How to Increase Emotional Intelligence with Controversy and Introspection

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If you have been following my posts about guiding kids to connect emotionally with their learning…thanks! I hope it has been interesting and helpful. I am wrapping up my series with another combo from Jensen’s work: controversy and introspection.

The mere mention of the word controversy is controversial. But what I mean is not going to usher in a strike of some kind and make you want to walk in a picket line. Controversy and introspection in the classroom are a dynamic duo because of the kind of thinking they inspire in your students.

Ages ago, when I was in high school (The exact number of years ago shall remain undisclosed!), I had a history teacher who, quite frankly, was able to teach history from experience…he was THAT old. But, with age comes wisdom—and he had a lot of it. I remember one lesson in particular that affected my learning and thinking in quite an unexpected way. He simply introduced a scenario filled to the brim with controversy. Granted, we were high school students and able to manage some heftier topics. Consequently, if you decide to introduce controversy, you must consider your audience.

Anyway, the scenario my teacher presented was much like a reality show on television where several characters with various talents and skills are introduced. They are placed on a deserted island and have to fend for themselves. Then, a situation is presented that forces you to analyze which characters have what it takes to survive and which characters are expendable because they don’t. You are also given a finite list of goods that have been provided to aid in the participants’ survival, and you also have a list other supplies that can be used creatively to further enable future survival for the fittest, smartest individuals. Next, my cohorts and I were teamed up. We had to discuss each character in depth. We had to weigh out which ones to help and which ones to ignore. Those decisions were based on our own life experiences—the real ones—that helped form our general world views. Wow! You would never have guessed the level of sophistication our conversations reached when we began to make decisions that would positively or negatively affect the outcome of the situation for each character.

I can’t remember a time when I enjoyed my history class more, and it came about because my teacher gave us permission to think through potential real-life situations in a safe zone…and the conversations, the thinking, the arguing were lustrous and titillating! So much so that I still remember the lesson even today!

Well, that’s what controversy, when it is handled carefully and considerately, can offer a learner. Now enters introspection. I grouped controversy and introspection together because one begets the other. When kids authentically analyze a problem and work together to solve it, they demonstrate introspection. If you are familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy, you know that the kind of thinking I am talking about is all too rare in many of our classrooms. Students who are encouraged to express their ideas, thoughts, opinions, biases, and misunderstandings glean so much from every learning opportunity. They learn how to evaluate their own thoughts, behaviors, and actions in light of their environments and cultural groups. Another reason I saved this dynamic duo of social-emotional learning until this post is because it isn’t for the squeamish. It gets gritty, and it is probably best suited for older kids. However, don’t shy away from these powerhouse emotional intelligence boosters, especially if you work with students from junior high level to college. It is the deep and wide thinking you elicit in your students that makes the risk worth taking.

(This post is part of a series on Emotional Intelligence. To start at the beginning, click here.)

The Playbook of Literary Success: Composition

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The Playbook of Literacy Success highlights the necessary knowledge, skills, and practice required to win the game of literacy development.  Great players gain confidence when they own and use a broad vocabulary and a strong grammar foundation.  These two core concepts serve to prepare all players for one of the greatest plays of all: composition!  If you missed Part I and Part II of the Playbook of Literacy Success, you might want to go back to the starting line to catch up with some calisthenics we call Shurley English Jingles and then move into our version of the wishbone formation, which we call the Question and Answer Flow.  Today, our focus is on composition and the writing process.

We use the term “process” in writing instruction because it takes time—time and practice, first with basic skills and then moving to complex skills. In some past blog posts, we have shared how you can use a figurative “magnifying glass” on sentence writing with the Shurley English Sentence Blueprints. This strategy can be the start of something BIG for writers. Once mastered, you are helping youngsters literally build skills into their own writing process. Great sentence writing leads to great paragraph writing. Great paragraph writing leads to great compositions.

Reflective teachers can take this opportunity to model reflective thinking for their students because, as we have said before, teaching kids to write is the same thing as teaching them to think. As students apply their skills gained from Sentence Blueprints, we run the “practice drills” for each of the next several gameplays. Young writers practice their organizational skills, using a two- and three-point writing model. As they gain confidence, the content becomes a key player in their writing development. Learners, who now understand how to sequence their writing, have a wide-open door for writing responsively or creatively. Below are some important goals to keep in mind as you coach your budding writers.

Checklist for Shurley English Composition:

  • Use the teacher manual to guide your writing practice;

  • Engage students in brainstorming activities to generate writing topics;

  • Double-check students' ability to follow the writing process;

  • Give students opportunities to write in all genres according to the manual;

  • Use the writing evaluation guides as writing rubrics;

  • Conduct frequent writing conferences and provide feedback;

  • Set up "finished" and "in-process" writing folders for your students;

  • Maintain a writing portfolio for each student, containing examples of each kind of writing;

  • Incorporate Discovery and Across the Curriculum activities;

  • Encourage correct English use in both spoken and written forms;

  • Guide students in their research of content to write about.

The writing process will become more automatic for students as they gain experience and confidence.  One of the most important things you can do as a teacher is to provide clear, concise instruction and multiple writing opportunities so that students can repeat the steps of the writing process often enough to own them.  Always remember that the more frequently the brain utilizes a learning path, the deeper the knowledge is embedded in the long-term memory.  Write on!

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For more information about Shurley English Writing, click here.

How to Increase Emotional Intelligence with Role Modeling

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Welcome back to my series on emotional intelligence. My two previous articles were closely related because drama and storytelling involve playing the roles of characters. The same is true with this entry about role modeling. Role modeling, like drama and storytelling, reaches deep into the emotions of learners. Real-life situations and relationships get real-world practice in role modeling.

As adults, we play various roles, right? Sometimes we are bankers; sometimes we are coaches. We might even have to be referees! Whatever the role, we can plan to model specific behaviors intentionally and invite others to share their roles with kids. These experiences offer kids real-life opportunities to walk in someone else’s shoes just a bit, and it inspires them.

Role modeling makes learning interactive with live models. Showing kids how they can play a certain role in a classroom or at home can increase their awareness of their own strengths and talents. Kids often begin to demonstrate their abilities in certain domains early. Some kids paint like an artist, while others can sing well. Some kids demonstrate athletic ability early in life while others gravitate toward literature. If you can identify the kids’ strengths, you can then encourage them to express themselves in real-life situations inside the classroom.

If you have a strong art student, model for that student how to create a sketch book of ideas and an art portfolio. Invite a local artist to visit your classroom and conduct an art session for the whole class. Do the same for all of your students who show obvious ability in ANY area. Some students don’t know about their strengths yet, so this is especially important for them. All students will benefit from observing these role models, but for the students who may not think they have any skills or talents, this kind of role modeling could change the course of their entire lives…it’s THAT important!

 

ACTIVITY:

1. For two weeks, watch your students carefully and note any budding skills or talents.

2. Share these notes with parents and other care givers so that they can encourage the child.

3. Invite district or community to discuss their careers or demonstrate a talent or skill to your students.

4. Find ways to create real-life classroom events that highlight various students’ abilities and strengths.

5. Plan for showcase events in various subjects where students show aptitude.

As you help kids invest in their learning through role models, you are also helping them make powerful connections between that learning and their emotions. Emotional intelligence has a quotient you can’t necessarily measure, but if you want to help kids improve their E.I., add role modeling to your bag of tricks. It works!

(This post is part of a series on Emotional Intelligence. To start at the beginning, click here.)