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.)

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.)

Grow Emotional Intelligence with Storytelling

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Last time, I threw drama into the mix to help kids connect emotionally to their own learning. As we think deeper about how important this connection is, researchers report that storytelling offers a unique opportunity for kids to grow their emotional intelligence quotient.

Like drama, storytelling involves kids in several aspects of learning that help them connect parts of their real lives to stories—stories with many different kinds of characters from various cultures and locations. Each character has a point of view in a story, and it is exciting when kids learn how to analyze a story character and add a bit of their own personality to the interpretation.  

When you teach children how to tell a story with appropriate characterization and a point of view, they naturally evolve in areas like self-awareness, cultural awareness, and insights into universal life experiences. What an important way to help students explore their own cultural roots, traditions, and values! Just grappling with these ideas can help kids find their place in the world.

To get kids started with storytelling, provide several options for them. They can read through several books, magazines, or plays to find one they want to develop into a storytelling performance piece. Click on the link at the end of this post to get some great ideas.

 After your student selects a story, discuss the following presentation points:

1. Vocal Pitch

  • Help the storyteller understand how to vary vocal pitch, tempo, and volume to make characters come alive in a story.

  • Emphasize moments of silence and dramatic pauses to get a character’s point of view across.

  • Demonstrate for the storyteller how to use different exaggerated voices for the characters. Have the storyteller create a strong “narrator’s” voice that will remain consistent throughout the story.

 

2. Body Language

  • Demonstrate how common gestures and body language, stance, and movement help differentiate one character from another in stories.

  • Show how certain types of body movements create emotional responses in the audience.

 

3. Staging

  • Show storytellers how to use “stage” space effectively, using an entire area.

  • Give storytellers many opportunities to practice pantomiming specific activities related to a character.

Storytelling Resources: A popular children’s author, Aaron Shepard, publishes an excellent site for storytelling ideas. Check it out here.

Please visit again soon for my next post, where I will explore how role modeling can further your quest to promote emotional intelligence in kids. (This post is part of a series on Emotional Intelligence. To start at the beginning, click here.)



The Benefits of Using Drama Activities in Your Classroom

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Next up on the emotional intelligence list is—wait for it…drama in the classroom…the kind that won’t make you nuts! This subject is near and dear to my heart because I have been a community theatre enthusiast most of my life! I suppose I just gravitated toward drama because I liked the fantasy, the story, the chance to be someone else.

Unknowingly, drama was actually helping me become more in tune with other people—on and off the stage. That’s the crux of helping students in the classroom with dramatic presentations. They allow kids the chance to grapple with their own emotions and personalities as they learn how to interpret a character in a play. Kids forge self-awareness skills each time they attempt to interpret a character in a story. These skills spill over into real life relationships.

Self-Management. If there is one quality a teacher wants in students, it’s self-management. Kids who can manage their own practice, their own behavior, and their own reactions to situations have a better chance at success in life. What better platform to practice these behaviors than a play!

Self-Direction. When kids engage in drama, they learn how to explore different parts of their personalities…sometimes parts that are very confusing—maybe even a bit scary. But, the setting for a play serves as a safe-zone by giving them the freedom to try various approaches to interpret their character. Kids who learn how to balance their own emotional needs and wants develop self-direction, in other words, they get motivated. Self-direction is slightly more complex than self-management. Self-directing kids learn not only how to adjust their expectations of themselves, but also that of others. Because drama pushes students to explore their own motivations and the motivations of others, they learn how to direct their own emotional messages and how to perceive the emotional messages of others. What a life benefit!

Fun. While drama does help kids with connecting their emotions with learning, let’s not forget that for many kids, drama is just plain fun! Just as in great novels and stories that kids read, a dramatic or comedic play can have a powerful impact on a kid’s outlook on life. Being involved with others, acting out roles, pretending to be something or someone else is often just what kids need to elevate their self-esteem and grow their confidence.

Give it a Try! To get the drama started in your classroom, search the internet for “plays for kids in the classroom.” You will find more than enough resources to get you going. Also, check out your anthologies and literature sets. Sometimes it is better for you and your students to write your own plays based on stories you all love. However you implement it, take it slow…start small. Then, as you all grow in your ability to interpret the various stories, branch out. I have no doubt you will be pleased with the results you see in your students.

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

Why Playing Games Boosts Emotional Intelligence

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Last time, I told you about nine ways to ignite emotional intelligence in your classroom. I discussed how music can impact emotional connections to learning. Now, let’s examine how bringing games into the school day can support emotional intelligence.

Game On. From the time we are infants, games often play big part in our lives. From Peek-a-Boo to Simon Says—playing games makes us happy. But games do a lot more than meets the eye. Some research says that teaching kids how to play board games, games of strategy, and digital games improves interpersonal and social-emotional skills.

Two Heads are Better Than One. Have you ever heard of collective intelligence? Well, it’s a real thing! Researchers have learned that two heads are better than one, three heads are better than two…you know the old adage. Turns out it’s true, at least for a lot of people. And it’s important for kids in classrooms, too. Games make this dynamic possible.

Decision-making and Predictions. Games, especially games of strategy, promote decision-making and the ability to make predictions based on actions. Think about how important it might be for kids if they learned and practiced how to analyze a chess move or a strategic move on a checker board. Every action leads to an outcome; and the better the kid is at predicting that outcome, the more likely the win. Decision-making and predictions are part of every day life and these are skills worth practicing!

Can I Live With the Risk? What about risk-taking? Yep! Experts agree; risk-taking is essential to learning because the brain is always sizing up situations to decide if staying and fighting is better than running away. Kids who are willing to take risks within reason show increased resilience in the face of adversity. They also show better wisdom when they know when to walk away from a fight. Know what that builds up inside of kids? Persistence! Persistence is one part patience and one part discipline. So, start playing games with kids and you up the odds that they will become more persistent and wiser about their actions. Of course, it’s not as simple as all that. It’s not a one and done proposition, but it has power if it is practiced consistently.

Cooperative Learning. In our learning environments, in or outside the home, games can prompt growth in other ways, too. Did you know that most of the jobs our kids of today will have don’t even exist yet? And did you know that those future jobs, more than likely, will be done in cooperative teams of employees? You know where I am going with this. Never underestimate the power of game play to help kids learn how to get along with one another. We call it cooperative learning for a reason. Yes, game-playing can sometimes lead to all-out mutiny, but it’s in the struggle, the compromise, the fits, and the resolution where kids can learn how to work alongside another and build mutual purpose. They also develop a stronger sense of self as they join in on the push and pull of interpersonal relationships.

As you forge new pathways with your students, remember to include games because they improve learning in ways that matter a lot today and that matter even more in the future. It’s time to get your game on!

In the next part of my series, I will talk about drama in the classroom…the kind that doesn’t make you crazy. Stay tuned!

 

Emotional Intelligence: How to boost learning with music

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If you are a teacher, you know that teaching—and learning—are emotional experiences. Thanks to neuropsychology and neuroscientists, we have some exciting ways to increase the joy in our classrooms, which in turn increases the learning. Why? It’s one of the most basic concepts in teaching and learning…happy kids learn new things easier than stressed out kids.

Eric Jensen, a pioneer among neuro-educators, suggests nine ways to ramp up the emotional intelligence in the classroom or in any learning environment. To help students connect positive emotions with learning, try adding in some of the following strategies:

  • Music

  • Games

  • Drama

  • Storytelling

  • Role modeling

  • Celebrations

  • Controversy

  • Rituals

  • Introspection

For the next several weeks, I will unpack each of these strategies and offer some examples of what they can look like in your environment. Let’s get started with incorporating music.

Whether we’re talking about vocal or instrumental music, classical or jazz styles, music from a radio, or from the streaming device of your choice, music in your students’ ears can elevate their learning. Jensen includes music because of what the research shows.

Music, as long as it is added intentionally and not overdone, can relax students. This “de-stresses” them and primes them for effective learning. We all know how stressed we can feel when too much information is crammed into our heads. It can halt our ability to listen actively and process new ideas.

But, music changes the brain’s neural map. When kids get to learn how to play a stringed instrument or one that requires the fingers to change positions, cool neural interactions happen inside the brain.

Since many schools can no longer afford music programs for the whole school, teachers who invite music into their classroom can still save the day AND positively influence their kids’ brains. When students get the chance to sing, dance, play instruments, etc., the parts of their brain that process music develop extra neurons! Voila! Better brains—better learning!

Shurley English makes it easy to adopt music in the classroom with musical and rhythmic jingles that teach grammar. Kids easily connect their emotions to their learning during jingle time. You can too! For more information about ideas to bring jingles and other brain-building activities to your kids, go to our website: www.shurley.com and check them out.

Remember to keep the link between students’ emotions and the learning process in mind as you plan and deliver all of your lessons.  Emotions drive attention, which in turn drives learning and memory.  

(This post is part of a series on Emotional Intelligence. To continue to part two, click here.)

What is multi-sensory education?

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I have been dabbling with curriculum since I was a baby teacher and could barely crawl. If you’re a teacher, too, you probably have a similar story. I cut my teacher teeth on theories and practices from many different models, but the one that makes my brain do a happy dance is Multi-Sensory Learning. 

The system of our senses is fascinating in and of itself, but what is extraordinary is that teachers can learn how to maximize a student’s awareness of how their senses work together to help them learn and retain knowledge. I also enjoy studying up on the latest neuro-research, and once again, multi-sensory education rises to the top of my favorites list. Here’s why…

When your brain reacts to stimuli, there will be a mini-explosion of both chemical and electrical responses. The brain has both sensory (Woo Hoo!) and motor regions that must communicate with each other. These regions get gabby by means of areas called association cortices (KOR  tuh sees). These association areas are like bridges between the sensory (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste) regions and the motor regions that direct how our bodies move. Based on fMRI images, we have learned that visual input influences sound input. Basically, what we see makes more sense if it is connected with an accompanying sound, and vice versa. We have further learned that if you combine the sense of touch with the senses of sight and sound, learning anything improves by almost 30% as compared to touch alone. That’s significant!!!

So, think about this. People learn better from words and pictures together than from words alone. If you can figure out a way to incorporate the sense of touch, then you have win-win-win as far as learning goes. Now, get this! If you take it just a bit further and want to juice up the neural connections in the brain, add the sense of smell. Advertisers have been using fragrances and aromas in stores for years to jolt the consumers’ into buying-mode. Well, why not in the field of education? Here’s an example. Suppose we are reading the poem A Pop Corn Song by Nancy Byrd Turner. This is an over-the-top obvious example, but it will make my point. The very topic of the poem should take your imagination to all the right places so that in conjunction with the reading of the poem, you will also add the following multi-sensory components: the smell of popcorn in the classroom; the sound of the kernels popping; and of course, the taste of the popcorn will delight the senses and tie them all together with the other sense stimuli. In the poem, the author even describes how to string the popcorn and make a necklace, which involves the sense of touch, too! These elements don’t have to occur in exact synchronicity, but you get the gist.

I counted myself lucky if I could get my students to buy-in to my lessons, and when I began to apply the strategies I learned from Shurley English, my language arts lessons began to soar. The kids were also getting a healthy dose of dopamine and serotonin, brain-food chemicals that the brain produces when it’s getting a charge out of life! In fact, I used to say things like, “Okay, ladies and gents, let’s make some brain food!” In just a few teachable moments, I let the kids in on a big secret…they could actually make their brains smarter simply by singing and dancing their way through all of their lessons, touching, smelling, and even tasting (when possible)—in every subject! By combining all of these strategies and initiating an event like the “popcorn” poem example, my students’ brains were firing and wiring to make for lasting learning.

I challenge you to become acquainted with multi-sensory education. The beautiful thing about Shurley English is that it trains teachers how to implement multi-sensory approaches as a natural part of the language arts lessons. It’s on-the-job training that will stick tight in your brains and nourish your ability to teach in a way you never knew you could. Your kids will thank you…and your brain will thank you!

 

Comment /Source

David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.

 

He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.