The recently revised, Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to incorporate nonacademic factors into their assessments and could help change the way schools view success.
Research has shown that children who learn Social Emotional Skills when they are young (the earlier, the better) become more successful in the future. In other words, when children learn skills they need to thrive — like knowing how to interact with others, feeling empathy, communicating effectively, and thinking critically and innovatively — they will grow up to be more successful students and adults.
The Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization that fosters leadership based on enduring values and provides a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues, has created a National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. The goal of the commission is to re-envision what constitutes success in our schools and explore how schools can fully integrate social, emotional, and academic development to support the whole student.
The rigorous academic learning objectives haven’t gone away. They are still very much alive, so how can preschool and early elementary teachers include all of this into the school day?
There are many districts that have taken on this challenge and are rising to meet it. Nevada’s Washoe County School District, for example, has found that combining Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and academics ultimately saves educational time. For instance, a teacher accepts a student’s mistakes on a math assignment and then encourages the child to move beyond thinking, “I’m no good at this” to “I’ve solved other problems before; I can learn to do this too.” Or, for older students, an English teacher may guide students through multiple drafts of a written assignment, which will illustrate the value of persistence and resilience. They then discuss with the class how they feel about it. The students become more aware of their own feelings and those of others, skills which they can then use in their writing.
This form of embedding SEL into academics can be utilized at the preschool level as well. Teachers can infuse math and literacy lessons with music and movement activities and include SEL concepts. There are a number of Social Emotional Learning Programs available on CDs (and downloads) that use engaging songs to integrate SEL with foundational skills, such as movement, directionality, vocabulary and oral language seamlessly into daily activities.
Have you tried embedding SEL into your academic lessons? We would love to hear about your strategies. Let us know in the comment section below.