At our school, we have a mixture of behavior/emotional supports to help our students learn how to be respectful, build social competence with their peers and adults, and express their feelings and emotions in healthy ways. We follow the common Responsive Classroom practices, have PBIS school wide incentives, use the Olweus Anti-Bullying program, and are a Welcoming School (check out their website if you are unaware of what that means). Even with all of these awesome supports in place, sometimes I still need a little extra something.
I wanted to give my students something new, something they haven't heard from kindergarten to give them purpose again. They've been hearing, "Show your CARES," constantly (which is an acronym from RC). I wanted to give them new language and a new focus to help them get to the next level.
Enter the Leader in Me website.
I would love to be in a school where this was actually adopted and used throughout, however, I'm starting small by using their website to help me make some small changes. I also found some great resources from others through Pinterest to help guide me with pictures books to use in my classroom to introduce some of the habits.
For most of these, we read a book or two and discussed what that habit really meant. We also discuss the "I-statements" for each one to help students understand what that might look like in our classroom. Before you know it, I have students who are reciting the "mantras" throughout the day.
Heck. I even had students make up their own call and response using the habits. Are you familiar with the song Radioactive by Imagine Dragons? Well students changed the lyrics to "Be Proactive" instead of Radioactive. Now, when I want their attention, I sing the, "Whoooa Whoooa"s and they say back, "Be proactive, be proactive." I kid you not- they came up with that all on their own. What I'm getting at is that these simple posters and I-statements began to give my students the language on what it meant to work towards being a leader.
And although those books and statements were awesome to introduce the habits to my students, I found that integrating it into our learning and daily work has had the biggest effect.
We do a lot of math talk during our math lessons. I really wanted to have all students share ideas and listen to ideas before solving a problem and to work together. This is a hard skills for kids across the spectrum- I've got my quiet souls who are very comfortable with simply sitting and listening, I've got my quiet souls who want to talk, but struggle with asserting themselves, and I've got my loud voices who always talk first and love to share.
So after I gave them a problem to work on during math in their daily groups (which I change often to make sure everyone works with everyone), I focused in on what I heard and what I saw in terms to the two habits we were focusing on during that time. After the problem was done and discussed, I took a survey to ask how many students listened to someone else's idea, how many students shared an idea, and how many students thought that everyone in the group balanced the two. We saw throughout the math lesson that as it went on, more people were sharing and feeling like the talking space was being shared.
One major success was with one student who flat out told me he did not like working with groups because he likes to "go fast." However, this student also sometimes makes sloppy mistakes. I coached him on how he could get others involved by questioning. He latched onto that and came up with some stellar questions to get other involved and to help others explain their thinking. I was really quite amazed at the sophistication he brought to his group and the smile that was on his face while he assumed the "teacher" role, as we talked that when I teach them, I often ask questions more than just telling answers... that's what teachers do!
I've been really impressed with the level of our group work and how students are really thinking about these habits throughout our learning time. I'm seeing strong voices speak up in a way to encourage others to share. I'm seeing quiet voices begin to see value in their comments and practicing the language and vocabulary in the lesson which is so essential to their learning. And even better, I'm doing less redirecting and a lot more reinforcing during group work time while my students are redirecting themselves and staying on task.
What do you use to help students build the necessary social skills?