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Ways To Prioritize Social Emotional Learning Without Grading It

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Last week, I posted No, No, No! Grading Students On Grit & Gratitude Comes To Our Area in reaction to local school districts (thankfully, not ours) beginning to grade students’ Social Emotional Learning skills.

I suspect their reason for doing so is a desire for students and teachers to place a high value on learning and teaching those qualities.

There are much better ways to achieve that goal than through grading (I explain in the previous post how grading in counterproductive), and thought that readers might be interested in hearing how our school does just that:

First, our school decided last spring to make teaching SEL skills a priority in our ninth-grade English and Geography classes as part of a concentrated and supportive “freshman experience” that would include a double-block English class for most students.

Then, in the summer, two exceptional colleagues — Elisabeth Johnson and Jeff Johnson (look for Elisabeth’s piece on teaching Social Studies to English Language Learners in our upcoming sequel to the ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide) reviewed an SEL curriculum purchased by the District and my books. They identified which skills would fit in best with what thematic units taught in the ninth-grade English and Geography curriculum. They developed a recommended calendar, and shared it — along with lesson plans that can be personalized — to teachers just prior to the school year.

Our school is divided into Small Learning Communities (SLC) — approximately 300 students and twenty teachers stay together during the students’ four year career. In our weekly teacher SLC meetings, model lessons are introduced to all teachers in the SLC and we regularly brainstorm ways all teachers can support the SEL lessons — common vocabulary, similar strategies (like goal-setting), etc.

The ninth-grade English and Geography teachers in each SLC coordinate who will teach which lesson, and all the school’s ninth-grade English and Geography teachers meet together every six weeks/two months to discuss experiences, including sharing examples of student assessment. Generally, they’ve been self-assessments — written student reflections and discussion.

This is the kind of genuine process that makes Social Emotional Learning a priority for students and teachers alike in a school, and I would suggest that incorporating formal grades, as I explained in my previous post, would only detract from students and teachers valuing the SEL learning process.

I’m adding this post to The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

One Comment

  1. Hi Larry, thanks for sharing this. I agree that SEL isn’t meant for the traditional grading system (few things are). I’m interested in social learning, too, and hope you might take a look at a piece I wrote on it recently: http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/social-learning/ Cheers, Saga

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