Humanizing the Classroom Book Review

Humanizing the Classroom by Kristin Stuart Valdes @kpsvaldes shows teachers in all subjects how to use role-plays to teach social emotional learning (SEL) skills in middle and high school classrooms. Written by a New York City Arts educator with 18 years of experience teaching and years of sharing her experiences on Edutopia, this book is a badly needed lifeline for educators struggling to integrate SEL into their daily content instruction.

Organized into six chapters, the author spends the first four chapters acquainting readers with the foundations of Social Emotional Learning. The next two chapters are spent on curriculum organization and laying out over 40 role-playing exercises that are organized by CASEL‘s five SEL competencies. Some of the ones I look forward to testing in my class are: Understanding Bias, Understanding Stereotypes, and Understanding Prejudice. Others on Paraphrasing, Emotional Empathy, and Identifying Underlying Causes look interesting to explore through my lens as a History teacher. Further, I foresee an almost unlimited selection of interesting historical events, people and places to develop role-plays using SEL competencies.

As a teacher, I appreciated the consistent layout of the role-paying lessons. I also agreed with Valdes’ claim that most of the learning from role-playing takes place after the role-play is complete. Meaning don’t shortchange the debriefing and wrap up questions at the end. Personally, I will probably add student reflection pieces too. Teachers who are not familiar with experiential learning may feel uneasy about jumping into role-plays right away, however, Valdes offers tips for preparing actors, staging a classroom, and recommends a refine, revise, and re-do approach that can help anyone gain confidence in running a role-play.

In short, Humanizing the Classroom helps classroom teachers meet all five of the instructional teaching practices that promote SEL. The California Council for Social Studies has made SEL a strand in their 2020 conference this year. They are accepting conference proposals until September 15, 2019.

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I will be sharing this book with my PLN and recommend that my school uses it for teacher Professional Development in the Fall. What books do you use to help teachers integrate Social Emotional Learning into their instructional practices? Please leave your recommendations in the comment section.