. Although students show great skills in understanding ordinary matters, more private topics show that even the overachievers have difficulties expressing themselves.
Table of Contents
How Hellen Starts the Class
She takes an erasable Sharpie and writes ‘Pet Peeves’ on the whiteboard. Some may look surprised; some already know the topic. Hellen takes a tissue, pretends to blow her nose, and throws it not into the trash can but on the floor. The students did not expect this, so she proceeds to ask questions:
● WHAT just happened?
● WHO did it?
● WHERE did it happen?
● WHEN did it happen?
● WHY did I do it?
● HOW can you tell me this was wrong without hurting my feelings?
The students are eager to reply and share their take on the topic. Hellen, our teacher, is careful to give everyone a chance to say something.
How Hellen Includes All Students
Hellen then asks students about what their pet peeves are. While the students take turns answering the questions, two student-volunteers write them down on the whiteboard. Once this is done, students get assigned a pet peeve and use the 5W+H questions from the Presentation part of the class to discuss these pet peeves with their deskmates.
Hellen Talks Feelings
Once this is done, Hellen asks a crucial question: HOW DID IT MAKE YOU FEEL? Although hesitant at first, the students are encouraged to talk about their feelings (both positive and negative), their hopes, and visions of a better world. As the students keep saying what is on their chest, they are encouraged, and any comments that could make them feel shy are discouraged.
Hellen’s Tips on How to Get Students Talking About Their Social-Emotional Learning
Hellen is a great teacher. But to fully understand what she did to make the class as successful as it was to this point, let’s observe what she did that you can use in your class as well. Using a very simple analysis of Hellen’s successful class, we can come up with tips on how to get students talking about their social-emotional learning:
1. Hellen plans early
She also has a backup. Since she is busy, she found professional writers for hire and has a few pet peeve short stories in her bag. These stories are there to illustrate what bad behaviors look like.
2. Hellen uses the implicit teaching style
By avoiding naming the topic, Hellen reduces pressure on the students. Instead of being explicit in learning about emotions, she evokes emotions in her students. Then they talk about them.
3. Hellen starts by setting an example
Hellen starts by showing that we make mistakes. The tissue on the floor is a trivial mistake to make. Still, it evokes a critical attitude in her students.
4. Hellen gives everybody a chance
Hellen makes everybody say a sentence or two but sets the limit to no more than a few sentences per student. She ensures that everybody says something in her class and builds a positive classroom culture. The loud students can go first to break the ice.
5. Hellen creates an environment where students are encouraged to share
By encouraging, Hellen ensures her students keep participating. By agreeing, she ensures that everybody feels accepted and appreciated. She gives a chance for differences to surface.
6. Hellen creates an environment where overly critical students are made to listen and respect the differences
The differences can evoke reactions. Sometimes, these reactions are negative. Hellen showcases this by relying on social media. By pointing out the positive sides of any opinion, Hellen teaches her students that they are growing up in a diversified environment and that differences should be respected and understood instead of criticized.
7. Hellen starts her students off easy
Hellen does not ask very personal questions about emotions. By taking it easy, she gives a chance to students to voice themselves and decide on the pace of the class. The few open students break the ice by going deeper than the rest of the group.
Today’s classroom is very different from the classrooms that the current teachers were taught in. Although children are very open when it comes to online communication, they are very shy about face-to-face conversation. It seems that technology is taking away from our ability to empathize, so teaching social-emotional skills should be incorporated into the curriculum, especially for younger students.