Young people today are growing up in an increasingly complex world. At times it can seem dangerous and confusing, especially with the incidence of hate crimes up for the third year in a row (as reported by the FBI). Helping your students to feel, and stay, safe yet empowered to confront hate, injustice and inequality is an important outcome of Social Emotional Learning. Knowing how to adequately address these polarizing issues is often a challenge for educators.
Here’s a Strategy That Works!
The Sharing Circle provides a simple process and emotionally safe environment that builds a student community that helps build trust and fosters meaningful conversation. The topics discussed in the Sharing Circle provides students the opportunity to discuss and reflect on their own identity and to develop self-awareness and understanding of others.
Helping children build an emotional vocabulary encourages a firm foundation in social and emotional competence. Being able to identify what you are feeling and to be able to effectively understand what others are feeling is a necessary part of social awareness. In order to correctly identify feelings in yourself and others you first have to have words for those feelings. There is a large and varied vocabulary of emotions and feeling words beyond happy, sad, and mad. People of all ages need an assortment of words for their feeling vocabulary in order to express their feelings well, and to be able to read and respond appropriately to the emotional cues coming from others. A feeling vocabulary that is large and complex permits children to discriminate between feelings and to effectively communicate to others what they are experiencing. Being able to accurately identify and label feelings in others allows children to understand and successfully manage social situations.
How An Emotional Vocabulary Develops
Children acquire this vocabulary of self-awareness and social-awareness by direct instruction and by observing what’s happening around them. Many experiences, both purposeful and happenstance, help children develop an extensive feeling vocabulary. Hearing feeling words used around them, having stories read to them that use rich vocabulary, and participating in social activities all encourage children to expand and label their feelings appropriately. In today’s classrooms and counseling groups the development of social and emotional skills and related vocabulary should be fostered in multiple ways and through presenting a variety of activities. Today’s blog activity comes from the book, Social and Emotional Learning Activities For The Elementary Grades, and provides an effective way to expand the feeling vocabulary of your students.
We hope you’re having a terrific spring. Today’s activity and Experience Sheet are from a book about three formidable feelings, grief, fear and anger.
Children cannot be protected from them and they can’t be immunized against them. At various points in their young lives, they will suffer the loss of goals, hopes, dreams, friendships, pets and people. They will fear failure, abandonment, punishment, rejection and countless real and imaginary threats to their safety and security. And there will be no ducking their wrath. They will spend countless hours reacting in anger to siblings, peers, authority figures and themselves.
Grief, fear and anger are significant emotions, so weighty in fact that they often drive children to think irrational thoughts and engage in unreasonable behaviors. Such responses left unchecked can easily spiral into destructive actions. If we want children to succeed in life, we must equip them with the tools to manage these intense feelings. Grief, fear and anger are annoyingly persistent companions, popping up regularly throughout life.
Taking a Step in the Right Direction
This week’s activity comes from the book Helping Kids Manage Grief, Fear and Anger. The activities, discussions, role plays, simulations and worksheets presented in this book are designed to help children explore, understand and express their feelings in safe and acceptable ways.Easy-to-understand explanations coupled with skill practice promote healthy responses to intense and sometimes overwhelming emotions.Children become more centered and focused, communicate more effectively, and demonstrate greater interdependence and understanding.
Conflict, violence, and bullying are escalating in schools nationwide. Educators today express unprecedented concern about school and classroom disruptions that steal instructional hours and endanger the safety of students.
Some amount of conflict occurs normally in all schools. However, schools that are large, have limited resources, or serve highly diverse populations often experience pervasive conflict. Outside the school, a corresponding escalation in aggressive and violent behaviors exists in society at large. Our culture inadvertently supports violence through advertising, social relationships, politics, the media, and entertainment.
Keeping the Lid On Conflict
Often, conflicts escalate because students and the adults around them don’t know how to respond to disagreements and confrontations pro-socially and creatively. Peers — sometimes even parents —reward aggressive responses to conflict. These responses are modeled on television and in movies, where even the “good guys” maim and kill in order to “win.” Obviously, our society and our schools are in critical need of people with effective pro-social conflict resolution skills.
This week’s lesson focuses on how to bring a more positive , pro-social aspect to conflict.It has been taken from Conflict Resolution Skills for Teens, a learning guide for middle and high school.
Having looked at cooperation and support as qualities of friendship in our last blog, let’s take a deeper look at cooperation and its impact on kids learning to work together.
In A Perfect World
Ideally, cooperation is characterized by interdependence and inclusion. Everyone is valued for his or her uniqueness. They trust one another, turn to each other for help and advice and, when they experience conflict, utilize positive methods to resolve it. This Sharing Circle promotes cooperation and team building, children acquire many of the insights and skills necessary to interact effectively with their peers, to handle conflict, and to participate productively in collaborative projects and school assignments.
Your Sharing Circle
This Sharing Circle comes from Teaching The Skills of Conflict Resolution, our resource guide of activities and strategies for kids in grades K-8. The topic is, We Cooperated to Get It Done.
Here’s Your Monday Morning Sharing Circle. Enjoy!
Do you want more information?
• Leading a Sharing Circle
• Sharing Circle Rules • Books and Resources
• Free Activities
Active listening is a wonderful process for helping your students work through upsets to discover exactly what their feelings are.
When we listen actively to our students, two things happen at once. First, negative feelings lessen or disappear after they are expressed and acknowledged in a supportive, nonjudgmental manner, and second, we are modeling and thus teaching students the skill itself.
Active listening helps develop problem-solving skills. As you model and teach active listening, your students begin acquiring the skill, and they become increasingly able to talk through or articulate a problem clearly as opposed to having it just spinning in their heads because they are unable to express it. Through discussion, they are better able to work toward a solution. Active listening also facilitates the growth of a student’s ability to express himself or herself effectively.
A Tool for Today
Today’s lesson teaches the skills of Active Listening and applies them directly to lessening anger. It has been taken from Anger Control And Conflict Management, a learning guide for the elementary grades.
It has been said that life is forty percent what we make it, and sixty percent how we take it. Whatever the ratio, the point is clear that attitude is a defining lens. We always have a choice about how we respond to events in our lives.
To recognize the benefits of developing positive, responsible attitudes, young people must first grow in self-awareness. They must learn to understand feelings and their relationship to thoughts, and they must understand that their own feelings are normal, predicable, and susceptible to control. Feelings convey messages about conditions and events going on in the environment, and provide important clues to the way the brain is processing information.
As William James said over one hundred years ago, “Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
A Tool You Can Use
This week’s activity helps students learn about the power of their attitudes – how negative attitudes cause problems and how positive attitudes can be a benefit to all aspects of their lives. The activity, Developing a Positive Attitude, has two parts – a group discussion followed by an experience sheet.
Welcoming families as vital partners in the school community can create a stimulating learning environment. It can also be frustrating and challenging, especially when social customs and mores, language differences, even fear become barriers that can hinder this partnership.
The Student Reality
In many cases, immigrant students prove surprisingly resilient and eager to mimic the behaviors and values of their American peers. Some come from countries where Western culture has already made significant inroads, whether through television, movies, music, technology or MacDonald’s. However, too rapid acculturation can often spell trouble at home, as conflicts develop between children intent on change and parents determined to preserve traditional values.
Linking with Parents
This book is about reaching out to immigrant parents because it is often the parents, not the students, who need the greatest understanding and help. School systems differ around the world.In many countries parent involvement is not expected, or wanted.Immigrant parents may not understand how the U.S. school system works and be totally unfamiliar with the concept of parent involvement.In addition to not understanding the school system they often have very little knowledge of how to support their children’s educational development.
Few children, regardless of culture, achieve their full academic, social and leadership potential without the support of a caring, involved family. Talented, able immigrant children can easily fall by the wayside if their parents are so alienated from the educational system that they are unable to assist with homework, language acquisition, and a whole array of compliance issues ranging from simple attendance to behavior codes and discipline policies. When parents are in overt (or covert) conflict with the educational system, the cultural tug-of-war for the mind and heart of the child can be devastating.
By extending a welcoming hand, making efforts to communicate, and involving immigrant parents in the schooling of their children, we can circumvent many of these problems. It’s a preventive approach, really, one that attempts to support and strengthen the child at the foundational level.
Building a Repertoire
As educators, we need to comprehend and address a complete range of cultural issues. To do this, we have to understand the values, customs and worldview of the dominant American culture as well as those of immigrant students and their families. We must be aware of the unique behaviors of each immigrant child, while appreciating and understanding the cultural context from which these behaviors originate. We should also try to understand the immigration experience and the process of acculturation — which is often painful and conflicting.
Cultural Factors to Keep in Mind
Understanding your own culture is a major step toward understanding others. It’s like anything else. Having a context and a basis for comparison makes identifying differences a lot easier. Remember that while values are the bedrock of culture, they often can only be understood by examining customs, communication styles and individual behaviors. The values themselves are hidden.
Communication styles and patterns, including body language, vary from one culture to another. For example, people from some cultures pull away in response to direct questioning or see “why” questions as accusations. Others feel an obligation to please the person with whom they are talking and think nothing of massaging the facts in order to do so. In some cultures, smiling and nodding have little to do with genuine pleasure or agreement. In others, having direct eye contact with someone in an authority position is considered rude.
In communicating with immigrant students and their families, it is important to do perception checks. Is your interpretation correct? Check with the other person. The rules for good listening and responding don’t change, but if you are willing and able to make small adjustments in your style of communicating (to more closely mirror the style of the other person), communication will be improved.
The more you know about a student’s culture, the better the chances of effective communication. This doesn’t mean that you have to devote hours of study to becoming multiculturally literate. Showing an interest in the diverse experiences of students and their families is an important way to build relationships. Observing, asking questions and exploring differences in an open and honest way will go a long way to building insight and understanding. For example, questions and observations may tell you such things as:
• The amount of personal space an individual requires. (This tells you how much physical distance to allow between you and the other person.)
• How time is viewed. Does the American expectation of punctuality have meaning in the other culture? Is the fast pace of American life creating conflicts for the student or family? Do children and their parents understand and accept the concept of deadlines and due dates for projects and papers?
• The family’s decision-making process. How does information seem to flow from the child to the home and back again to you? Is there an established protocol for gaining parent cooperation? Do family members other than parents (e.g., grandparents, aunts, siblings) need to be involved?
Gauge the amount of information you provide. This is particularly important when working with immigrant parents. Individuals experiencing culture shock are already overwhelmed. Piling on reams of information is probably going to be counterproductive. Prioritize what you need to convey to parents and then deal with it in small chunks. Have more contacts of shorter duration.
In virtually every area of living life skills are needed. Along with math, science, technology, history and English, students also need to be taught how to manage themselves, their time and activities.They need to know how to get along with others and to formulate goals and communicate their needs in a pro-social manner.Too often these critical life skills are not addressed in a direct fashion but their acquisition is simply left to chance.Students often don’t learn effective ways to deal with life issues.They have ideas but can’t express them clearly.They get into conflicts they don’t know how to resolve.They have hopes and dreams but can only drift through life.
The Current Reality
Often it’s the lack of skills and awarenesses that prevent many from becoming fully capable, contributing, happy members of society.School is the ideal places to directly teach life skills, both for their impact on the future and because life skills ensure the effective application of academic skills today.
Here’s a Resource and How to Use It
Understanding Me develops, maintains, and enhances critical life skills.Among the life skills addressed in these activity sheets are:
•decision making • goal setting • communication • conflict management • learning • leadership • time management • responsibility • assertiveness • career choic • trust • friendship • culture • justice
In addition to your own enabling behaviors and the cultivation of an affirming classroom or counseling environment, you can assure a positive impact on the social-emotional development of your students by infusing these activities into your regular curriculum or counseling efforts.They represent one of many possible approaches and can be enlisted as supplements to other strategies you are currently using.
A Complimentary Activity
UNDERSTANDING ME is packed with meaningful information for teens to learn new ideas, attitudes, behaviors, perspectives, and skills while promoting self-awareness and self-esteem.These flexible worksheets can be used by anyone working with teens – teachers, counselors, youth group and after-school leaders, home-schoolers, and parents.
Today’s selected student activity is entitled Pressure!. What is Peer Pressure and what do you do with it?
Use this activity now, and purchase the book to have a whole library of instantly usable social skills skills activities with which to engage your students.
You can check the book out HERE, and you can open a reproducible PDF of your student activity HERE.
If you like our blog resources and would like to receive them regularly, please subscribe here or on our website at www.InnerchoicePublishing.com
Children who have learned to understand, accept, and control their feelings are not only less vulnerable to conflict, they are better equipped to deal constructively with conflict when it occurs. This Sharing Circle will allow students to better understand the connection between feelings and behavior. The topic for this Sharing Circle is, Something I Do That Makes Me Happy…
Here’s Your Monday Morning Sharing Circle.
Something I Do That Makes Me Happy
The students will:
— identify something that they enjoy doing.
— state that all people can make themselves feel better.
Introduce the Topic:
Today we are going to think about things that we do to make ourselves feel good.The topic is, “Something I Do That Makes Me Happy.”
Do you know that you can make yourself feel happy?We all do things every day to help ourselves feel good.We give hugs to people we love, and that feels good.We sometimes sing or dance or tell jokes to make ourselves happy.We might make ourselves happy by playing a favorite game or reading a good book; by getting together with a close friend, playing with a pet, relaxing in front of T.V., or taking a walk.Close your eyes right now and think of one thing that you do to make yourself happy.Maybe you eat a favorite snack in the afternoon, or cuddle up with your cat.Perhaps you paint, or work on your computer.Take a few moments to think about it.The topic is, “Something I Do That Makes Me Happy.”
1. Why is it important to know how to make yourself feel better?
2. What ideas did you hear that you’d like to try?
3. Who is in control of how you feel?Explain.
Do you want more information? • Leading a Sharing Circle • Sharing Circle Rules • Books and Resources • Free Activities • Subscribe
Explain the rules for sharing, and get agreement from everyone that they will follow the rules.
Sharing Circle Rules:
• Everyone gets a turn to share, including the leader.
• You can skip your turn if you wish.
• Listen to the person who is sharing.
• There are no interruptions, probing, put-downs, or gossip.
• Share the time equally.
After everyone has shared, who wants to share, ask the discussion questions.