By Sean Sweeney MS MEd CCC-SLP
“Interjections” has always been my favorite Schoolhouse Rock song, and I am sure we have some we would like to utter about summer being (almost!) over. But it is always good to return to work with a sense of purpose, right? It has been fun writing this year’s Summer Study Series and I thought this last piece was particularly relevant to our roles in being part of a collaborative community in schools.
Engaging minds and hearts: Social and emotional learning in English Language Arts (click for full free PDF article) is an honest, insightful look at SEL programming and has helpful suggestions for its integration in ELA classes. To me, though not explicitly stated here, it highlights the role of narrative language intervention and applications of Story Grammar Marker® and the Critical Thinking Triangle in helping our students unpack stories to learn from the higher level elements of feelings, plans and mental states. Though this article relates to such instruction in Canada, it is just as relevant to schools in the USA. Here are some main points:
The article points to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) model of SEL as a basis for constructing programming and interventions, and in my experience consulting with schools this is a common foundation recently. The model details the importance of the competencies shown below as areas of support and instruction.
The author states: “Literature points to classroom teachers as the most effective and appropriate agents to engage young learners in SEL,” a statement I agree with, but at times have encountered resistance to as teachers have SO MUCH on their plates. However, their constant access to students and need to provide support in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), among other factors, make this assertion an important one. The article ultimately emphasizes teacher’s creativity and the social learning crossover points in ELA as elements that can ease this daunting responsibility for classroom teachers.
SEL being a “key facilitator for life success” is linked here to the concept that ELA provides a rich context for social learning. “Books are humanity in print” reminds us that the narrative nature of ELA helps students to learn from the experiences of others.
- In particular, I read the following sentence and saw all of the SGM elements and icons in my mind! “Literary characters provide an opportunity to understand and, at times, virtually see through the eyes of another person, hear their thoughts, analyze their motivations, analyze their behaviour and share their experiences.” Highlighted here is the importance of tools like SGM in helping to analyze literature and make it a true learning context.
A critical point in the article is a brief review of several “packaged” SEL programs and the conclusion that, with them, “Part of the problem may be that the design of these programs is reminiscent of “fad” curriculum lacking depth and longevity with respect to the program’s ability to achieve culture-shift and establish SEL as a cornerstone of our classrooms.” Hence, ELA may be a better answer for these learning opportunities. The article provides several examples of how and where this undertaking has been successful, again due to the creativity and ownership of teachers.
This article provides a good foundation for us as language and literacy instructors in considering our path toward assisting in guiding SEL programs in schools. A few tech assists here suggest ways we can help provide access to good literature to serve as SEL learning contexts.
Teachers should know that resources such as Pinterest (and quick internet research in general) are still huge assets in identifying books that contain social themes.
But what if you don’t have the book? I still find actual books the best for instructional purposes, but e-books in various forms are really problem solvers, considering time and budgets. We can remind teachers that they have access to e-books from their public libraries through Overdrive and its app Libby, which provide great selections of picture books and chapter books. YouTube can also work for a read-aloud! I generally go full screen, turn off the sound and use the arrow keys to advance to pages to read the book myself.
Have a great school year!
Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, MA, and consults to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology "through a language lens." Contact him at email@example.com.
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