Teaching the core — and social competence

California educators are trying to integrate social and emotional learning into Common Core Standards, reports EdSource Today.

SACRAMENTO – School is nothing if not an intensely social experience, which is why teacher Michelle Flores posed this question to 24 third graders at Aspire Capitol Heights Academy: “When someone makes a mistake, what do we say?”

“That’s cool,” the third graders responded in unison. “We are experts at making mistakes,” said Flores, who incorporates social and emotional instruction, including the idea that making a mistake is not cause for embarrassment, into academics at the charter school using an approach called Responsive Classroom.

Students need to work in teams, understand different perspectives and persevere in solving problems, said Nancy Markowitz, director of the Collaborative for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child at San Jose State University. “To be able to do a ‘pair-share’ in class, where each kid takes a different perspective on the Civil War, listens, empathizes, and represents her point of view, the prerequisite is that students know how to share ideas,” she said.

Flores’s third graders use “professional discourse” and “academic discourse” to discuss math.

“Javon, why do you concur with my thinking?” asked Meranza, who stood beside a document camera and an overhead projector to explain her math results. “I concur with your thoughts because,” began Javon, launching into a math proof.

“Could you please project your voice, Meranza?” asked Niema. “Absolutely,” replied Meranza. “It would be my pleasure to.”

I’m not sure if this is social and emotional learning or just good manners, but I like it.

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  1. I see this differently, as avoidance of serious subject matter and mastery thereof. At ES-MS and most HS levels, ‘pair-share” amounts to pooling ignorance. Having everyone present a view of the Civil War (or any topic), share ideas and “empathize”? No empathy. Justifying a point of view with solid data should be the aim and feelings shouldn’t enter into it; without data, feelings are irrelevant. Using academic language is fine and good manners are always fine, but some viewpoints are not supported by fact and some answers are plain wrong. Get used to it.

  2. I’d be more impressed if the emphasis on academic discourse included READING high-quality textbooks, fiction and non-fiction; the ones from the 50s. Kids aren’t being prepared to read college-level texts.

  3. lightly seasoned says:

    I like it, too. It’s also known as establishing classroom routine. It’s a front-loaded strategy. Yes, it takes time away from content at the beginning of the year, but then you can pick up speed and do more than you would have without it. Imagine a student asked Meranza to speak up and she replied, “Shut up.” How much time would then be taken away from the math proof?

    Facts and data don’t always magically point to one solution or opinion. One could argue both sides of whether or not the bomb should have been used on Japan at the end of WWII. Neither answer is plain wrong, and empathy is required to explore why. Imagine if online comments worked that way…

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      A kid who would say “shut up” on day one will say it on day ninety unless something more forthright than a class on class is applied.