Category Archives: social emotional learning

Graphic Novel Review: Illegal

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Illegal is the story of Ebo, a young boy from Ghana who journeys across Africa to Tripoli where he hopes to migrate to Europe and reunite with his older sister Sisi and his older brother Kwame who have already left home. This 122 page graphic novel by was written by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin with the images drawn by Giovanni Rigano.

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A small cast of characters make this book an easy, yet dramatic read for students learning about immigration and Africa. Ebo, Kwame, Sisa, Uncle Patrick, Rozak, Penn, and Cammo.

The reader quickly learns that the life of a migrant is a dangerous routine of work, hide, and sleep in order to get up and avoid detection the next day. Human traffickers abound and pop up frequently to separate migrants from their hard-earned money.

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Ebo’s gift for song carries him to the city of Agadez where an impromptu gig at a wedding helps him get to Europe. There are many opportunities for teachers to help students learn about African countries, the legacies of imperialism, and the sad history of decolonization. Students can create empathy maps, timelines, and map the refugees’ journey, as well as engage in inquiry projects about refugees in and out of the United States.

The opening quote from Eli Wiesel reminds us all that humanity depends on humans caring for each other. Isn’t that what the study of history is for?

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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.

Wildflowers Review

Wildflowers

For the past few years, I have been purposefully including Social Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies into my Social Studies content instruction. With that focus in mind, I picked up Wildflowers by Jonathan P. Raymond and found it to be a quick and useful read. It is hard to tell whether the book was written for teachers, administrators, school boards, superintendents, or the author’s personal catharsis, but all educators would benefit from the positive lessons in the book. I found myself nodding my head and vigorously underlining passages that I have returned to again and again in order to clarify my vision for including SEL in my pedagogy.

First and foremost is Raymond’s view that SEL is Whole Child in action and that both of these movements are fundamentally tied to equity. Toward that end, Raymond is unsparing in his belief that America is creeping “toward decline because of the abject neglect of our children.” The consistent message from this edu-leader is that our nation has “one future to build, together, and nothing will shield us from the consequences if we fail those on the lower rungs of our economic ladder.”

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Raymond calls for all school stakeholders to put children first in their decision-making and to focus education policy on continuous improvement and collaboration. He notes that Americans have a tough time thinking through problems involving inequality and that we reach for our pet ideologies before agreeing on facts. Throughout the book, Raymond cautions that ideological battles are the biggest threat to public education.

Another statement that I agreed with was Raymond’s personal rejection of the term “achievement gap” because it blames children who live in poverty for the failures of policy-makers. Who is failing to achieve? The students who are underperforming, or the adults who lack the focus, discipline, moral courage, and belief in these kids to ensure they are supported effectively.

Although Raymond does not recommend specific SEL strategies that teachers can use in their daily instructional practices, his action plan and five keys for reimagining schools will inspire teachers. I repeatedly thought — I would love to work for this guy – as I continued through the book. Wildflowers is bigger than an SEL instruction manual, it is a call to embark on a national effort in reshaping public education after failed national policies aimed at disenfranchising families, communities, and teachers.

I’m interested in learning how other Social Studies teachers are integrating SEL into their routines and procedures, please post your ideas in the comments or share them on Twitter.