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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

The first weeks... setting up a SEL classroom

The first weeks... setting up a SEL classroom

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The new year is fast approaching! I thought we could share effective ways we start the year (curriculum, rules, activities, routines). How do you set up a SEL classroom? What rules and procedures/expectations/routines do you start setting up? I'm a high school social studies teacher in an urban school (and pretty new at it), so I'm also wondering what engages and inspires older students. Here are the rules I'm thinking of (they're NOT finalized). I want no more than 3-4. I want to start with rules that set students up to collaborate, communicate, create, and reflect. And then spend time doing activities and projects that help us define what they look like/sound like/feel like. I welcome your critique and wisdom. - Think from different perspectives - Speak your mind and listen to others - Do the right thing even when no one is looking - Communicate constructively - Take risks This discussion can become a resource for SEL classroom structure...

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Kati Delahanty's picture

I love these, Rachel.
I use 4 principles in my class:
* respect yourself
* respect others
* respect our learning environment
* and try it on

We also spend a couple of days fleshing out what these look/sound/feel like. We do a lot of writing, role-playing, and watching video clips to get us thinking about these. For example, I show a clip from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, one from an episode of The Wire season 4, one from an episode of the show Veronica Mars and the students take notes on the concrete examples of the 4 principles as they are both honored and disregarded (in obvious and subtle ways) in the clips. I also use an excerpt from Frank mcCourt's Teacher Man (the scene w/ the sandwich). I use this to do the same thing AND to get a quick assessment of their reading comprehension.

By the end of the first week, each student has created either a written contract, a syllabus, or a power point about how to honor our 4 principles.

Lisa Rothufs's picture

I would welcome any suggestions for books on Social & Emtional Intelligence other than Daniel Goldman's as I already have these, and on building cooperation in the classroom. I will be teaching a class to kids at a gifted school on Social & Emotional intelligence. Thaks for any suggestions.

Lisa

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

Check out Responsive Classroom (www.responsiveclassroom.org). They have a newsletter that is free to subscribe to and many resources. I have only taken training in the part that is for elementary school, but they have a track that is for middle and high school as well. Another source is the Efficacy Institute, but I think they are geared more toward struggling or middle of the road students than gifted.

Bill Warters's picture
Bill Warters
Professor, manager of K-12 website on conflict resolution

I posted details about the new calendar (free to educators) over in the Classroom Management group. The month of August contains tips for getting off to a good start and points to a more structured planning guide for people who are working to integrate conflict resolution concepts into their classroom. See it all online here: http://www.creducation.org/cre/teachers/calendar

Rachel Pickett's picture
Rachel Pickett
10th grade Social Studies

[quote]I love these, Rachel.

I use 4 principles in my class:

* respect yourself

* respect others

* respect our learning environment

* and try it on

We also spend a couple of days fleshing out what these look/sound/feel like. We do a lot of writing, role-playing, and watching video clips to get us thinking about these. For example, I show a clip from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, one from an episode of The Wire season 4, one from an episode of the show Veronica Mars and the students take notes on the concrete examples of the 4 principles as they are both honored and disregarded (in obvious and subtle ways) in the clips. I also use an excerpt from Frank mcCourt's Teacher Man (the scene w/ the sandwich). I use this to do the same thing AND to get a quick assessment of their reading comprehension.

By the end of the first week, each student has created either a written contract, a syllabus, or a power point about how to honor our 4 principles.[/quote]

Kati,

This is awesome! I love how you start your year and I'm so 'stealing' from you :) 'Try it on' is awesome.

I used clips from Freedom Writers, and a short video on PBL. The kids started analyzing respect through watching, and they loved it. I made a graphic organizer so we could examine what respect looks/sounds/feels like in groups, student-student, student-teacher, and teacher-student -- after we watched a video clip. I think using videos made analyzing a classroom learning environment much more real to them, and impacted them on an emotional level :) Now, how can this chart be designed into a living document that we reference and build on the whole year?

I also used your check-in survey. It was on their desks when they walked into the classroom for the first time, and it helped establish a positive tone, it helped build relationships, it communicated that I care about them. I've tried the circle power point, and it worked well too. Having things like Germex and tissues in the classroom, easily accessible, also communicates that I respect them.

I started this year by asking students how they wanted to be treated. They then made classroom agreements, and voted on the top 3. I found post-it notes in the shape of a star, and they each individually wrote 'I commit to these agreements' and then signed their name (I told them to do this when they were ready and willing to commit... not because they had to). They stuck their stars on the poster, and I laminated each class' poster. I have one rule: "You may not do anything that causes a problem for yourself or others, including me. If you do, I will do something about it." I explained to them that since they're all different people, I will respond individually if they do act in ways that aren't building a positive learning culture. So far, I haven't had to do anything other than talk individually with a student about being tardy, or about getting work done. I'm finding it very helpful if I explain my reasoning for asking them to do something. They're usually cooperative when I share my reasoning.

I'm a newbie with implementing SEL into my classroom, so this forum is like gold! I also am falling in love with Project-Based Learning... and it lends itself very well to integrating communication, collaboration, and SEL into the classroom.

Do you all have SEL outcomes/objectives as part of your lesson-plans? If so, how do you introduce and structure group processing as part of you're learning?

Josh Blum's picture
Josh Blum
Middle-School Art Educator in Fredericksburg, VA

Kati, I love these! I came up with the three "respect" principles for my class as well, though my fourth is "be prepared for class," which is not terribly stimulating. I might just try on your "Try it on" as well. I am curious as to what grades you are working with. Using video clips to stimulate conversation is a great idea, and I might just try that one on as well.

Thanks!
[quote]

I use 4 principles in my class:

* respect yourself

* respect others

* respect our learning environment

* and try it on

We also spend a couple of days fleshing out what these look/sound/feel like. We do a lot of writing, role-playing, and watching video clips to get us thinking about these.

By the end of the first week, each student has created either a written contract, a syllabus, or a power point about how to honor our 4 principles.[/quote]

Ms. Bea's picture
Ms. Bea
Educator

This is a great thread of comments. Wonderful ideas and support. There are other SEL materials for classes including Goldie Hawn Foundation Curriculum and a tool kit called recessitate that teaches self-awareness by inserting 1-5 minute activity breaks into any curriculum. Find these resources at http://www.thehawnfoundation.org/mindup and www.recessitate.com.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator

I'm writing on just this topic today and what I'm most struck by is the reality that the SEL (we call it the Collaborative Learning Community but we're all talking about the same thing) piece is the key to everything. There are lots of ways to build it at the beginning- though I'm partial to creating rituals and traditions right off the bat and making sure that kids really get to know each other as soon as possible- but what really maintains it is meaningful work. The SEL piece isn't just the first six weeks- though those are important, of course. It's about making sure that kids learn the academic content and the skills and dispositions (SEL piece) side by side. The first days and weeks are about learning to be a community. After that, it's all about using the community to learn.

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