About half of the students in the United States are presented with challenges when learning to read (National Center for Education Statistics, 2014). This statistic may seem staggering, and it should. But worse, let’s put it into an even more staggering perspective - literacy is an essential element of academic proficiency. It is the medium through which most learning in schools takes place.
There are years of research behind the teaching of reading, and we learn from this research in our "How to Teach Reading" teacher training courses. There is one component often forgotten in our training though - reading also includes an emotional component.
Struggling learners can be stigmatized by continual reminders of their reading challenges in classrooms, and what does this lead to? Learned failure. Struggling students are two times more likely to drop out of school, experience peer rejection, develop low self-esteem, battle anxiety, and suffer from depression (IDEA, 2002).
If a student can’t read, a student can’t access our academic content. Naturally, academic failures, resulting from repeated reading challenges, can potentially lead to social emotional impacts on students (Haft, et al., 2016).
Our goal as teachers, then, is to not only teach our students to read, but to also develop strong attributes of emotional literacy. We can do this by infusing social emotional resilience into our curriculum. Through the development of social emotional literacy, we can teach protective factors that positively modify or alter the effects of risks and outcomes associated with the typical trajectory of reading failures (Haft, et al., 2016).
So how do we teach our students social emotional literacy?
1. Create and promote supportive classrooms!
A supportive classroom climate protects against the detrimental impacts of reading challenges (Kiuru et al., 2012). Such climates build students’ confidence and optimism through the development of a positive and proactive system for classroom management and learning. Teachers should provide consistent praise for perseverance and effort. Through modeling of such feedback, peers will also begin to encourage each other to develop and meet learning conflicts.
Strategies to meet these challenges can be taught by utilizing cognitive strengths in instruction and differentiation. Great teachers tailor instruction to meet every student’s needs. To support social emotional literacy, differentiation means that we accommodate, intervene, and modify students’ learning to challenge them to meet learning targets, strengthen lagging skills, and essentially, close the achievement gap.
2. Develop strong and positive interpersonal relationships!
Close, positive interpersonal relationships have been identified as increasing the social emotional resilience of students with reading difficulties (Haft, et al., 2016). Specifically, close and constructive peer relationships help struggling learners with acceptance and support in the classroom, leading to positive engagement in school (Shany et al., 2012). Teachers can work to foster these meaningful and productive peer friendships in their classrooms.
Prosocial skills should be taught and reinforced through explicit instruction. This begins by identifying the lagging skill (i.e. turn taking in conversation). Teachers should then explicitly define the skill, model the skill, allow students to role play the skill, and provide performance feedback.
Furthermore, application of social skill learning can be trialed, generalized, and reinforced through teacher mentorship of struggling readers. Student-teacher mentorship can improve students’ social and interpersonal skills, while also providing a positive aspect to school (Ahrens, et al., 2010).
3. Instill a sense of control!
Struggling learners experience a sense of loss of control as they hit continual roadblocks in learning and attempting to read. This, inevitably, increases stress which can lead to maladaptive behaviors, ranging from work and school avoidance to social isolation to acting out in the classroom.
Believing that they exhibit a low academic self-efficacy, struggling readers often view their intelligence as fixed and unable to be changed. However, research has proven that the theory of growth mindset can influence academic growth and achievement (Baird et al., 2009).
By teaching adaptive coping strategies, that involve confronting problems directly, students can improve their functioning and social emotional literacy skills. Teachers can do this by explicitly teaching growth mindset principles and strategies for approaching difficult tasks. When confronted with a problem, students should learn to assess it, identify a strategy for solution, and apply the strategy. They should also learn that if the strategy does not work, it is acceptable to go back to the drawing board and revise the plan of attack.
4. Build student confidence!
Student confidence begins to increase through the successful application of learned coping strategies. Essentially, this teaches students to believe in their own capacity and ability to learn to read! Teachers can strengthen and reinforce improved student confidence by teaching social emotional learning to all students.
Students should cultivate a strong sense of self awareness. Through self awareness, students have a keen sense of their strengths and lagging skills, which enables them to tackle learning goals in a more effective and efficient manner for academic advancement.
Through a self aware goal setting process, students nurture the social emotional skill of self determination. Teachers should help students set realistic, short-term learning goals that utilize and further develop strengths. Short-term goals support more success for the development of both academic and social emotional skills due to immediate and on-going positive praise and reinforcement; thus, facilitating greater strides in academic progress.
Reading is one of the most important gifts we can teach our students. By teaching our students to read, we give them the ability to achieve their life goals, but we cannot forget to target all components of teaching reading, including social emotional literacy!
Ahrens, K., DuBois, DL., Lozano, P., & Richardson L.P. Naturally acquired mentoring relationships and young adult outcomes among adolescents with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice. 2010; 25:207-216.
Baird, G. L., Scott, W. D., Dearing, E., & Hamill, S. K. (2009). Cognitive self regulation in youth with and without learning disabilities: Academic self efficacy, theories of intelligence, learning vs. performance goal preferences, and effort attributions. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 28, 881-908.
Haft, S. L., Myers, C. A., & Hoeft, F. (2016). Socio-Emotional and Cognitive Resilience in Children with Reading Disabilities. Current opinion in behavioral sciences, 10, 133–141.
IDEAdata.org. Exiting by Disability, Ages 14-21. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); 2002.
Kiuru, N., Poikkeus, A-M., Lerkkanen, M-K., Pakarinen, E., Siekkinen, M. Ahonen, T., & Nurmi, J-E., Teacher-perceived supportive classroom climate protects against detrimental impact of reading disability risk on peer rejection. Learn Instr. 2012; 22:331-339.
National Center for Education Statistics. The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL). http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2003/2003495rev.pdf; ii. Colker, L. J. (2014).
Shany, M., Wiener, J., & Assido, M., Friendship predictors of global self-worth and domain-specific self concepts in university students with and without learning disability. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 2012.
Dear Miss Rae,
How can I help a student who has ZERO coping skills?
My student is a sweet girl who greets her teacher with a hug every day. She can follow routines. She rarely shuts down in class, but when she does it is around academics. When things are hard for her, she completely gives up. Her shutting down is crying and quiet. She will cover her face with her hair, but she does not ask for help. She does NOT like making mistakes. Help me so I can help her! Because the truth is I don’t know how to help her!
Approximately 4.4 million students, aged 3-17 years, have been diagnosed with anxiety (Ghandour, et al., 2018).
So teaching coping skills in schools is a must!
Coping means to make a conscious effort to solve problems and master, minimize, and handle stress or conflict!
Here are some coping strategies that I teach to my students:
ONE: Deep Breathing!
Oxygen helps our bodies relax. Have students breathe in through their nose, expand their bellies, and then, breath out. Try using a pinwheel or bubbles! As students breathe out, get the pinwheel to spin or make some bubbles float into the air!
TWO: WRITE ABOUT FEELINGS!
Writing helps students get their feelings out and learn from them. Give students time to free write about their feelings. This is a private place to confess how they feel. Writing down anxious thoughts helps take them away and allows students a chance to vent their frustrations. Through writing, students are able to connect and listen to themselves as well. This self-reflection allows them to evolve and gain control over their own thoughts.
Try these writing activities for stress:
*Keep a worry journal. Have students write down the worries they are feeling, but then, end with one positive feeling. This helps to break the negative thinking cycle!
*Start a feelings journal. Students write one feeling (i.e. happy, mad, sad, scared) on a page. Students should then think of something that gave them this feeling. Write or draw about what happened.
*Write and Rip! In this activity, students write or draw their worries on a piece of paper. They can read them to themselves, a teacher, counselor, or peer (if they choose). Then, rip up the paper and throw it away.
*Use a question and answer activity to help students process and reflect on their stress experiences.
Three: FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE!
Get students to change their thinking! Oftentimes, when we are anxious, we engage in negative self-talk. How we talk to ourselves affects our outlook on the world. So help students change their mindset!
Teach positive self-talk! Brainstorm ways to revise negative talk.
I can’t make this any better.
What can I improve?
I can’t do this.
I have to practice.
This is too hard.
This may take some time.
I’m never going to get this.
I’ll use a different strategy.
I made a mistake.
Mistakes help me learn.
Create lists! Students can create gratitude lists of things they are thankful for. They can also create favorite lists. Creating a list of things students love to do gives them choices when they are stressed out.
Four: GET MOVING!
Exercise releases endorphins. These are natural painkillers that the brain releases. This helps to reduce stress. So get your kiddos moving! Students can walk in place, run in place, dance, do jumping jacks, stretch, take a walk, or do some yoga all in their classroom!
Relaxing helps students to calm their minds and thus, regulate their emotions.
Create a calming corner within the classroom. This gives students a place to go to for some relaxation time. Students can ask to go to this safe space within the classroom. Once there, they can use a sand timer to track the length of their stay. Then, they can engage in relaxing activities that are all available within the calming space. This could be fidgets, coloring books, clay, books, a mini sandbox, and more. Teach your students how to use these tools to relax prior to introducing the space.
Teach students a trick to release this stress from their bodies:
Tense all of your muscles in your body (really tight...make fists even). Hold your muscles tight for five seconds. Release. Notice how you feel. Repeat two to five times.
You can also teach tensing one muscle group at a time, holding for five seconds, releasing, pause to notice how you feel, and then, moving to the next group.
Let students create a character that represents their anxiety. Have them talk to their character about ways to feel strong and deal with their anxiety. Practice visualizing talking to this character. This will help students use this strategy in a moment of anxiety.
Have your students create video game remote controls for their anxiety. Each button can be a strategy that works for the student. Practice pressing a button and using this strategy.
Create a worry box for the classroom. Decorate a box for the classroom. Students can write their worries on a piece of paper and place them in the box.
Seven: TRACK THE DATA!
We use data to motivate our students in their academics so why don’t we do this with their stress. Students can track their stress in a notebook in order to analyze it. Does their stress have a pattern? Conference with your students to help them gain a deeper understanding of their stress. What was the catalyst for the student’s stress? What was the antecedent to the stress? What was the consequence of the stress? What can a student do to prevent this pattern from continuing
For the most severe cases of students who lack coping skills, teachers can help them by creating IEP goals for them!
Sample IEP Goal:
Given direct instruction, XXX will develop coping skills and strategies to manage frustrations in 3 out of 5 observable opportunities.
1. XXX will be able to use calming strategies when frustrated (breathing exercise or counting backwards) in 3 out of 5 observable opportunities.
2. XXX will be able to verbalize difficulties and accept when no further help can be offered for completing tasks or tests in 3 out of 5 observable opportunities.
3. XXX will put forth effort when confronted with perceived difficult tasks in 3 out of 5 observable opportunities.
Coping skills are skills that our students need to be successful in life - no matter where their journey takes them. Let’s help them to have success in life!
By: Miss Rae
Ghandour RM, Sherman LJ, Vladutiu CJ, Ali MM, Lynch SE, Bitsko RH, Blumberg SJ. Prevalence and treatment of depression, anxiety, and conduct problems in U.S. children. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2018. Published online before print October 12, 2018
TEACHER SELF CARE GUIDE
When students push, give them a hug.
The first day I met Jon, he entered my class followed by one of the school’s many Crisis Interventions. After exchanging some words, it appeared that Jon had not followed an instruction that he was given. The Crisis Interventionist was clearly angry, and Jon was clearly not. And most obvious to me was that Jon was in control of the entire situation. He made the situation go the way he wanted. I respected him for that. I saw the leader in him. I also saw the challenge of fostering the POSITIVE leader in him.
Over the next few months, Jon and I fostered a strong relationship. He was a positive leader in our classroom community. I made sure to allow him to always feel safe and in control when he could be. But then, one day, everything changed. He walked into class, told me he hated me, and then, proceeded to do everything in his power to show me how much he hated me.
Jon had been diagnosed with something called Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD, as it’s known.
RAD is a condition characterized by markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate ways of relating socially in most contexts
When a baby is repeatedly comforted and cared for, an attachment forms with the caregivers. Baby’s who have their needs met learn to love and trust others, develop healthy relationships, regulate emotional responses to situations, be aware of others’ emotions and needs, and have a positive self-image.
On the other hand, when a baby experiences abuse and neglect at the hands of caregivers, attachments do not form. Failure to establish these expected bonds negatively impacts children, leading to possible depression, irritability, and mistrust and/or fear of trusting adults or peers.
Repeated abuse and neglect can leave children at-risk for RAD.
The signs and symptoms of RAD include the following…
-Failure to reach out when picked up or interest in peek-a-boo
-Unexplained withdrawal, fear, sadness or irritability
-Sad and listless appearance
-Not seeking comfort or showing no response when comfort is given
-Failure to smile
-Watching others closely but not engaging in social interaction
-Failing to ask for support or assistance
But RAD is a rare disorder. The majority of children who experience repeated abuse and neglect, including those that have been bounced around to multiple caregivers and experienced abuse and neglect with each, do not develop RAD.
Wait! What?! How is it rare when I can think of at least 3 students in my classroom that exhibit these symptoms?!
Modern-day students make this disorder feel like the norm, right?!
Some of our students have been hurt and let down by adults in the past. When something happens to someone over and over, it becomes an expected behavior. So instead of being let down by another adult who you have started to care about, why not push them away? Isn't that easier? Then, that adult can't hurt you. That adult can let you down like all of the others have.
Not only did Jon state in front of the whole class how much he hated me, he also continued to tell them why he hated me, including my stupidity and ugly appearance in his tirade. He refused to participate in morning meeting, getting two others to follow his choice after explaining how boring morning meeting is. During reading, he broke the picture of my puppy on my desk and twenty minutes later, threw a chair at me. And at the end of the day, I told him that I didn’t know what I had done to upset him, but I couldn’t change unless he told me. I also told him that I cared for him, I didn’t like to see him this upset, and tomorrow is a new day!
The next day he came in and quietly observed the class for the day, never once speaking to me.
At the end of the day, I told him that I was happy to see that he seemed less angry, but I missed the old Jon. Tomorrow would be a new day.
After that, Jon acted as if those two days never happened. He did push again at times, but never so intensely.
Trauma leaves an impact. No matter the trauma, a person’s brain is essentially altered in terms of thinking, emotional regulation, and response to fears.
So when a student pushes you away, don't let them. Instead, let them know that you are not like the other adults who have let them down in the past. Let them know that you are not going anywhere. They aren't going to be able to push you away - just give it up, kid
When students push, give them a hug.
By: Miss Rae
Calling all teachers!!!! Does this sound familiar???
“Suzy isn’t friends with me anymore. She called me a bad name at lunch.” ...or...
“Boys and girls, we have been so chatty in our groups that we are not finishing our work.” ...or how about...
“Johnny keeps cutting me in line.” ...or...
“Class, the rule is that we are silent when we travel as a class in the hallway. We have been late to lunch all week because our line has to keep stopping and waiting for students to stop talking.”
And how about these???
“I read this math problem. Now what? How do I solve this math problem?”
“Why did the American Revolution happen? I don’t see where it says it in the text.”
“Who knows why the character chose to do that? What was she thinking?”
And then, there are the questions we ask ourselves:
How do we teach our students to independently problem solve???
How do we teach them how to solve their social conflicts???
How do we teach them to challenge themselves in their own learning in order to grow as a learner???
Our students do not know how to solve problems! They have not learned how to analyze problems before jumping right in!
So, here is what I do!
I use the Analyzing a Problem Classroom Protocol! And I use it in my academic content area instruction AND for solving classroom management issues!
Analyzing a Problem Classroom Protocol includes a step-by-step structured approach for students for analyzing problems prior to attempting to solve them! This protocol gives educators an approach to follow to work together in order to solve classroom community and academic problems!
Analyzing a Problem Classroom Protocol:
-Presenter describes the problem and asks a focus question.
-Group members ask clarifying questions.
-The Facilitator facilitates Response Rounds, eliciting responses from each group member to the presented problem.
-The Presenter should take notes throughout the process and then reads the notes aloud.
-The Presenter asks “What options for solution did our group present?”
-Make a list of the solutions.
Optional: Debrief the team process: What were the team’s strengths? Difficulties? What helped the team work together? How can difficulties be improved next time?
Happy problem solving!
By Miss Rae
You might also like...
Humans are rooted in emotion so let's build the roots of our education by teaching and supporting emotional learning! ...but how can we possibly add another content area into our day??? How about we infuse Social Emotional Learning into our already existing curriculum?!
One way I infuse SEL into my read alouds!
Self-Management - ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, stress, impulses, & behaviors in different situations & work toward personal & academic goals
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban
Middle School/High School:
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Fast Break by Mike Lupica
Self-Awareness - ability to assess one’s strengths & challenges & correctly identify one’s own emotions & how they influence situations & others
The Orange Shoes by Trinka Hakes Noble
Carla’s Sandwich by Debbie Herman
Middle School/High School:
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Responsible Decision-Making - ability to make constructive, socially acceptable, & ethical choices about personal behavior & social interactions
Hooper Humperdink..? Not Him! By Dr. Seuss
The Summer My Father Was Ten by Pat Brisson
Middle School/High School:
House Arrest by K.A. Holt
Parrot in the Oven: Mi vida by Victor Martinez
Relationship Skills - ability to establish & maintain healthy & positive relationships with diverse groups through clear communication, good listening skills, positive collaboration, & conflict resolution
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead
Hooray for Hat by Brian Won
Middle School/High School:
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Social-Awareness - ability to take the perspective of & empathize with others, including people from diverse backgrounds & cultures
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
Middle School/High School:
Freak the Mighty by W. Rodman Philbrick
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
And the core SEL skill that I also like to teach…
Say Something - empowerment to protect one’s communities & other individuals from negative influences
Say Something by Peggy Moss
Mary Wrightly, So Politely by Shirin Yim Bridges and Maria Monescillo
Middle School/High School:
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Whatever you choose to read, learn from it as a classroom community!
By Miss Rae
The news has never been my happy place, but it's been especially upsetting in 2018. From mass shootings in places of worship and schools to mail bombings, our world is a scary place. And obviously, we are all very upset about this.
But why are we not addressing mental illness in this country?!
Sometimes I feel like screaming. There is never enough time in the day to get everything I need to get done. I'm literally running at my highest capacity every minute of every day. I've never felt so stressed in my life.
We are all running on high all day; intensifying and exhausting our emotional and mental capacities.
Our students are feeling the same.
And now, we are both forced into the integrated experience of the classroom, where naturally, our actions and words affect the actions and words of others within the same microcosm of the classroom.
Previously, students could be targeted and remediated on a case by case basis, but with today's prevalence, SUPPORTS MUST BE MAINSTREAMED.
And those supports MUST address our students mental health needs.
Okay, so this isn't going to be simple. And we can start with baby steps.
In moments of heightened anxiety, we can stop, breathe, and re-center ourselves. Similarly, if we insert these moments, forcibly, into our day, including our time with students, where we stop and breathe (i.e. a mindfulness activity, yoga, go noodle, etc.), we can stop running at such a high level, and perhaps, we begin to regulate our emotions as well.
We need to teach this to our students because it does not come naturally anymore. This is the world now. This is us. These are our students.
1. Build a Classroom Community
A classroom community means that students trust and support each other. They feel safe to accept and give feedback and take risks.
Spend the first month and some time each week throughout the year playing a classroom-based community-building game to build trust and problem-solving and cooperative learning skills.
2. Address SE (social emotional) needs
Start your Mondays off right - by addressing your students' social emotional needs!
Welcome them into the week with a friendly morning greeting! Ease them back with some conversation to set the tone... What's one thing you are looking forward to this week? What's one thing that will make you happy this week? What is your goal for this week?
3. Infuse SEL (social emotional learning) into our current content
We barely have time in the day to use the restroom, right?! How could we possibly fit another block of time into our day to teach SEL? Well, you don't have to. Much of our current curriculum lends itself to SE learning skills. Stories in history and ELA, games in Math, giving and receiving feedback, and working collaboratively in the science lab all lend themselves to SE skills. What we do need, then, is professional development on SE skills! Are you listening higher ups?
4. Explicitly Teach Pro-Social Skills
Teach expected behaviors and do it explicitly. State the rule, role play what the rule looks like and doesn't look like, discuss the rule, praise students you see displaying the rule, etc.
AND hold students accountable. Consequences are a natural part of life. Develop reasonable consequences that match infractions AND make sure they are enforceable. Consequences must abide by the school rules, but they also have to be consequences that you are willing to implement. If you say a student is going to stay in for recess, does the school allow this AND are you willing to give up your time to be inside with this student?
5. Make Teacher Self Care a Priority
You are good to your students. Be good to yourself! The saying is true - you cannot pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first!
~By Miss Rae
One of the most important factors in behavior management is data tracking!
Without the data, interventions are just an opinion! How do we know what’s working and what’s not working without the data?
We track the data! Tracking the data is the way to change the behavior!
Let me give you an example of data tracking with a common classroom issue -
How do you handle a student who swears in your classroom?
For the minor offense (i.e. it slips out in conversation or out of frustration), I acknowledge it and I redirect...
“Let’s watch our language as that is inappropriate for school.”
(As with all redirections of behavior, you want to make sure you explain why you are asking for the behavior to be corrected. Answer the question: What is the behavior’s negative impact?)
With a major swearing offended, you are going to take a different approach. A student who chooses to swear or swears multiple times in one period is a major offender.
With these major offenders, DO NOT acknowledge the swear!
And I repeat - DO NOT!
By acknowledging the swear, you are actually reinforcing swearing.
start by obtaining a baseline. You will get this if you have tracked the data or by tracking the data!
Example: Cam swears 20 times in 60 minutes on average…
Next, have an honest conversation with your student...
"Your goal is to swear less and here’s why we need to reduce your swearing..."
Then, implement the intervention!
AND begin tracking the data!
The intervention is to reinforce the expected behavior. When the student doesn’t swear...
"Oh good job, Cam! Here's a merit for not swearing in the last 5 minutes."
Build the time frame of the reinforcer! Depending on baseline data and continued progress monitoring data, the reinforcer (i.e.merits) can build toward a bigger reinforcer (i.e. lunch with the teacher, homework pass). The reinforcer should be something reinforcing BUT within reason!
Over time, the reinforcer fades as the behavior is phased out!
~By Miss Rae
Back to School Icebreaker
Set a tone for your school year!
Icebreakers are effective and interactive team-building activities that typically precede the big event, and in our case, the big event is class! They enable students to get to know each other in a relaxed setting and buy into the purpose of the event - learning! They also allow for diverse learning styles and opportunities to help each other.
Research has demonstrated that students will learn when they are physically, mentally, and emotionally involved. Games allow educators to meet these needs.
Icebreakers convey a tone of working together through communication, support, and laughter.
Here is an example of a back to school icebreaker:
The Name Game!
Materials: soft tossable object, timer (optional)
Students stand in a line or sit in a circle. The first person says their name and a favorite thing. The second person then says their name and a favorite thing, as well as the name and thing of the person before them. Each person after that adds the names and items of all of the people before them.
★ Have students say their name only
★ Do not time the students. Simply use it for learning each others’ names.
Variation for the School Year:
•Instead of names, have students wear index cards or stickers…
••with sight words, vocabulary words, etc. on them. Students will have to read and/or spell the word they are tossing to.
••with a math fact on them. Students can say the fact and answer before tossing the object.
••with names of items in a sequence (think ABCs, planets, life cycles, events on a timeline, etc.) that students are learning about. Students have to toss the object in the correct sequence.
Get a free pdf version HERE!
This activity and more can be found in my Back to School Small Group Activities resource!
Have fun breaking the ice this year!
~ By Miss Rae