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!

webb middle school

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.

whale high five

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.

Brain Break Wednesday: Oxygen to the Brain

Here is a simple Brain Break that can be done anywhere, at anytime.  It is a perfect brain break to use as Standardized Testing begins across the country.

Drum roll please………..

Take a deep breath! It sounds simple, but it is an essential brain break with a huge impact for kids and adults.

reminder take a deep breath 

Taking a deep breath involves breathing in through your nose for 4 counts

and out through your mouth for 4 counts.

Place your hand on your stomach to make sure the movement is coming from there and not your chest.

You can also use a chime or bell that students can listen to as they breath. Students come back together when they can no longer hear the note.

Watch as a sports psychologist explains how to take a simple deep breathe and why it is so important.

 

More information from Edutopia on how helping students “de-stress” helps them succeed in school.

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

Brain Break Wednesday: My Turn, Your Turn

This Brain Builder/ Brain Break comes from Committee for Children, the creators of Second Step. It is a very simple one that can be adapted for any level.

My Turn, Your Turn

1. The leader says “my turn” and then says or does something for the followers to repeat or respond to. (Example of basic level: leader pats head twice. Example of higher level: leader says,”Answer: what is the square root of 64?”)

2. The followers wait to repeat or answer until the leader says “your turn.” (Ex. followers pat head twice or say “8”)

Watch the video below to hear about why Brain Builders/ Brain Breaks are so effective and to watch a Kindergarten teacher model “My Turn, Your Turn.”

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

Powerful Parenting from CFChildren

Here is an article on Powerful Parenting from Committee for Children, the authors of Second Step (the resource PK-8 teachers in AISD are using to explicitly teach SEL).

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Powerful Parenting: Building Relationships and Instilling Confidence

As parents, you worry about the risks your children face and the choices they will have to make. But if you have a strong relationship with your children that is built on a foundation of trust and open communication, they are more likely to tell you about their problems and gain from your values.

If your children have confidence in themselves, they are more likely to handle situations assertively. If your children have self-management, relationship-building, and problem-solving skills, they are more likely to make safe and healthy choices. As a parent, you can help strengthen these areas of your children’s lives.

Love Them for Who They Are

Unconditional acceptance of your childKren not only builds a strong relationship with them, but encourages them to have confidence and trust in themselves. Separate who your children are (their being) from what they do (their behavior). Remember, behavior can always change.

Help your children discover their interests and passions and encourage them to pursue their interests by providing opportunities and support.

Spend time with your children. This helps build strong relationships and provides opportunities for you to teach and model essential skills. Use words, gestures, and touch frequently to let your children know that you love them.

Take time to have extended conversations with your children. Bedtimes, meals, and car rides are often good times. As often as possible, have family dinners where you can share news, discuss problems, and make plans. Research shows that children who have dinner with their families several times a week are less likely to smoke or use illegal drugs, have sex at young ages, and get into serious fights.

Have frequent, brief playtimes with young children (5–10 minutes can make a difference). Allow your children to direct the play.

Read together and talk about the characters’ feelings, challenges, and solutions.

Talk about your family’s culture(s). This will help your children feel more strongly connected to their ethnic background and their culture’s values and beliefs. Research shows that positive cultural identification can improve a child’s self-esteem and protect against emotional problems.

Discipline and Guide

Positive guidance and discipline promote children’s self-control, teach them responsibility, and help them learn to make thoughtful choices. Specialists suggest that inconsistent, harsh discipline that includes physical force, threats, and negative comments may interfere with healthy development. Here are some key components of positive discipline:

  • Pay attention to what children do right. Children thrive on positive attention and are more likely to repeat a behavior if you notice it and comment on it.
  • Use consistent, caring consequences for unacceptable behavior. The consequences should be reasonable, directly related to the misbehavior, and respectful of the child.
  • Give the message that mistakes are a chance for learning.
  • Offer choices whenever possible to provide practice in making decisions.

Get Involved in Schoolwork

When you are involved in your children’s schooling, it gives the message that school is important and that you value this significant part of their lives. It also helps children achieve higher grades, finish more homework, and have better attendance, behavior, and attitudes. Here are some ways to be involved:

  • Ask your children about their day. Use open-ended questions: “What was the most fun thing about school today?”
  • Communicate frequently with your children’s teachers about your children’s progress and how to help them out at home.
  • Be aware of your children’s homework. Set a time and place for them to do it. Be around to answer questions, but do not do the homework for them.
  • Attend school activities as often as possible.

Teach Social Skills

Model and teach your children social-emotional skills. These are skills people use to deal with their feelings and dilemmas and to interact with others. Social-emotional skills include the following:

  • Empathy, which is knowing one’s own feelings and being able to recognize and respond sensitively to others’ feelings.
  • Emotion management, which is managing strong feelings such as anxiety, frustration, and anger before they become overwhelming.
  • Problem solving and decision making, including conflict resolution.

Many of the parenting skills outlined in this article can help you model and teach social-emotional skills:

  • By listening to your children and respecting their feelings, you model and teach empathy.
  • By responding to misbehavior with caring, thoughtful, and consistent consequences, you model emotion management and problem solving.
  • By giving children choices, you give them opportunities to practice decision making.
  • As you talk through plans and problems at dinner, you model and teach problem solving, decision making, and conflict resolution.
  • By reading with your child and talking about the stories, you provide opportunities to learn about empathy, emotion management, and problem solving.

As a parent you have power: power to influence, model, and listen, and power to connect with and love each of your children. By using your power in positive and thoughtful ways, you can provide a measure of protection for your children.

For more information from Committee for Children, check out their blog.