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.)

ELA Success: Patience is key!

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Most of my blog content comes from questions I’ve answered at one time or another from teachers and administrators who use Shurley English.  I often hear the urgency in their voices, and they seem to be looking for a quick fix to the problems their students are experiencing. Sure, we all want quick results, but usually by the time you manage to find just the right curriculum or just the right supplement to your teaching, the students have moved on.  Then, you get a new batch of students with similar but unique struggles, and you’re back at it again, trying to find what works and what works fast.

Even though we, as a society, rely on instant gratification, immediate feedback, and quick results, the outcome of an exemplary education won’t happen that way.  Honestly, we all know there are NO quick fixes that produce the quality results we’re seeking, not in life or in curriculum.

In a previous blog, I broached the topic of having patience and of trusting the process. This is true of any quality curriculum, but especially so with Shurley English. You have to tap into your reservoir of patience—patience with yourself, patience with students, and patience with the curriculum.  Academic growth will manifest quickly in your students’ grammar and writing, but only after you have invested the upfront time needed to lock in the foundational patterns and strategies.

Note to Kindergarten – 3rd Grade Teachers:  Patience may be harder to come by for the lower level teacher of Shurley English because classroom management issues often chew up instructional time.  So, be patient out there, all you Kindergarten through 3rd grade teachers! Remember, you are the heroes who lay the grammar and writing foundations on which the later teachers can build upon.

Yes, Shurley English sometimes requires you to teach concepts that you may not have had to handle until a much later grade in your own schooling.  Just because you didn’t have the opportunity to learn in such a dynamic way personally, you need to know that you are exposing your young learners to concepts they will master in time, not necessarily with you.  You may not get to see the beautifully written masterpiece that the upper grade level teachers will see, but the foundational concepts you teach are vital.  

Note to 4th – 8th Grade Teachers: Middle elementary teachers, dig deeper into your reservoir of patience. Your kiddos are still trying to figure out this organized writing thing, and you are helping them to understand the connection between grammar and writing. Middle school teachers-have patience when trying to fill in the gaps, and smile when you’re the one that gets to submit their 5-Paragraph Essay to the writing contest! 

Society often relies on instant gratification, immediate feedback, and quick results, but the outcome of an exemplary education won’t happen that way.  It’s all about patience! Shurley English sets you and your students up for success, but you must be patient.  If you want quality-you’re in the right textbook!  If you want a confident, competent writer-be more patient. Remember…

Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.

-David G. Allen

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.