Monday, July 09, 2018

Mindfulness and Empathy: Embedding SEL into the Curriculum

As I further review the book I co-wrote, Integrating SEL Into Your Curriculum, I am thinking about how I will use the book's research, ideas, and activities to deepen the practice of social emotional learning in the classroom. I believe that the best way to use this book to uplift your teaching and learning is to read it with an eye on your year's curriculum program and how you and your colleagues will use the activities and information to build students' social emotional learning and academic learning throughout the year.

Yesterday I reviewed a number of activities to bring about students' self awareness--activities that will be good to use as we get to know each other and set the stage for positive learning during the first week of school. Now I'll focus on self awareness activities related to mindfulness and empathy.

At first I was not pleased with mindfulness efforts around me since, in some cases, I felt that people were confusing mindfulness with attempts to ignore those in their midst. If they didn't want to deal with someone's questions or ideas, they would simply point a finger and tell that person they needed to be more mindful. Yet in the past year, I have noticed mindfulness creep into our school culture in positive ways. I notice educators using the techniques at meetings and with their students, and our whole school participates in a Mindful Moment each day. When I witness the Mindful Moment, I see students relax and begin to embrace the day with a more open and relaxed mind. This is positive.

Early in the year, the class will focus on the Student Handbook and classroom routines. As part of that, we'll begin by using the book's mindful activity, Just Breathe. That activity will give me the words and students and me the practice of what it means to be mindful each morning during the Mindful Moment. Typically zeroing in on a daily routine with more time and intention at the start of the year sets the stage for completing that task well each day. Similarly I'll use the book's thermometer and number line activity as early math/science year activities as students become familiar with those tools, tools they will use throughout the year. Similarly the students and I will practice visualization techniques as we complete those activities and practice using empathy when we read James Printer, A Novel of Rebellion which is a perfect fifth grade match for the new social studies standards.

I can see as I read the SEL book, I will need to make a list of when and how I will introduce and give students time to practice the many SEL activities. With this in mind, Ive started a list below:

First Weeks of School - Building Classroom Culture and Getting to Know One Another
  • Who are You? Strengths and Challenges (Weaknesses) - visualization, "window (shield)" activity, "right sized" proud pig activity.
  • What is a Hero? Who are your heroes? Identifying honorable characteristics, finding people to look up to, learn from,  and follow in real time, history, and literature, sharing the story of Malala.
  • What is your point of view or perception? The birds story, a discussion on classroom needs, wants, and desires.
  • Active Reading: The Student Handbook: What do we do well and what can we get better at--how can we shortlist the handbook rules and protocols to a memorable phrase, sign, poem, or acronym? How can we make these rules and protocols are own?
  • Just Breathe: Making the most of the mindful moment and other morning routines. 
  • Goal Setting: Your one word
Math/Science SEL Lessons
  • Using visualization in math and science as we learn about and practice with essential tools: color continuum, number lines, rulers, thermometers, place value chart.
Social Studies
  • Visualization and Empathy to understand historic context and roles as we read historic texts.
  • Self Awareness with Timelines: Students will create a time line that includes a parent or guardian's main event before they were born from birth onward, their own main events, and 4-5 events they imagine for their future. This will be done in technology class.