Guest Post by Bridget Gengler, Fourth Grade Teacher, Long Beach, California
Social and Emotional learning is a way to connect to the whole child. It is difficult to teach academics to a child if their social and emotional status is out of sync.
Social and Emotional learning addresses 5 different competencies according to CASEL Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning:
- Self awareness
- Self Management
- Social Awareness
- Relationship Skills
- Responsible Decision-Making
CASEL envisions all children and adults as self- aware, caring, responsible, engaged and lifelong learners who work together to achieve their goals and create a more inclusive, just and equitable world. ( CASEL, 2022)
I try to incorporate all these competencies throughout the school year in my classroom. One of the main ways that I do this is through morning meetings. I have been doing morning meetings for several years. They are a way to bring the classroom community together and help to get everyone centered for the day. They focus on the five competencies and create awareness within the learning environment. They help to form a more inclusive, caring and compassionate group of learners who support each other. The meetings help students become more aware of themselves and their fellow classmates. They create student voice and dialogue that contributes to my overall message to my students that says, “you are important and you matter.”
Our morning meetings start with a leader who runs the meeting each day. The leader begins with the calendar and then does a class check in.
“How are you feeling today? – Fist to Five?
Fist- I feel awful to Five- I feel awesome.
I remind students that the check in is for two reasons.
1.It is for each other, so we can celebrate or support one another.
2. It is also for ourselves- so we can self-monitor how we are feeling on that day.
The check in helps students become more self aware and it also helps them to be socially aware and focus on how they can be empathetic to others and their feelings.
After the check in, I let a few students share out and express orally what they are feeling and why. This builds the classroom community and inclusivity that I am hoping to accomplish.
The check in also allows me to see where my students’ mindsets are when they enter the classroom in the morning. It helps me to see who may need extra care and support throughout the day.
Our leader for the day then transitions our meeting to a lighter note by sharing a fun fact or a joke. It is followed up with an interesting poll of the day. These activities create active participation and get students involved right away.
From there we move into one of the competencies of Social and Emotional Learning. I like to bring in a short video or book to begin the discussion. I usually focus on a theme for a week or two. For example, if I am working on relationships then I may spend a week on empathy. I will find videos with short stories or an explanation of the topic. Following the video, we will have discussions focused on reflection questions pertaining to the topic. This allows students the time to share out on the topic. This dialogue creates meaning for them. They build upon what each other is saying. It allows for voices to be heard and different perspectives to be shared.
Morning meetings have become an important part of our day. My students look forward to them and are disappointed if we have to change the structure of the day. These meetings really set the tone for the day. They allow a little bit of time for students to get adjusted to the day rather than jumping right into the curriculum. It allows us time to be together and build the classroom community that is so essential to the foundation of learning that happens throughout the day. The morning meetings begin the social and emotional learning that is weaved into the curriculum during the day. Social and emotional learning is applied hand and hand with academic learning. When a child feels that they matter, they are valued and their voice is heard, then they will take the extra steps to achieve beyond what they ever thought they were capable of.
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