Supporting the Development of Emotional Regulation

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emotional self regulationEmotional regulation requires the ability to identify emotions and properly manage them. Children and young adults will need to develop and practice these skills over and over throughout their school-aged years. As such, it’s important that educators prepare the environment to support the development of emotional regulation.

In their book All Learning Is Social And Emotional: Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom And Beyond, authors Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Dominique Smith provide identify several areas in which teachers can support students and provide suggestions for how to do so (pp. 46-65)

  1. Identifying emotions – Use word to teach students the language of feelings and emotions.
  2. Emotional self-perception – Use visuals such as Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions or Kuypers Zones of Regulation to help students recognize their emotional states.
  3. Impulse control – Help students identify triggers that cause them to act out and create action plans for managing the desire to lash out (i.e. count to 10, take a deep breath, talk it out, escape).
  4. Delayed gratification – Set classroom goals that result in rewards.
  5. Stress management – Supports may include positive talk (both from the teacher and from the student), breathing techniques, espousing an open posture, using practice activities before graded activities, and programs that increase student understanding of stress and its impact on academic functioning.
  6. Coping – Employing healthy distractors such as positive talk, a walk or other physical activity, can help students cope with the stressors in the school setting.

As you prepare for next week, be intentional in planning for student emotions and the supports you build for them. You and your students will be glad you took the time to do so!

Supporting the Development of Student Identity and Agency

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student identity and agency 2Student identity (the sense of who the person is) and agency (the sense of capability to act independently) is continually growing and changing. As classroom teachers, we have the ability to undertake actions that will help positively influence student identity and agency. In their book All Learning Is Social And Emotional: Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom And Beyond, authors Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Dominique Smith identify six areas related to identity and agency, and they share suggestions for classroom supports for each (pp. 22-37):

  1. Recognize strengths – Have students regularly identify their own strengths. Provide feedback regarding the learning process and about student self-regulation during the task. Give opportunities for practicing a variety of activities and discuss successes with students. Employ “I can” checklists for students to use during and after academic tasks.
  2. Self-confidence – Develop tasks that provide for social interaction. Develop activities that require students to share reasoning and actions. Employ dialogue frequently.
  3. Self-efficacy – Encourage students to believe in themselves and their ability to complete the tasks assigned. Share examples of prior student successes on work. Create picture displays showing students participating in the learning process and completing their work.
  4. Growth mindset – Embrace the power of “yet” and remind students that they are growing. Employ active interventions that involve writing (journaling, story telling) and discussion.
  5. Perseverance and grit – As able, refer to characters (both real and fictional) that demonstrated grit. Identify student interests and leverage those to increase perseverance and grit. Remind students that there are opportunities to help others in need by persevering.
  6. Resiliency – Help students develop relationships with peers and adults in the building. Establish clear routines and order for classrooms. Share stories of those who overcome. Mirror student strengths. Help and serve others.

As you prepare for your classes next week, think of ways that you can further foster the development of student identity and agency. Your students will be glad you did!



The Impact of Social-Emotional Learning in the Classroom

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happy childrenWe are learning more and more about the positive impact of social-emotional learning in the classroom. In their book All Learning Is Social And Emotional: Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom And Beyond, authors Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Dominique Smith share the results from a meta-analytic study of 213 Social-Emotional Learning programs involving 270,034 students in grades K-12. The study found statistically significant positive gains in the following six areas based upon the implementation of a social-emotional learning curriculum in the classroom (pp. 9-10):

  1. Improved Social Emotional Skills, specifically in the areas of identifying emotions, goal setting, perspective taking, interpersonal problem solving, conflict resolution, and decision making (effect size = .62)
  2. Improved Academic Performance, specifically in the areas of standardized reading or math achievement scores and classroom grades (effect size = .34)
  3. Improved Positive Social Behavior, specifically getting along with others (effect size =.26)
  4. Reduced Emotional Distress, specifically depression, anxiety, stress, or withdrawal (effect size = .25)
  5. Improved Attitudes Toward Self and Others, specifically self-perceptions, school bonding, and prosocial beliefs (effect size = .23)
  6. Reduced Conduct Problems, specifically disruptions of class, noncompliance, aggression, bullying, and suspensions (effect size = .20)

Over the next few weeks, we will explore a social-emotional learning framework that could be beneficial for classroom practice. I encourage you to thoughtfully consider how this might positively impact your classroom. You and your students will be glad you did!

Getting to Rigor through Webb’s Depth of Knowledge

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deep thinkingStudents need access to academic rigor throughout their content experiences. Many teachers have worked to embed higher order thinking by planning with Bloom’s taxonomy in mind. In her article Pursuing the Depths of Knowledge, Nancy Boyles encourages teachers to examine Webb’s Depth of Knowledge and provides direct links to the rigor available in each level (pp. 46-50):

  1. Recall and Reproduction: Students use facts to answer simple questions using sources available to them. The rigor is found in students choosing the very best evidence to support their responses.
  2. Skills and Concepts: Students employ some decision making regarding how to approach the problem or activity. The rigor is found in students achieving independence with the skill.
  3. Strategic Thinking and Reasoning: Students use logic and evidence to think more abstractly about responses. The rigor is found in the quality of student insights.
  4. Extended Thinking: Students integrate information from multiple sources to create responses. The rigor is found in students creating multiple connection points for greater levels of understanding.

As you plan for the final quarter of the school year, think about ways that you can employ Webb’s depth of knowledge to help your students dig deeper into their understanding.

For more information from the article, please see the October 2016 issue of Educational Leadership published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Practicing Self-Care

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relaxingAs educators, we spend our time and energy providing for the needs of our students. Many times our efforts come at the expense of our own well-being. During our school day, week, and year, we need to build and rebuild our emotional energy to be most effective. In her book Engage the Brain: How to Design for Learning That Taps Into the Power of Emotion, author Allison Posey recommends the following to rejuvenate us (pp. 145-152):

  1. Relax.  It’s okay to take time for yourself during your workday. When the students head to recess or to a special class, take five minutes for yourself. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and let the stresses go, even if just for a few minutes.
  2. Eat lunch. Go to your staff room and have lunch with other adults in the building. The break from your room and the interaction you have with others can restore some energy.
  3. Collaborate.  Work with other teachers on your projects. Seek help from others when you need it.
  4. Do something silly. When with the teachers or students, break the monotony with something unexpected and fun.
  5. Laugh.  Find and tell school-appropriate jokes to your class or your colleagues.

In addition to the suggestions from the book, I would recommend you do your best to remind yourself regularly that you have the greatest job in the world. You get to connect with students and make a significant positive impact on their lives. That makes you someone very special!!

Self-Determination and Intrinsic Motivation

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SelfDeterminationTheoryMany years ago when I was an elementary music teacher, I challenged students in my 4th grade classes to compose and record original works for a grant-funded project. One particular student became more engaged than his peers. He asked if he could give up recess time and come to my room to work. He asked if he could stay after school to work. He used every free minute available during the day to work on his project. The level of intrinsic motivation displayed was quite remarkable.

How can we help all students reach this level of intrinsic motivation? In her book Engage the Brain: How to Design for Learning That Taps Into the Power of Emotion, author Allison Posey recommends bringing Self-determination Theory and its three core components into our classrooms (pp. 133-137):

  1. Competency (the sense of effectiveness and making progress): Break long-term goals into smaller chunks to create opportunities for “wins” throughout your projects. Give specific, process-based feedback about the progress students are making. Encourage students. Let your words reflect your belief that students can achieve. Have students report their progress.
  2. Relatedness (the interaction and connection among people and the learning environment): Interact with students as they enter and exit the classroom. Give students clear expectation for times of group collaboration. Create opportunities for peer-to-peer feedback. Have fun. Laughter builds community. Share your experiences as a learner. Embrace and celebrate the diversity present in your classroom.
  3. Autonomy (the sense of independence and choice): Create options for learners to develop their own learning path. Create many opportunities for engagement, representation, action, and expression. Reflect with students. Let them talk about the choices they made to improve their progress and learning.

As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you can incorporate Self-determination Theory into your classroom. You and your students will be glad you did!

Roadmap to Working Memory

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Chicago Road SignsWhen I was a superintendent in downstate Illinois, I often had to travel to meetings in downtown Chicago. The interstate system that leads into downtown is expansive and filled with signage to help the driver navigate safely toward the destination. In addition to the signage, the fine folks of that area are always willing to honk and point when you’re not quite sure where you’re going! The visual and aural stimuli can cause cognitive overload.

Many students in your classroom experience similar overload when navigating your curriculum and content activities. Some need extra visual prompts to help them access and add to their working memory. Others need extra verbal prompts to help them access and add to their working memory. Ultimately, all students need a traffic officer – executive functioning – to fully access and add to their working memory. In her book Engage the Brain: How to Design for Learning That Taps Into the Power of Emotion, author Allison Posey shares some strategies for helping support each of these areas (pp. 108-114):

  1. The Visual Traffic Lane: Provide worked examples so students can see what is expected, the process, and outcome. Display concept maps or flowcharts. Include choices such as drawings, making models, or constructing diagrams.
  2. The Aural Traffic Lane: Provide time for verbal rehearsal of information via discussions, peer teaching, skits, or talk-alouds. Employ “turn and talk” or “I do, we do, you do” methodologies. Give students opportunities to explain more.
  3. The Executive Traffic Officer: Chunk information. Break long-term goals into short-term goals. Preview concepts, ideas, and vocabulary. Highlight reading assignments and focus on the important information. Provide descriptors, charts, graphs, or images.

Look at all the items you have planned for next week. Do you see areas of possible cognitive overload? If so, put together a roadmap that includes extra visual, aural, and executive support for your students. They will be very glad you took the time to do so!