Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

Social and Emotional Learning and the Start of School

Maurice Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service

From a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) point of view, the most important consideration at the start of the new school year is to create positive feelings and optimism about school. This has many practical implications for both educators and parents.

Here are seven ideas to keep in mind:

Number One

Make a special effort to greet children in a positive and uplifting way at the start of school. Create a festive atmosphere, not a "get down to business" factory atmosphere.

Number Two

Highlight all the good and exciting things that will be happening at the beginning of the school year, as well as throughout the year.

Number Three

Give students a chance to share good memories about the summer, what they are looking forward to for the new school year, and something about themselves that they would like classmates to know. Time spent helping the students in a class bond in positive ways will bring large dividend later in the year as students work together in pairs, teams, and groups.

Number Four

Allow students to have input into setting the rules for the classroom, in terms of both "do's" and "don'ts."

Number Five

Give students an opportunity each day to reflect on what they are learning. Ask them to keep a journal and write down, at the end of the day, three things they are taking with them from the school day. Have them keep daily journals in one or some or all subject areas where, at the end of a class period or unit or project, they write down three things they are taking away from that unit of work.

Number Six

Parents, the parallel of all these apply to you. Keep the first days of school very positive. Allow time for routines to kick in. Don't get upset if your child is running late, or forgets things. Make it clear that you understand and expect by the end of the first week of school, routines will be set and work well. Ask your child for suggestions about ways to modify the routines that are not going well.

Also, after school, ask your child to share the best parts of the school day. Later, ask your child what they are looking forward to most the next day. Please note the words, "best" and "most." These are relative terms, so there will be a "best" part of a bad day and something to look forward to "most" even where the day is dreaded. In that way, you keep the focus positive. Remember, school is much more than classes. Asking about hallways, announcements, and things other than academic classes may garner special conversations.

Number Seven

Teachers and parents should share what the school is doing around social-emotional and character development, health, and such key areas as prevention of harassment, intimidation, and bullying. Parents, if you are not given this information proactively, seek it out. Teachers, your best hope for continuity and reinforcement of school messages out of school is if parents know what it is that their children are being taught!

The essence of SEL is to be sure that the adults dealing with children understand that the gateway to learning is through children's social and emotional skills and experiences. Opening that gateway at the start of the school year will lead to a smoother path during all subsequent days.

Maurice Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service
Related Tags:

Comments (23)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Mary Tavegia's picture
Mary Tavegia
Principal at Cossitt Elementary School

For excellent information about social and emotional learning check out the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning at casel.org.

Mary Jo Domen's picture

When I was in the classroom, I asked my students to keep a dialogue journal. In it, they were to tell me three things they learned or practiced that day, focusing on main content areas but not exclusively. Since we were departmentalized, this also helped me know what was happening in the other classes in order to integrate the skills they acquired. Students were also asked to evaluate their behavior. Were they Kind? Courteous? Prepared? Attentive? Students could select something to consciously work on the next day. I read some of the journald each day and responded. It was a great way for me to acknowledge learning and positive behavior. Sometimes a child would write "I tried..." In the journal, this was acknowledged, encouraged and valued as a step in improvement.

Debbie Roberts-Sorg's picture

Great suggestions however, I checked out the calendar and there was a cost of $205 to become a member. You could not get a calendar unless you are a member.... At least that is how it looked to me.

Michael Erickson's picture

Great stuff to start the year with. It has to be positive, collaborative and interactive for the kids. I had to post as well with 2 other Erickson's already having done so. As a Counselor the students emotional stability, resiliency and more affect how they learn every day, especially at the Middle level.

enthusiastic educator's picture
enthusiastic educator
3rd grade teacher Milwaukee, WI

[quote]Great suggestions however, I checked out the calendar and there was a cost of $205 to become a member. You could not get a calendar unless you are a member.... At least that is how it looked to me.[/quote]

enthusiastic educator's picture
enthusiastic educator
3rd grade teacher Milwaukee, WI

Let me walk through each step of obtaining the calendar because Debbie is correct, membership is too pricey for classroom teachers especially if you are, as I am, working in an inner city school that is severely underfunded.
Log in to the site: http://www.CREducation.org/
Scroll down to the bottom of the page
Click on the blue door marked Teachers & Trainers
"Teacher Menu" comes upon the right hand side of the screen
Click on the second item: "2010-2011 CRE Teacher Calendar
Scroll down just a little and find: 'Grab a pdf. version
Click on that and the calendar will load
You can then save it to you own documents file which would allow you to make it an attachment to email to colleagues or simply print it. It uses a lot colored ink but is beautiful! Or you may give directions to your printer to print in black and white

Mike's picture
Mike
Just Do The Right Thing

Teachers looking for practical tools to use in the classroom might want to check this Character Development Program, which has been used in over 200 schools and comes with a satisfaction guarantee.

http://www.characterineducation.com

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.