At EB, social and emotional learning is paramount and taught starting in Preschool. SEL coach Christopher Colebourn describes an essential component of this curriculum: a community building circle.
The children gather in a circle and sit down on the carpet to begin a meditation. The tranquil sound of the Tibetan singing bowl signals the start of class where the children take three deep breaths then begin 3 minutes of mindful meditation.
The often wild and frenetic energy post recess slips away and the children are ready to learn. We then do a check-in for every child in which they share how they feel. For example if the lesson is on emotions or feelings the check-in would be, “I feel happy when_________” or “I feel sad when_________.” The check in process allows each child to express themselves, be heard and to feel part of the group.
This method is a Restorative Justice practice that is used in “Community Building Circles” that is often used not only in SEL class, but also to begin a deeper dialogue when resolving conflicts when 3 or more children are involved. We then move on to the lesson of the day from the Madame Pacific curriculum. This is the school wide SEL curriculum that is used from Pre-K to 5th grade.
Conflicts are unavoidable but can be resolved peacefully
I then introduce the topic of the day that includes a brief lecture, sharing time and discussion. We will often do a related activity or game after that. The children love to share and are very engaged. I try to make the class as interesting and as fun as possible. I just started introducing Playworks team building games at the end of class as well.
Playworks is a non competitive inclusive method of play which allows the class to work together to complete a goal or task in a fun way. This keeps moral up and allows the children to reap the benefits of supporting one another and working together as a "team".
The month of September has been dedicated to learning the school-wide rules, playground values, using 'SEL hopscotch" to resolve conflicts peacefully and then finally learning about the topic of conflict. We have learned that conflicts are unavoidable but that resolving them peacefully by using the tools given in SEL can lead to autonomy, self-confidence and self worth.
Workshop on feelings
The lessons have been going very well with the added bonus of having the regular teachers co-teach with me. This enables the teachers to follow up with what we have worked on in the SEL class.Teachers have been very helpful and of course have had so much insight into the students behavior which helps me to work on any issues that may need to be addressed.
The month of October is dedicated to a workshop on feelings. Children will learn how to identify how they feel in different situations, and then learn how to identify them in others which will get us closer to our goal of understanding and practicing empathy!
In closing, I want to thank Magali Noth for implementing Madame Pacific which began in 2012 in the Maternelle and also Mindfulness from Mindful Schools which she introduced to EB in 2011.