Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It's all about the social stuff

I love this article about social learning by NPR's Anya Kamanetz, The Benefits of Teaching Lessons Learned in Preschool to Older Kids.  She reminds us that social learning is equal to academic learning in importance. 

In the public discourse, measuring students' success is all about testing for academic achievement.  Neuroscience research points to using additional measures, though.  The research shows that academic achievement holds little value without the social skills to communicate, self-regulate and empathize with others. "Kids who develop these skills early in life get better grades, are less susceptible to anxiety and depression and have healthier, more fulfilling relationships,” says Linda Lantieri, director of The Inner Resilience Program.

Emotional intelligence and respectful self-expression must be just as explicitly taught as problem-solving in math, or problem-finding in social studies.  As we seek academic challenges for students we can't neglect social challenges.

Programs we use at Parker like Responsive Classroom and mindfulness practices give us a common language and methods for helping children gain skills that are sometimes hard.  Second graders have an exquisite sense of fairness ("Sam budged in line - so I budged back") and sixth graders are finely attuned to social nuance ("My BFF doesn't agree with me on the project we're doing, so are we still friends?")  Helping students negotiate these choppy waters is not easy, and it takes a lot of time, but its essential.

In the block corner or at the robotics table, students need both intellectual and social skills to be successful.

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