In full disclosure, I saw this campaign beginning and I thought "Is this really the right time for this? Is this what we should be fighting for right now?" with all of the chaos happening in our country. But then, I realized education is the answer to all of this!
Education is the catalyst for all change. It's how we can bring our country together again. It's what nations are built from. It's what the future of civilization depends on. And education is what will make America great again.
According to the "nation's report card," the average reading scores for 4th and 8th graders in the U.S. have dropped since 2017, while math scores increased by one point for 4th graders and decreased by one point for 8th-graders, with progress overall remaining flat for the past decade.
It's time for a change!
If we can reimagine our schools with common sense school reform, we can make American schools great! Our students' need a developmentally appropriate curriculum linked to Social Emotional Learning. And our teachers need stronger teacher prep programs on the science of learning to be able to deliver this instruction. It only takes common sense to see what we need!
Schools have played an essential role in the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools provided meals, internet, technology, emotional and mental health support, and seemlessly continued to educate the future of our nation! If schools are so essential, then, our funding should be too. But instead, we are facing massive budget cuts in the richest nation in the world.
It's time for a change. And it's time for that change now.
The #reimaginingschools campaign was started by a New York state teacher, Emily Aierstok. You can learn more about this campaign on her Instagram: @readitwriteitlearnit You can also screenshot your own thought bubble to share how you would like to see the United States #reimaginingschool
~By Miss Rae
78 percent of U.S. high schools report at least one serious disciplinary action daily or weekly (NCES, 2018). Middle schools report 61 percent, and elementary schools report 18 percent.
Socially and emotionally lagging skills are creating acting out student behaviors in our classrooms, and these behaviors do not go away despite a change in the learning environment.
While COVID-19 has relocated our traditional classrooms to computer screens, it has not changed student behavior. Teachers have always been masters at content and classroom management, and our relocation has not changed this either. But what it has changed are the methodologies that we use to be masterful at what we do!
Online classroom management should focus on the positive, promote expected norms, AND allow teachers to easily track the data!
Classroom behavior management strategies need to be
-quick reinforcers that promote expected behaviors, deter unexpected behaviors, and do NOT interrupt learning.
Classroom behavior management strategies should have a goal to
All we have to do is apply those same principles to our new way of teaching!
So here are 3 Steps to Positive Behavior Management for Distance Learning:
Don’t throw out your good teaching practices!
Open your online classroom just as you would your traditional classroom. Establish 3 to 5 norms for your online classroom. Use positive student-friendly language and pair each norm with a visual to support ALL learners.
You can grab some Student AND Parent Virtual Classroom Meeting Expectations HERE!
EXPLICITLY teach these norms to your students before expecting them to demonstrate them. Read books about them, have them watch short clips, role play, model, AND continue to reinforce those expected norms!
For the majority of students, the game may be enough of a reinforcer (we will talk more about the game in a moment). However, for other students, you may need to come up with some earns…
-virtual lunch with the teacher
-class meeting ends 5 minutes early
-virtual field trips
-get out of one assignment free card
Resistant students, with more lagging social and emotional skills, benefit from time with the teacher, establishing these reinforcers with the student ahead of time to be able to determine the greatest motivator. Remember - the greatest motivator will increase a drive to demonstrate the expected behaviors.
Use Google Forms to play a positive behavior game.
Here is a quick tutorial on How to Make a Google Form for Student Behavior:
With a small group or a whole class, your positive behavior game can be played as a student versus teachers game. Students get a point when they are on-task, following classroom or school norms, etc. The teacher gets a point when students are off-task. Whoever has the most points at the end of the day wins.
When working one-on-one with a student, the game can be played in the same manner or you can establish a goal with a student ahead of time. Each time the student demonstrates the goal, the student earns a point.
Teachers can also use these forms (or points) as behavior data tracking tools. You can record the points while students are participating in Google Meets with the general education classes as well!
Here is How to Give and Track Student Behavior Using Google Forms:
And don’t forget to explain why the points were earned to the student! This can be quick (“Zoe, nice job demonstrating your goal of following directions the first time. You earned a point for that.) The why and the emotion connected becomes internalized when we explicitly reinforce expected behaviors. The intrinsic feeling attached to the earn (i.e. praise or a point) internalizes a motivation to continually strive to have that feeling again, and it quickly becomes learned that the demonstration of an expected behavior provides those good internal feelings!
Because the student is always earning in this game (not losing anything), it eliminates the power struggle. If the teacher earns a point, no big deal because students can quickly make a change to have a chance to win!
However, you should still discuss and reflect upon what was learned in this game!
To learn more, check out this video on I apply these tips in my online classroom:
With these 3 steps, online classroom management focuses on the positive, promotes expected norms, AND allows you to easily track the data!
Happy and Healthy Teaching,
I read Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, a number of years ago. With all of the buzz around Social Emotional Learning in education, I recently decided to pick it back up and give it a re-read. And I could not believe how shocked I was!
Goleman’s words spoke to the solution that we need in education. I found myself nodding and muttering ‘yes’ aloud as I read. Goleman writes about studies that reported dropping levels of student emotional competence. A need for Social Emotional Learning core curriculum, intervention, and prevention supports in schools.
Emotional Intelligence is a call to action for Social Emotional Learning...
But it was written in 1995!
One of my biggest takeaways from the book - besides the fact that I will never understand why education is always so far behind - is that relationships are key!
Relationships, and the skills they entail, are the one commonality of all prevention programs for at-risk students. And at-risk students often demonstrate lagging emotional competencies as well as acting out behaviors. But if we can teach these students how to initiate, maintain, and develop healthy relationships, we can change their futures.
Relationships are at the core of humanity, and in order to be a productive adult, you must be able to successfully navigate interactions and relationships with others. Further, research has shown that relationships provide protection against stress, and stress has a negative impact on daily function and health.
The obstacle to this being the easiest solution EVER in education is that many students are lagging the Social Emotional competencies to develop relationships with others. The core Social Emotional skills teach the initiation, development, and maintenance of healthy relationships. Healthy relationships are the pervasive outcome that is intertwined within and the outcome of ALL Social Emotional Learning competences.
On the first day of my very first day teaching, one of my students pointed out all of the holes in the classroom walls along with the broken shelves, windows, and doors that he had done the year before. He shared these achievements with me in the same way that others might brag about an award they won. But these were his accomplishments. These were the things that defined him as a student in that school. But based upon his attendance for his school career, he could barely be defined as a student.
And my response was going to be what defined our relationship that year. My response had the opportunity to change his life forever.
I decided that he might want an opportunity to someone different that year, and I decided to make that choice for him. "Well, you won't be doing any of that this year," I said with a serious smile - followed by an uncomfortably long moment for my words to resonate.
And from that moment forward, he showed up to school.
Some days he showed up hungover from the night before. Some days he showed up and slept until noon. One day he showed up wearing fuzzy pink slippers he forgot he was wearing when he rushed out of the house to get to school. But he showed up!
And we had a great relationship! He was such a smart kid who just needed someone to find that one thing that would hook him and engage him in education. (And not be intimidated by him to call him out on his behavior). And once we found it, the world was full of opportunities for him!
As educators, we have so many chances to help our students. Every moment counts! Even if it's online!
Fast forward 15 years and I had the pleasure of crossing paths with him again. He had graduated high school, had a full time job, and a family!
Okay, so we all know Newton's law right? You know - for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Well, with students, this law is slightly different - for every interaction with a student, there is a reaction. And from a series of interactions, a teacher can develop a strong relationship with a student.
And this relationship, in and of itself should model emotional competences for student learning. We can further our student’s emotional competencies by explicitly teaching Social Emotional Learning standards.
By Miss Rae
First, I hope everyone is well!
With all of this free time, I have been doing a great deal of thinking. My mind naturally wanders to our students who are learning, or hopefully, still learning at home right now.
When I think about learning, though, I'm not just talking about academics. Students with learning disabilities are more susceptible to lagging social emotional skills for a variety of reasons. How are they handling this crisis?
Social and emotional skills help students to build cognitive skills, learn academic content, apply knowledge and feel they are a successful student. They can also help our students to feel safe and secure in their world.
By explicitly teaching SEL skills, we can help students make progress in areas of their life including academic areas.
So that's why I'm checking in on my students' emotional health daily.
I recently posted SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING IEP GOALS & OBJECTIVES to address my students lagging skills so I know that they are ready to face this crazy world.
I'm also trying to support my families' social emotional health by reaching out to see how I can help. I keep track of my communication during remote learning on these FREE EDITABLE HOME SCHOOL COMMUNICATION FORMS.
Happy and healthy teaching!
In recent years, Social Emotional Learning has moved from the counselor's office to the classroom. And now in light of recent events, COVID-19 has our classrooms in the homes of our students.
Teachers are amazing! They have seamlessly moved from instructing in their classroom to instructing from a computer screen. There are beautiful examples of transforming lives to shape the lives of our future generations all over social media.
Teachers are sharing curriculum to provide some consistent normalcy to student lives. They are opening up their homes and worlds to students from the other side of the screen. And this is all happening while the world, including teachers and students are under a great amount of stressed. We are all working to ensure that are students' learning is not impacted by this.
But just a friendly reminder...
Our curriculum teaches feelings, not just academic skills.
I challenge teachers to not forget to...
...distance teach feelings!
We all need some self care time right now.
So here are some ways to promote Social Emotional Distance Learning:
Happy and Healthy Teaching!
By Miss Rae
Okay, I don't know about you, but this whole coronavirus thing has me a bit freaked out!
As I walk into school each morning, I open a door opened by at least 20 people before me. When I am escorting the students in from before school, I touch a buzzer touched by hundreds of people a day. I hold a railing that every little hand in school holds. I hold students hands when they need a friend. I help them open their milks. I borrow their pencils when we are engaged in learning. We sneeze and cough in the classroom. Sometimes we even get sick in the classroom.
I'm a teacher, and that means my students will never know just how freaked out I really am.
Schools are smart! They are taking extra precautions like...
-purchasing more cleaning products
-keeping their families informed
-monitoring student and staff illnesses
-stocking classrooms up on tissues, sanitizer, and cleaning supplies
-keeping school nurses on the top of their game
So don't freak out - and don't let them see you freaking out! Instead, try some of these tips...
And if you don't feel well, stay home!
Teachers are allowed to be absent too!
Happy and healthy teaching!
By Miss Rae
Teacher pressure is real. We barely have enough time in the day to teach the academic content, never mind, teach those Social Emotional Learning skills that are students need. So the only way to do it is to integrate our academics to our SEL skills!
And here is one strategy I use to foster collaborative student discussions that support comprehension AND build student relationships through conversation skills.
First, provide students with a text to read independently.
Before reading, ask them to come up with a focus question about the text that will guide their reading.
Have students to use the heading of a text to create a "digging question" (i.e. a why or a how question).
This will help students determine key ideas of a text.
This also improves strategic use of a highlighter.
But the main point is to highlight only answers to the question that the student came up with. This helps to prepare them for discussion times, and it allows it all to be student-driven.
Partner Discussion (2 students) (5 minutes)
With a partner, students should share the questions that they asked prior to reading, the answer to their questions, and discuss and attempt to resolve any confusions about the text.
Group Discussion (4-6 students) (5-10 minutes)
Partner groups should partner up with other partner groups for this step.
In their small groups, each student should share the following: this was my focus question, here is what I found out, and here is what confused me.
Some variations to this can include asking partners to think of one question that they will ask the larger group. After partner discussions, each student can find a passage to read aloud to the larger group, and then, each group member should respond to the selection with why it is important, connections, or with a question.
Have groups share out with the whole class a summary of their discussion OR the teacher can lead a discussion about the text.
Now, here is how you can link SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING to this reading comprehension strategy!
As a class, build a list of discussion norms. By having the students take part in the building of the discussion norms, students are able to take ownership over their daily learning.
Here is an example of a Discussion Norms chart...
After modeling and practicing a few discussions, students should be ready to reflect on their own participation during discussion.
You can use a reflection page similar to this one...
Students should reflect on the skills that they are strong at during discussion and skills that they need to work on.
Next, they should choose ONE skill to begin to focus on improving during discussion.
You can have students fill out a goal sheet with their discussion goal and they can include some success criteria - how will I know when I meet my goal?
After each discussion group, students can reflect on their progress toward their goals, making adjustments if necessary, or setting new goals after achieving the ones they set.
Discussion activities give students a chance to practice goal setting, failing, adjusting, achieving, and effectively communicating.
By Miss Rae
Start reshaping behavior in in 4 simple steps...
1. Write the expected behavior onto an index card.
Some examples of expected behaviors include...
-I did my work!
-I did my homework!
-I participated in the small group!
-I participated in morning meeting!
-I participated in the whole group!
-I showed kindness!
-I used kind words!
-I showed perseverance!
-I raised my hand!
-I tried my best!
-I raised my hand -without blurting out.
-I showed self control!
Be specific with your expected behaviors like...
-I am prepared for class -with (fill in the blank)
Expected behaviors can also increase in the demand...
-I followed directions!
-I followed directions -the first time
-I used a cool down strategy.
-I used a cool down strategy -independently
2. Choose an exciting reward for when the punch card is completed!
You may want to involve the student in choosing. This will reinforce the power of the reinforcer!
3. Decide how many times a student needs to demonstrate the expected behavior to earn a reinforcer.
You can involve the student in negotiating this as well.
The more control the student has in a decision, the more the student buys in!
4. Draw stars, circles, checkmarks, etc. around the outside of the index card for the amount of earns that you negotiate with the student.
For example, if you decide that the Kellie needs to do her homework ten times before earning a homework pass, then, you might draw 10 stars around the outside of the index card. Each time Kellie does her homework, punch a hole over one of the stars.
Or SAVE TIME and grab my Positive Behavior Punch Cards...
And use these 4 simple steps instead...
1. Print on colored cardstock.
3. Punch a hole on a smiley face each time you catch the student doing the desired behavior.
4. Don't forget to choose an exciting reward for when the punch card is completed!
Either way - Positive Behavior Punch Cards reinforce behaviors!
By Miss Rae
We all know the importance of teaching Social Emotional skills, right? The research is clear - when schools embed SEL into their daily practices and curriculum with fidelity, there is academic progress, improved school culture, higher graduation rates, and a ton of more positives.
And there are a few small ways we can support Social Emotional Learning in the classroom.
So here are 3 Bite-Sized Social Emotional Learning Lessons!
1. Cooperative Zen Learning
Okay so cooperative learning is an obvious SEL strategy, right? But there's a twist to this one - students have to work together without speaking. Here's how it works:
2. Calming Counting
So how often do you offer counting to ten as a calming strategy and a student tells you it doesn't work? So teach your students a different calming counting strategy.
You can use this calming counting strategy to improve focus.
This strategy helps to bring you back to the present, and not overthink the past of the future (AKA anxiety). Use this strategy prior to a lesson. Teach it when students are regulated so they can independently use it when they are unregulated.
3. Social Emotional Read Alouds
I've said it before and I'll say it again - story is a powerful framework for teaching Social Emotional Learning skills. So it does not matter what you are reading - the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, Sojourner Truth's role in the Underground Railroad, or the work of Albert Einstein - there is always a Social Emotional skill to be taught and learned.
And the easiest way to do that is through questioning and discussion. Ask questions related to Social Emotional skills and use Think-Pair-Share, small group or whole class discussion, and learn away!
Here are some question examples...
Developing and strengthening Social Emotional Learning skills is hard, lifelong work. By embedding these bite-sized SEL lessons, we can begin to build the foundation for our students!
By Miss Rae
Classroom conflicts happen. Right? No matter how hard we work to create a positive classroom community, there are bound to be conflicts. And that's okay. Not everyone is the same which is what makes this world so great. But differences in personality are going to lead to conflict at times - which is also okay - if we know how to handle these conflicts appropriately.
So as teachers we can teach our students that conflict is natural. But there are ways to problem solve productively. And it's okay to not have the same opinion as someone else - or even your best friend.
But trying to teach these skills in the moment is useless. So like most skills we need to give students a chance to practice them in isolation. Specifically when teaching skills that involve executive functioning, students should not be in a heightened state during this isolated practice.
So to teach conflict resolution to students, here's what I do: I ask my students...
WHAT WOULD YOU DO???
So I give students conflict scenarios to solve.
My favorite way to do this is to break students up into small groups. I give each group the same scenario to discuss. I also give them guiding questions for discussion like...
Then, we come back together and debrief as a class. My goal is always to add to a growing list of strategies for how we can solve conflicts.
You can also choose one scenario to discuss as a whole class. Or give small groups different scenarios to discuss and then share out to the whole class.
By practicing conflict resolution, students improve their problem solving skills before the problems arise naturally - because they will :)
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