The final part of our series of ideas to make your classroom more emotionally literate.
The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) sets out what students are expected to learn across all year levels from Prep to Grade 10. Alongside the Learning Areas, this curriculum also identifies 4 ‘Capabilities’ that students are expected to meet. These are:
- Critical and Creative Thinking
- Personal and Social
The area of Personal and Social Capability focuses on the ability to recognise and express emotions, develop resilience and manage social relationships with sensitivity and collaboration. While this can be achieved through specific classes aimed at targeting skills, it is also important to have an emotionally literate classroom to support this.
By the end of Level 4, students explain the consequences of emotional responses in a range of social situations. They recognise personal strengths and challenges and identify skills they would like to develop. They suggest strategies for coping with difficult situations. They persist with tasks when faced with challenges and adapt their approach when first attempts are not successful.
Students discuss the value of diverse perspectives and through their interactions they demonstrate respect for a diverse range of people and groups. They describe factors that contribute to positive relationships with peers, other people at school and in the community. They explain characteristics of cooperative behaviours and they use criteria to identify evidence of this in group activities. They identify a range of conflict resolution strategies to negotiate positive outcomes to problems.
By the end of Level 6, students describe different ways to express emotions and the relationship between emotions and behaviour. They describe the influence that personal qualities and strengths have on achieving success. They undertake some extended tasks independently and describe task progress. They identify and describe personal attributes important in developing resilience.
Students recognise and appreciate the uniqueness of all people. They are able to explain how individual, social and cultural differences may increase vulnerability to stereotypes. They identify characteristics of respectful relationships. They contribute to groups and teams suggesting improvements for methods used in group projects and investigations. They identify causes and effects of conflict and explain different strategies to diffuse or resolve conflict situations.
At this age, children are starting to reflectively monitor emotions, for example noticing how big they are, or understanding more complex feelings. By now they should be able to listen to another person’s point of view, accept feedback or constructive criticism and be able to focus on tasks through to completion. It is important to note that children who feel they do not belong, will often make negative behavioural choices that impact others. Therefore, it is important to create an inclusive classroom atmosphere that is non-judgemental
“children are invariably trying to solve a problem, rather than be one. Their solutions are often misguided because their conception of the problem is faulty, or because their skills leave much to be desired” Herbert (1985)
Ways to create an inclusive and supportive environment are:
- Provide an emotionally secure and safe environment that takes action to prevent any form of bullying or violence. Teach specific skills that help children to notice and tackle bullying in age-appropriate ways.
- Be a role model: sometimes teaching can be hard, and it can be easy to snap or criticise. Make sure you act as you wish your pupils to act: praise others, notice the positives, celebrate differences and ensure each child feels included and supported.
- Mixed Ability Groupings: encourage children to work together in mixed ability groups so the children can each use their strengths (or practice something they need to work on) with reduced pressure to carry all of the load themselves. Some children will need to act as a scribe, some as a leader, some as the reader etc.
- Use specific interventions for children who may be showing early signs of anxiety or mental ill health: Circle of Friends, Friends for Life (or Fun Friends) and PATHS are three such interventions that can be run in schools by a suitably qualified person, and are proven to increase social inclusion and emotional wellbeing.
Books that teach us about approaching new challenges include:
- Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume
- Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
- Matilda by Roald Dahl
- Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss
Children’s books that help to see the world through a different perspective include:
- All Dogs Have ADHD; All Cats have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopmann
- Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
- The Ant Bully by John Nickle
- The Hundred Dresses by Wanda Petronski
- Thank You Mr Falker by Patricia Polacco
- Wonder by RJ Palacio
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
- Out of My Mind by Sharon M Draper
Remember to include stories that show a range of gender roles including:
- The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams
- Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky
- Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmes
- Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz