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How to Effectively Develop Social-Emotional and Reflection Skills

| Maurice Elias

The most important part of any social-emotional learning (SEL) or social-emotional character development curriculum (SECD) is skill development. But the formal lessons only serve to introduce the skills. Whether or not the skills are learned and generalized depends on the pedagogical procedure used.

Here are some tips for building any SEL skill in effective ways:

  • Introduce the skill and/or concept and provide motivation for learning; discuss when the skill will and will not be useful.
  • Break down the skill into its behavioral components, model them, and clarify with descriptions and behavioral examples of using and not using the skill.
  • Provide opportunities for practice of the skill in "kid-tested" enjoyable activities, to allow for corrective feedback and reinforcement until skill mastery is approached.
  • Label the skill with a "prompt or cue" to establish a shared language that can be used to call for the use of the skill in future situations to promote transfer and generalization. For example, in the Social Decision Making/Social Problem Solving Curriculum, the skill of self-calming is labeled with the prompt, "Keep Calm." When students hear that prompt, they are reminded to use a breathing and self-talk procedure they were taught in the curriculum. Anyone in a school building should know this prompt and use it in a situation to help students calm themselves down, such as before a test, a class presentation, or difficult social task. "Use Keep Calm" invokes the learned skill.
  • Assignments for skill practice outside the structured lessons. (e.g., be sure to use Keep Calm before your standardized tests next week)
  • Follow-through activities and planned opportunities for using skill prompts in academic content areas, classroom management and everyday interpersonal situations at school and in the home and community.
  • Occasional take-home activities or information sheets for parents so they can also recognize when skills are being used and/or prompt their use.

The Reflective Summary

We have found great benefit in concluding each SECD topic or set of related lessons with a Reflective Summary. The purpose of this is to allow students a chance to think about what they have learned from the topic, as well as to allow teachers/group leaders to see what students are taking away with them. Sometimes, the Reflective Summary can show when students have misunderstandings or uncertainty about what they have learned, suggesting the need for additional instructional activities before moving on in the lesson sequence. Here is the procedure:

"Ask students to reflect on the question, 'What did you learn from today's lesson/activity?' You can do this with the whole group, in a Sharing Circle or related class meeting format, by having students fill out index cards, or other formats as you choose. We recommend that you have some variety in formats. After getting a sense of what the students learned, reinforce key themes that they mentioned and add perhaps one or two that you would like them to keep in mind. Also discuss any follow up assignments or take home materials."

Please share your ideas for reinforcing skills development and generalization, and helping students summarize what they have learned from your SECD-related instruction.

[Dr. Elias discusses the history and trends in Social and Emotional Learning and Character Development in this video.]

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Contemplation/Music Writing Project

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Hi Nini,
For the longest time I had no idea who had commented on my comment to Dr. Elias's post, and so I am responding to you now, on February 20, 2012. Sorry for the delay. Yes, listening to how others think can, or might, help you think, or at least give you alternatives you never saw before. There is a great, natural interest when my discussions centered on reading the kids' contemplation writings orally. They were really curious about their classmates' experiences, their thoughts, feelings, dreams, fantasies, memories, and daydreams. The approach, strategies, and techniques did get their attention, helped them to focus, concentrate, and center themselves, and the effects/affects were long-lasting, that is, long after they left my classroom, and that was an aim of the project. And yes, Nini, it can be "so easy, as well as enjoyable, for teachers and students, alike." Check out my posts as a BAM! Street Journal Blogger on the BAM Radio Network (see "blog" at www.bamradionetwork.com) for more of my posts on EI.

Founder-Developer of Kids' Own Wisdom.

I greatly respect and

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I greatly respect and appreciate Jeffrey Pflaum's observation on how to get kids' attention: "... kids enjoyed listening--another fundamental skill--to their friends describe how they think, the thought and emotional processes they go through when working in a core subject or something more personal, emotional, and psychological." Spot on! And, perhaps surprisingly, this natural interest that they have in each other's thoughts and emotional processes starts at very, very early ages .... like: 3-1/2 or 4. This spontaneous focus of young children's attention can be mined for the enrichment and benefit of all... and it can be so easy, as well as enjoyable, for teachers and students, alike.

Founder-Developer of Kids' Own Wisdom.

How to get kids' attention ...

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I greatly respect and appreciate Jeffrey Pflaum's observation on how to get kids' attention: "... kids enjoyed listening--another fundamental skill--to their friends describe how they think, the thought and emotional processes they go through when working in a core subject or something more personal, emotional, and psychological." Spot on! And, perhaps surprisingly, this natural interest that they have in each other's thoughts and emotional processes starts at very, very early ages .... like: 3-1/2 or 4. This spontaneous focus of young children's attention can be mined for the enrichment and benefit of all... and it can be so easy, as well as enjoyable, for teachers and students, alike.

Math Whisperer

Math Class is an Ideal Place to Learn Social-Emotional Skills

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The guru of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman, reports on his website on the best SEL programs in schools. Among the best practices identified were teaching children self-awareness and self-management. Math class is an ideal place to learn these two social-emotional skills.
Learning math is a very emotional experience. For one thing, when we remember something, we remember not just the specific events, but also our emotions return. For many students, those returning emotions are anger or sadness. Helping children recognize and deal with those emotions can make the difference between success and failure in math.
The first step towards self-awareness in math class is to help children recognize their emotions. A teacher with high emotional intelligence is ideal here. He or she can effectively “hold up a mirror,” and reflect back to the student, with statements like: “You seem angry when you are working on this problem.” In my experience, it is even more important for the teacher to reflect positive emotions, such as joy when a problem has been worked successfully. I have worked with hundreds of students in low SES and poor performing districts, and invariably these students are not in contact with feelings of pride and high self-esteem when they solve a problem that was difficult for them. In contrast, middle and upper class students (based on their parents’ income) are very familiar with feeling proud and good about themselves.
Self-management is critical for success in math. Everyone gets frustrated consistently in math class. Dealing with that frustration is critical in succeeding in math. Persistence is what ultimately leads to success. A powerful way to help students with this is to work with students to keep track of the length of time they can work on a difficult problem before they want to yell, cry, give up, whatever. By graphing the amount of time over time, they can see their progress in staying longer with a math problem.
Two tools to accomplish improvements in both self-awareness and self-management in math class are a small pillow and a kleenex. Students can yell into their pillows when angry – some restraint is required so as not to scare students in other classrooms! And they have tacit permission to cry or feel sad with the kleenex. I accompany the kleenex distribution with a couple of sentences to this effect: You think you want to cry now. Just wait til you can’t get a job because you don’t know enough math, and therefore don’t have enough food to eat. Or you didn’t understand the math on your home mortgage, and you lose your house. Then you’ll feel like crying for sure.
Raising emotional intelligence can be effectively accomplished in a math class. Math class provides continuous contexts in which students can observe their reactions, and with the teacher’s guidance can improve and grow.

Math Whisperer

Math Class is an Ideal Place to Learn Social-Emotional Skills

Was this helpful?
0

The guru of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman, reports on his website on the best SEL programs in schools. Among the best practices identified were teaching children self-awareness and self-management. Math class is an ideal place to learn these two social-emotional skills.
Learning math is a very emotional experience. For one thing, when we remember something, we remember not just the specific events, but also our emotions return. For many students, those returning emotions are anger or sadness. Helping children recognize and deal with those emotions can make the difference between success and failure in math.
The first step towards self-awareness in math class is to help children recognize their emotions. A teacher with high emotional intelligence is ideal here. He or she can effectively “hold up a mirror,” and reflect back to the student, with statements like: “You seem angry when you are working on this problem.” In my experience, it is even more important for the teacher to reflect positive emotions, such as joy when a problem has been worked successfully. I have worked with hundreds of students in low SES and poor performing districts, and invariably these students are not in contact with feelings of pride and high self-esteem when they solve a problem that was difficult for them. In contrast, middle and upper class students (based on their parents’ income) are very familiar with feeling proud and good about themselves.
Self-management is critical for success in math. Everyone gets frustrated consistently in math class. Dealing with that frustration is critical in succeeding in math. Persistence is what ultimately leads to success. A powerful way to help students with this is to work with students to keep track of the length of time they can work on a difficult problem before they want to yell, cry, give up, whatever. By graphing the amount of time over time, they can see their progress in staying longer with a math problem.
Two tools to accomplish improvements in both self-awareness and self-management in math class are a small pillow and a kleenex. Students can yell into their pillows when angry – some restraint is required so as not to scare students in other classrooms! And they have tacit permission to cry or feel sad with the kleenex. I accompany the kleenex distribution with a couple of sentences to this effect: You think you want to cry now. Just wait til you can’t get a job because you don’t know enough math, and therefore don’t have enough food to eat. Or you didn’t understand the math on your home mortgage, and you lose your house. Then you’ll feel like crying for sure.
Raising emotional intelligence can be effectively accomplished in a math class. Math class provides continuous contexts in which students can observe their reactions, and with the teacher’s guidance can improve and grow.

Math Whisperer

Math Class is an Ideal Place to Learn Social-Emotional Skills

Was this helpful?
0

The guru of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman, reports on his website on the best SEL programs in schools. Among the best practices identified were teaching children self-awareness and self-management. Math class is an ideal place to learn these two social-emotional skills.
Learning math is a very emotional experience. For one thing, when we remember something, we remember not just the specific events, but also our emotions return. For many students, those returning emotions are anger or sadness. Helping children recognize and deal with those emotions can make the difference between success and failure in math.
The first step towards self-awareness in math class is to help children recognize their emotions. A teacher with high emotional intelligence is ideal here. He or she can effectively “hold up a mirror,” and reflect back to the student, with statements like: “You seem angry when you are working on this problem.” In my experience, it is even more important for the teacher to reflect positive emotions, such as joy when a problem has been worked successfully. I have worked with hundreds of students in low SES and poor performing districts, and invariably these students are not in contact with feelings of pride and high self-esteem when they solve a problem that was difficult for them. In contrast, middle and upper class students (based on their parents’ income) are very familiar with feeling proud and good about themselves.
Self-management is critical for success in math. Everyone gets frustrated consistently in math class. Dealing with that frustration is critical in succeeding in math. Persistence is what ultimately leads to success. A powerful way to help students with this is to work with students to keep track of the length of time they can work on a difficult problem before they want to yell, cry, give up, whatever. By graphing the amount of time over time, they can see their progress in staying longer with a math problem.
Two tools to accomplish improvements in both self-awareness and self-management in math class are a small pillow and a kleenex. Students can yell into their pillows when angry – some restraint is required so as not to scare students in other classrooms! And they have tacit permission to cry or feel sad with the kleenex. I accompany the kleenex distribution with a couple of sentences to this effect: You think you want to cry now. Just wait til you can’t get a job because you don’t know enough math, and therefore don’t have enough food to eat. Or you didn’t understand the math on your home mortgage, and you lose your house. Then you’ll feel like crying for sure.
Raising emotional intelligence can be effectively accomplished in a math class. Math class provides continuous contexts in which students can observe their reactions, and with the teacher’s guidance can improve and grow.

Dr. Elias' suggestions might

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Dr. Elias' suggestions might help in certain situations, yet I'm not sure about long-term effects/affects. There are other skills I call the prerequisite fundamental skills for learning and learning how to learn that need to be addressed. These learning skills such as visualization, concentration/focusing, and creative-thinking are also EI skills, so they satisfy two demands of schools simultaneously. Many teachers are hesitant to work in EI, an area they have not really been trained in.

My experiences in developing many successful EI projects over thirty-four years as an inner-city elementary school teacher (NYCDOE) have convinced me that the best strategies tend to be more natural, organic, holistic, and humanistic. Dr. Elias has it right with his "reflective summary," because any time you can get kids to pause and reflect and get into things on a regular and consistant basis, you're making inroads to his conscience and consciousness. And that's what we're talking about, the thoughts, ideas, feelings, mental image pictures, and meanings kids draw from the lessons learned.

I used, for example, meta-cognition, thinking about thinking, in academic as well as social-emotional writing/learning/activities. This skill is an important one, and reflective in nature, but can be tedious to develop in classroom situations. However, I found that kids enjoyed listening--another fundamental skill--to their friends describe how they think, the thought and emotional processes they go through when working in a core subject or something more personal, emotional, and psychological.

I like the use of self-commands like "keep calm" and "breathe," but, ultimately, the question becomes whether they will have some lasting effects kids can take with them to the next class or school.

I created and developed an original form of writing called "Contemplation Writing" which uses music, writing, discussion, and self-assessment to lead kids on peaceful journeys of self-discovery. Contemplation or Music Writing is also about character education and values clarification. The resulting contemplations, reflections, experiences, in-sights, and inner wisdom change the psychological climate of the classroom for the better. Can it be replicated by teachers? I'm not so sure about that, unless they were trained in EI and/or have a background/degree in psychology. ("Contemplation Writing" is part of a larger program titled "Experiences, Reflections, and Insights" and might be found in the CASEL library.)

Nice list of tips!

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One of the cues I've used during my career is "remember to breath".

Now I'm off to read some more of your articles, thank you for caring and sharing!

School counselor and creator of SchoolToolsTv.com

Thanks Dr. Elias

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Now if we can just convince educators that the time spent following this wonderful outline will come back to them 10 fold in more teachable time and focused results, we'll be on the way to really helping kids prepare for life. Thanks for all you do.

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