Data Backs Our SEL Movement!

Summer 2015 has been a good season for Social and Emotional Learning on our local district level. We’ve been busy with curriculum writing, collaborating to put on an awesome Whole Child Every Child institute, rolling out SEL for the Anderson and Lanier vertical teams, and getting ready for school year ’15-16 with 100% of AISD schools participating in Social and Emotional Learning!

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SEL is getting a lot of national attention lately as well, with new reports from on-going studies showing the deep effects and concrete benefits that intentional, integrated social and emotional learning has for students and society.  In several articles, Austin Independent School District is featured prominently as an early leader in the Academic and Social and Emotional Learning movement.

This article, “Teaching Skills to Improve Grades and Lives,” is in the “Fixes” section of the New York Times.  It was published on 7/24/15.  Here are some excerpts:

In the early 1990s, about 50 kindergarten teachers were asked to rate the social and communication skills of 753 children in their classrooms. It was part of the Fast Track Project, an intervention and study administered in Durham, N.C., Nashville, Seattle and central Pennsylvania. The goals were to understand how children develop healthy social skills, and help them do so.

[…]

This month, researchers from Pennsylvania State University and Duke published a study that looked at what had happened to those students in the 13 to 19 years since they left kindergarten. Their findings warrant major attention because the teachers’ rankings were extremely prescient.

They predicted the likelihood of many outcomes: whether the children would graduate from high school on time, get college degrees, have stable or full-time employment as young adults; whether they would live in public housing or receive public assistance; whether they would be held in juvenile detention or be arrested as adults. The kindergarten teachers’ scores also correlated with the number of arrests a young adult would have for severe offenses by age 25.

[…]

These studies suggest that if we want many more children to lead fulfilling and productive lives, it’s not enough for schools to focus exclusively on academics. Indeed, one of the most powerful and cost-effective interventions is to help children develop core social and emotional strengths like self-management, self-awareness and social awareness — strengths that are necessary for students to fully benefit from their education, and succeed in many other areas of life.

It goes on to cite various studies that support how critical Social and Emotional Learning is for students across the board, and does mention Austin ISD as an SEL pioneer!

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Referenced in the previous article, this PBS News story and this report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation both discuss the implications of the FastTrack study, which tracked the life events of several hundred kindergarten students who had been “scored” on their level of social and emotional competence.  Both articles point to the capacity for every student to learn and practice social and emotional skills, and how this intentional learning has strong benefits that echo through the rest of each individual’s life.

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For another perspective, the Committee for Children recently published “The Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning,” which digests the findings from this study done in collaboration with Columbia University. In short, the study finds that “The average return on investment for all six SEL interventions analyzed is 11 to 1, meaning that for every dollar invested there is a return of 11 dollars. In summary, SEL is well worth the cost.”

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Basically, we’re getting lots and lots of good press because supportive data just keeps rolling in.  Let’s be #AISDproud of the intentional, innovative, valuable Social and Emotional Learning that our district is working to bring to 100% of our students!

Writing Curriculum for the Whole Child, Every Child

School’s out for summer, right? Vacation time, umbrellas by the pool, studies and lessons far-flung from student cwcseland teacher consciousness, right? NOPE! Quite the opposite, actually, at AISD’s annual Curriculum Writers Cadre! Teachers, instructional coaches, and curriculum specialists gather annually to develop and vet curricula, exemplar lessons and assessments for the nearly 85,000 students served by the Austin Independent School District. Developing curriculum is a complex process–there are many factors to consider when crafting quality learning experiences for each of our students.  To ensure that curriculum writers have access to the best and most current resources, organizers of the Curriculum Writers Cadre have created four on-site professional development/advocacy strands to continuously inform curricular creation: Assessment, Differentiation, Instructional Strategies and Whole Child, Every Child.  Specialists from each strand present to groups of curriculum writers, who then use that lens while writing and vetting new lessons and assessments.

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The AISD Social and Emotional Learning team is privileged to partner with Cultural Proficiency and Inclusiveness, Coordinated School Health, and the Creative Learning Initiative to create the Whole Child, Every Child strand. The theory: Students learn best when all facets of each young person–mind and body, culture and creativity, intelligence and emotions–are equally engaged in academic environments.  The goal: To ensure that every single student in the Austin Independent School District receives high-quality academic instruction presented in relevant, active, culturally-sensitive and emotionally healthy ways.

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SEL made an engaging presentation with Coordinated School Health, emphasizing the value of movement-based “Brain Breaks” to get the blood flowing while practicing academic vocabulary and concepts.  For the SEL aspect, we incorporated the Committee for Children‘s ARR strategy (Anticipate-Reinforce-Reflect) to take advantage of any moment during an academic class, Brain Break or otherwise, to reinforce and practice social and emotional skills like turn-taking, active listening, and empathy.  CWC writers found standing partners and touched opposite elbows and knees while sharing the answers to questions, engaging both halves of the brain while practicing concept recall.  They played modified rock-paper-scissor type games involving quick mental math to exercise the logical frontal cortex, all while managing emotions that arise from learning new skills and winning or losing.  The more brain we can engage in our students, the more our students will engage with learning!

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The Cultural Proficiency and Inclusiveness presentation modeled activities designed to give every student academic choice and opportunities to share their perspective on a topic, either aloud or written.  CWC participants read different passages from the book Teaching with Vision: Culturally Responsive Teaching in Standards-Based Classrooms (Christine E. Sleeter and Catherine Cornbleth) and “jigsawed” their impressions and reactions on a piece of paper divided into four sections, so that each reader received information and brain power from others in their group.  We then did an interactive gallery walk, where thoughtful questions on posters prompted group members to discuss their answers and share them on post-it notes left on the poster for the next group.  Such strategies encourage equal participation from all members of a class, and invite each student to share their unique perspective based on their own life experiences, cultural background, multiple identities and learning style.  Ensuring that every single student learns in a safe, inclusive, respectful, and culturally-aware environment is the ultimate goal of Cultural Proficiency and Inclusion!

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The Creative Learning Initiative ties it all together, bringing visual art, music, movement- and drama-based strategies to reinforce learning and provide multiple ways of practicing, sharing and applying academic concepts.  For example, activities such as “Machine” and “Build a Phrase” lend themselves to teaching about cycles and systems. In “Machine,” students choose and physically act out different components of a system, like a business, body system, or actual machine.  They then must act out how the different parts would go together, and brainstorm what would happen if parts malfunctioned, disappeared, or changed speed!  In “Build a Phrase,” students create and agree upon movements that represent different parts of a cycle, and then perform the result. Our group represented the water cycle, and the modern dance that emerged thrilled us all!  These and other creative learning strategies (Hot Seat!  Town Hall!) help CWC writers include unique and exciting activities that reinforce academic goals.

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The “old school” idea of public education–students sitting in desk-rows, listening to the teacher lecture for 45 minutes–is changing quickly as more and more research shows that students learn best when their bodies, intellects, emotions and experiences are engaged in the classroom.  The Whole Child, Every Child strand at AISD’s Curriculum Writers Cadre has provided myriad whole-child options to incorporate into the district’s curricula, keeping AISD on the leading edge of education design.  It may be summer vacation, but we are #AISDproud and #SELsmart, year-’round!

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Brain Break Wednesday: High Five Affirmations

It’s the end of the school year and many of us are exhausted. This brain builder is an instant energizing, relationship building, feel good, mood lifter!  Plus it takes under a minute to do and is easy to adjust for any audience.

Have students (or adults) turn to someone sitting next to them and say, “You’re awesome!” then give them a high five.

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Now watch as the energy of the room takes a dramatic and uplifting turn for the better.

Feel free to put any of your favorite positive affirmations in the quotes. For example, “You work hard and it shows!” “I’m so glad you’re here today!” “I am ready to learn with you!” “You have wonderful ideas!” “You make my classroom a better place!” “You rock!” “You’re a great person to know!”

What are your favorite brain breaks? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Brain Break Wednesday: Human Rain Storm

On this rainy Wednesday, let’s all model ourselves after the sky and make it rain! This brain break encourages everyone to work together and the effect is often very calming.

RainstormSource: http://www.allwalls.net/landscapes-nature-rain-storm/

The leader puts the students in a circle. Say: “We’re going to create a rain storm. I’m going to walk around the circle and I want you to do what I do to make the sounds. You keep doing it until I get back to you with the next sound.”

Start with one student – your “Point Man or Point Woman” who will start each new sound with you. Tell everyone “Do what I do when I come to you, and keep doing it until I come back around to you. Don’t start the new sound until I come back to you.”

The leader starts and they follow these activities as storm gathers, then subtract activities as storm leaves:

The Storm Gathers!
1. Rub your hands together – wind rustling
2. Snap your fingers – raindrops
3. Hit your thighs with your hands – thunder and rain
4. Stomp your feet while you’re hitting your thighs – heavy thunder and heavier rain.

Then the storm quiets
1. Just hit thighs
2. Just snap your fingers
3. Just rub your hands together.
4. Then all stop one at a time because the storm is over

*Adapted from: http://cefkids.com/Game-Noah-CreatingARainStorm.pdf

What are your favorite brain breaks? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Brain Break Wednesday: Stress Management Technique

Our brain break this week comes from a stress management training by Keeth Matheny. Enjoy!

1. Smile   smile

2. Relax jaw, neck, and shoulders

3. Take a deep breath in, then exhale and feel a wave of warmth and heaviness float down your body

4. Check in with your self-talk (what you are saying to yourself)

5. Think to yourself: “I am calm and positive.”

What are your favorite brain breaks? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Brain Break Wednesday: Get the Sillies Out!

Dancing is a great way to energize your students, support kinesthetic learning, and build a positive climate in your classroom.  But most of all, it’s fun!!

Check out the short dance video below from the Wii game Just Dance Kids that will get your whole class up, moving, and ready to learn!

What are your favorite brain breaks? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Brain Break Wednesday: Thumb and Pinkie Switch

Our brain break this week takes under 1 minute to try and will prove a fun and challenging break for everyone!

1. Hold both your hands in fists in front of you.

2. Put your left thumb out and your right pinkie out.

3. Switch: put your left pinkie out and your right thumb out.

4. Keep switching and see how fast you can go!

 

What are your favorite brain breaks? Feel free to share in the comment section.