Category Archives: SEL

Going Vertical in ELA

I am currently reading Peter Liljedahl’s Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics: 14 Teaching Practices for Enhancing Learning (Corwin, 2021) after three recommendations. The book organizes “each chapter by exploreing one of the 14 optimal practices, beginning with a deep dive into what are the institutionally normative practices that permeate many classrooms around the world. It reveals how each of these practices is working against our efforts to get students to think, and then it offers a clear presentation of what the research revealed to be the optimal practice for each variable, unpacking it into macro- and micro- practices. These descriptions are punctuated by excerpts from the data, anecdotes from teachers, photographs from real K–12 classrooms, and responses to frequently asked questions (FAQ).” Each chapter provides micro and macro moves that I have been considering and implementing into my classroom. The first thing that I did was to decenter my classroom and randomize the seating daily. Every day, students sit with different classmates. Desks are arranged in pods of three. This has been the first game changer since there is no front of the classroom anymore and I am teaching from every direction. Secondly, I have no complaints about seating or collaboration.

The next pivot I made in my classroom was teaching vertically. Liljedahl states in the book, “One of the most enduring institutional norms that exists in mathematics classrooms is students sitting at their desks (or tables) and writing in their notebooks. This turned out to be the workspace least conducive to thinking. What emerged as optimal was to have the students standing and working on vertical non- permanent surfaces (VNPSs) such as whiteboards, blackboards, or windows. It did not matter what the surface was, as long as it was vertical and erasable (non-permanent). The fact that it was non-permanent promoted more risk taking, and the fact that it was vertical prevented students from disengaging. Taken together, having students work, in their random groups, on VNPSs had a massive impact on transforming previously passive learning spaces into active thinking spaces where students think, and keep thinking, for upwards of 60 minutes.” This means that the more time students are able to stand, think, and actively engage with the material the better.

How does this translate in the ELA classroom when students are reading, writing, thinking, speaking and listening versus completing math problems? Here are four different ways to shift learning vertical that I have been utilizing to optimize learning.

Gallery Walk – This discussion technique allows students to be actively engaged as they walk throughout the classroom. They work together in small groups to share ideas and respond to meaningful questions, documents, images, problem-solving situations or texts. Use a Gallery Walk at any point in the lesson to engage students in conversation, I tend to use them at the beginning of a lesson to showcase and examine mentor texts and model writing/reading passages. Teacher can also use gallery walks after reading a text to discuss ideas, themes, and characters. Gallery walks can be text based on visual texts.

Grafitti – Similar to a gallery walk, items are posted around the room: images, questions, ideas, concepts, or scenarios. Large sheets of paper or chart paper are placed on the walls of the classroom. Students write their responses, draw pictures and record their thoughts on the given topic on the graffiti wall. Students are encouraged to use colored markers to make the wall interesting and to identify each student’s work/response.

Use a Gallery Walk and the Graffiti format for students to get feedback on their work.  Hang student products, such as drawings, visual representations, poster projects, and or one pagers. Students, individually or in groups, rotate around the room and provide feedback to the creator of the work. Students are required to record one thing they like about the work displayed, one thing they wonder about it, and one thing the creator could do next or improve.

Four Corners – Students are presented with a controversial statement or are asked a question. In each of the four corners of the classroom, an opinion or response is posted. Students express their opinion or response by standing in front of one of four statements, and then talking to others about why they have chosen their corner. Four Corners promotes listening, verbal communication, critical thinking, and decision-making.

Question Trails – My reading specialist and colleague introduced me to these on your feet activities last year and I am obsessed. A question trail is an engaging activity that allows students to move around the classroom and complete different tasks. Students follow the “trail” of multiple-choice questions that will show what they have learned from unit of study, a text, or reading. Question trails can be collaborative or individual. It is really up to you the teacher to make that choice. The basic premise of the question trail is for students to understand the material the teacher has provided. The students answer a series of multiple-choice questions. If the questions on the trail are answered correctly, students will be prompted to move to the next question. If students answer a question incorrectly, they will end up at a question they have already answered which means they will need to backtrack to see where they made an error. They will need to determine where they went wrong. To learn how to make your own question trail you can visit Creative ALS Teaching.

Tomorrow when my students walk into the classroom we will begin class with a gallery walk of questions about feedback for them to read and respond to on big chart paper. Then students will watch Austin’s Butterfly and take notes about what effective feedback is and is not. We will discuss as a whole class what good feedback look and sounds like before we meet with writing partners to get feedback on the writing we are working on. There are a few teaching moves that I am implementing from Thinking Classrooms to allow students to actively engage in the lesson and use their mind for thinking deeply.

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CASL/CECA 2022 Conferences Takeaways

The CASL CECA 2022 Conference is organized by the Boards of Directors of the Connecticut Educators’ Computer Association and the Connecticut Association of School Librarians. This year’s conference recognizes and celebrates the confluence of educational technology and the preparation of our students for the future with a focus on literacy, social emotional learning, and 21st Center Skills. CASL CECA gathers technology integration specialists, library/media professionals, educators from all walks of life, and IT support personnel who share their ideas, news, expertise, products and productions.   The conference provides a wide variety of professional development and activities in the form of: presentations, hands-on workshops, round-table discussions, speakers, exhibitors, and our annual recognition awards.

Here are 5 key take aways from this rich conference:

  1. Social Emotional Learning is front and center. Valerie DiLorenzo presented on “Libraries, Literature, and the Counseling Connection.” With her students, DiLorenzo created engaging, eye-catching posters to grab students’ attention and get them to want to read high interest books that tie in with neuro diverse, social/emotional, and/or mental health topics. She showed participants how to provide satellite “libraries” throughout your school community (physical and virtual) that connect students with potential life-saving and/or life-altering literature. Teq presented 3D printing with Tinkercad and lesson ideas for Social and EmotionalLearning (SEL) where students can create models that represent their emotions.

2. New Literacy is Essential. One of the biggest challenges facing our students today is how to navigate in a world of misinformation. Creation of a news media literacy curriculum in collaboration with Social Studies and English teachers is a way to enhance students digital citizenship and critical reading/thinking skills. Newslit.org and Checkology provide curriculum for educators to utilize with their students.

3. Passion Projects are Still Relevant. Personal Interest Projects PIPs are opportunities for students to explore something THEY are interested in and practice key skills like creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving. Students and teachers rave about these projects because they allow students to de-stress, utilize maker space and interact in the library. Using a scaffolded curriculum that supports students through the phases of designing, doing and sharing their projects Westport HS Librarians shared how these PIPs are opportunities for students to meet up, learn about different cultures, and ideas through their making and time together.

4. Go beyond Essays and PowerPoint’s for students to showcase their learning. Are you tired of students submitting GoogleSlideshows and Powerpoint presentations anytime you assign a project? Different options for student-guided projects such as BookCreator, NearPod, Google Earth, and more choices allow students voice and agency to take center stage in the classrooms. I presented about hyperdocs at the conference and shared multiple examples to help educators consider hyperdocs for more personalized teaching time and less lectures also providing multimodal learning opportunities and lots of choice.

5. Educators and Librarians working together is vital. Now that we have updated the library standards you will see how critical information literacy is for everyone. Explore the standards, familiarize yourself with the standards and you might already see how you are addressing these standards with your students because there is overlap between disciplines.

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Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Picture Books at the New York Historical Society

Bryan Collier (American, born 1967), UntitledAll Because You Matter, 2020, written by Tami Charles, collage. Collection of the artist.

The poignant installation “Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Picture Books at the New York Historical Society explores the events, people, and themes of the civil rights movement through the children’s picture book.

Picture books are compelling forms of visual expression not just for young children. This exhibition showcases 80 artworks from picture book artists who interweave art and storytelling, history and now. Looking at the excerpts from many pictures books around the themes of the civil rights movement provides depth, diverse voices, and powerful meanings. The stories presented inspire young people and viewers to speak up and speak out as agents of transformation and social change. The exhibit tells important stories about the movement’s icons, including Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Congressman John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scenes are presented of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Ruby Bridges integrating her New Orleans elementary school, and the Black students who catalyzed the sit-in movement at the segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Some of the many highlighted illustrators and authors include Faith Ringgold, Brian Pinkney, Nadir Nelson, Jacqueline Woodson, and many more.

Picture the Dream is an open invitation to start important discussions with children, friends, and family about race, equity and social justice. Take a look at a list of all the books in the show and here is the family discussion guide created by High Museum of Art in Georgia. You can also find lesson plans and a powerpoint of 19 key images from the exhibit in this teacher resource kit.

Here are some ways I use picture books with my middle school students to present key themes and scaffold complex ideas.

  1. Read Alouds – Don’t just leave read aloud to elementary school teachers, in secondary education reading aloud picture books help to create a classroom community and build multimodal comprehension skills. Images and words work side by side to communicate a message. Read aloud can be used to hook students into a lesson or even useful as a teaching point during a mini-lesson.
  2. Gallery Walks – Images are powerful storytelling tools. Just like in a museum exhibit, hanging up the images from the picture books can allow students to read closely, infer the dialogue, and convey meaning from the visual text.
  3. Small Group Work – I often during station work leave a collection of picture books at one station for students to read, evaluate, and analyze to pull out key details and draw connections. Scaffolding guiding questions help students look closer at the images and text and the story presented. I might ask students what do they see, what does it say, what do I think, and continue with sentence frames or specific questions to climb the ladder of critical thinking.
  4. Jigsaws – Each student reads a different picture book along the same theme or topic and then shared the powerful elements of the story with the small group. Students put their heads together to make connections and draw conclusions about the bigger questions presented in the texts.

 

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Literacy Tools & Strategies to Support SEL with ISTE U

Made with Padlet

I’m presenting on Literacy Tools and Strategies to Support Social Emotional Learning at ISTE U’s Summer Learning Academy 2022. This professional learning opportunity allows educators to learn at their own pace about the topics we all care about, now through Oct. 14. For $64 you have can access to amazing professional development. More at iste.org/sla.

Check out the Padlet of curated resources related to my presentation on SEL with teaching tools, strategies and related research.

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Organizing A Day of Service for Middle School Students

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

WHAT?

My colleague and I are organizing be a day of service for our 8th grade students the last day of school. We want to end the year taking some time focusing on helping others and make a difference in the community. 

Day Of Service Activities At A Glance

Walk-a-thon: Walk and raise money for World Central Kitchen. WCK is first to the frontlines, providing meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises. 

Brook & Nature Center Clean-Up: Join others to keep trash our of the brook and Rye Nature Center.

Dog Toys for Animal Shelters: Braid pull toys for animal shelter dogs at Humane Society of Westchester.

Letters of Hope: Create works of art that share messages of hope, show compassion and promote healing for children in the Ukraine. 

WHY?

Numerous studies report the benefit of community service among teens. One study that analyzed data from the National Education Longitudinal Study found that students who are more civically engaged tend to perform better in school subjects such as reading, history, science and mathematics and are more apt to complete high school. Researchers also found that community service enhanced students’ problem-solving skills, improved their ability to work within a team and enabled them to plan more effectively.

Volunteering helps the teens gain new skills necessary for the job market such as leadership, communication skills, dependability, time management, and decision making.

HOW YOU CAN SET UP YOUR OWN DAY OF SERVICE

Consider ways that students can actively be involved in helping others. Students can pick up trash around the school, create a mural to inspire the community, or work with community based organizations. For examples, we wanted to plan activities that were low or no cost.

Students, teachers, and even the parent organization can meet to brainstorm project ideas. The following criteria should be considered in selecting projects:

  • Location: Convenience and proximity are important.
  • Money/resources/equipment required: Make sure that you have the necessary money, resources, and equipment before confirming a project.
  • Visibility in the community: Think about whether you want to work only for “well-known” agencies, those less known, or the neediest.
  • Constituency mix: Consider whether you want to concentrate on helping one segment of the community or offer a wide range of project types.
  • Number and size of projects: Consider your student population, you might want to organize several smaller projects. Keep in mind that too many volunteers for a project can lead to people standing around with nothing to do, and this will not be a good experience for them. We are going to have students complete a Google Form to sign up for projects of their choice and also cap certain projects.

Want to include remote volunteer opportunities? This article from We Are Teachers with ten virtual volunteer opportunities for teens.

Have more ideas, share in the Comments section on this blog.

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12 Movie Shorts, Animations, and Documentaries

 For Teaching and Promoting Social Emotional Learning

I have taught a media literacy elective to seventh and eighth graders for fifteen years. During that times, movies were a fuel for reading, writing, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. Students analyzed Disney films for their portrayal of sexism, ageism, classism, and racism. Students took on a cause that they were passionate about and created public service announcements and short documentaries to raise awareness and call to action.  Students analyzed the features of the classic Twilight Zone episode and the current Stranger Things to identify elements of suspense and storytelling. But you do not need to be teaching an academic class specific on media literacy to bring movies into your classroom as a teaching tool for social emotional learning. Utilizing short films in any classroom can provide mini lessons and conversations to address social emotional learning with children and adults. 

Currently, I am kicking off the week with “Movie Mondays” in my middle school literacy lab where students view a short film and extract themes and key ideas the first fifteen minutes of this academic support class. These films become teaching tools to support close reading skills, critical thinking, and social emotional learning. 

Here is a list of a dozen short films available on Youtube, TedEd,  and Vimeo that promote SEL themes and topics. Be sure to preview the films before you show them with your students. You know better than I do what is appropriate for the students in your classroom. 

Being “different,” Accepting Others who are Different, and Building Empathy

1. I Have a Visual Disability and I Want You To Look Me In The Eye – NYT Opinion – This short documentary is part of the New York Times Op-Doc series and was created by James Robinson, a filmmaker from Maine He uses his personal experiences to shows what it feels like to live with several disabling eye conditions. “Using playful graphics and enlisting his family as subjects in a series of optical tests, he invites others to view the world through his eyes.” This video is a powerful essay on  seeing and being seen, how we treat others who look different.

2. A Conversation on Race – New York Times Series – Started in 2015, The New York Times created eight videos that included testimony of people talking about race, ethnicity and gender. These short films focus on identity in America.

Perseverance & Promoting Growth Mindset

3. One Small Step by TAIKO Studios – This animated short film tells the story of a young girl and her quest to become an astronaut. Viewers see her perseverance, dealing with set backs, and then reaching her goal.

4. Hair Love by Sony Picture Animation – Hair Love, an Oscar®-winning animated short film from Matthew A. Cherry, tells the heartfelt story of an African American father learning to do his daughter’s hair for the first time. The movie also addresses cancer and how a family copes when a parent is sick. There is no dialogue and the images themselves are powerful for making inferences.

5. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk – University of Pennsylvania professor and author, Angela Lee Duckworth describes her job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Here, she explains her theory of “grit” as a predictor of success.

6. The Boost Students Need to Overcome Obstacles TED Talk by Anindya Kundu – How can disadvantaged students succeed in school? For sociologist Anindya Kundu, grit and stick-to-itiveness aren’t enough; students also need to develop their agency, or their capacity to overcome obstacles and navigate the system. He shares hopeful stories of students who have defied expectations in the face of personal, social and institutional challenges.

7. Pip Goes to Guide Dog School By Southeastern Guide Dogs – In this animated short, Pip enters canine university in order to become a guide dog. Although he does not meet the guide dog standards, he shows grit, diligence, and tenacity to become a guide dog. Despite not passing the guide dog test, once outside in the “real world” Pip shows his strengths and ability to be a lead dog.

8. Instructions for a Bad Day – Shane Koyczan – Shane Koyczan is a powerful Canadian poet. His poems address topics of bullying, self regulation, cancer, death, and perseverance. Also check out these other poems, “To This Day Project ” and “How to Be a Person.”

Designing a Better World + Encourage and Guide Positive Social Activism and Social Awareness

9. Man vs. Earth by Prince Ea – Prince Ea is a spoken word poet and his videos on YouTube address key themes of acceptance, social action using the power of language to communicate his message.

10. Plastic Bag directed by Ramin BahraniPlastic Bag is a short film where a Plastic Bag goes on an epic journey in search of its lost Maker, wondering if there is any point to life without her. The Bag encounters strange creatures to be with its own kind until it ends up in the North Pacific Trash Vortex.

Communication, Emotional Regulation, Compassion

11. Modern Love, A Kiss Deferred (Animated)The New York Times – A 12 year old girls life and love are turned upside down during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Learn the joys and challenges faced when the war breaks out.

12. How to Be Alone by Sindha Agha New York Times Op Doc – How do you handle being alone? This documentary was created during quarantine and COVID. The director shows viewers how she is dealing with isolation and loneliness, her longing to interact others and lessons learned from arctic explorers.

Have a favorite animation, movie short or documentary that promotes social emotional learning? Share your ideas in the comments section.

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