This overview gathers links to posts that explore social and emotional learning. It includes a series of posts about not using graded assessments, as well as several posts about the Mind Patterns approach to learning style assessment.
There were no borders between our academic work and our life as a group of people becoming a small community. It was all academic learning, and it was all social and emotional learning.
Together–as each of our separate, unique, vivid selves, but also with each others’ support–we worked to figure out how to include everyone, how to handle the density of school life, how to be both careful of each other and spontaneous with each other. All that and more, just in that one room–and then there were our relationships with other classes, other staff. Add in parents. Then look out the windows of this group life to the world, and our effort to connect with what was going on out there…
When we gave time to what I called in my notebooks Class Life, we weren’t inventing a new dimension to school life, or giving unnecessary weight to something we could have ignored. Supported by a continuity of purpose extraordinary in any group of adults, our work in class acknowledged energies and complications that are real and always there, in any school. We worked with those intentionally, inclusively, with high hopes and with faith woven out of experience.
Often in my heart, and now and then out loud, I thanked the teachers of the classes younger than mine, for all the skills of friendship and citizenship they had nurtured.
Every decision we made–and here I mean the largest possible “we” of the full community–had impacts on both domains. For example, both academic life and the life of the group were affected by our school-wide commitment to using ungraded, authentic ways of assessing and supporting students’ work. That’s why I’ve put the posts about not grading in this list.
As a teacher, planning, I looked for the arrangements of class life that had the best chance of serving us, every one, in every dimension. In the living of it, I was always amazed by what we figured out together.
A Year to Think It Over Introducing the blog, embarking on a process of reflection, I wrote a little vignette of collaborative teaching with Kate Keller, about looking back together, thoughtfully and joyfully, on a big unit.
The Butterfly How a present from a parent–a colorful, inspiring presence on the wall of the classroom–came to mean many things to many people, and why I chose it as the symbol of this blog.
What Students Need A brilliant art teacher, and two teachers of very young children, helped me appreciate the role of nonverbal cues in classroom life.
Never, Nada, Zip, Zilch: No Grades Why, how–and with what benefits–we refused to use grades as the goal, the motivation, or the measure of learning.
Five More Thoughts about Grading Focusing on other outcomes: Individualized, effective assessments / Learners who belong to themselves / Authentic teamwork / Deep meanings held in community / Powerful connections with content
Absence and Presence “As they go through their experience, students in an ungraded situation aren’t thinking, ‘no grades no grades no grades.’ They’re making connections from topic to topic and theme to theme and school to home (and vice versa); they’re trying out different voices and different genres and new strategies for understanding the world; they’re thinking a lot about the community of each other.”
Who Sits Where—or Ahhhhhhhhhhh-Yippeeeeeeeeeee! The ultimate goal of any classroom seating plan should be a group of kids who are happy to sit anywhere with anyone. Hooray for the everyday bravery of kids in classroom life! Hooray for all the rewards it brings them!
Learning to Listen to Each Other From the blog I wrote occasionally for parents, while I was teaching, this essay considers some of the gifts students give to each other just by paying attention.
Morning Sketching Also from that other blog, a piece about morning sketching considers its impact on the social and emotional life of the class.
Losing and Keeping Dana Recalling the experience of a class that lost one of its members, I’m grateful for what we gave each other, and for some crucial sources of support. (In the little thumbnail, the official class photo, one girl holds up a picture of Dana.)
Heart-in-throat Syndrome: Keeping Kids Safe A teacher wary of physical risk learns to admire–and trust, and encourage–physical learning and intuition.
In Praise of Colleagues My colleagues were inspiring, wise, funny, generous, and kind. This is me, venturing out of my classroom, a little bleary and often shy. They gave me color.
In Praise of Spare Grown-ups Parents, grandparents, other helpful people who wandered in or got recruited–they supported small-group activities and wide-ranging adventures, and they offered superb models of life-long learning.
Graduation from a New Point of View This post borrows from something I wrote years ago, about the end of the school year, and saying goodbyes– all by way of thinking about my new point of view.
That Thing with the Letters–Working with Perceptual Thinking Patterns We used a powerful, unusually subtle approach to thinking about learning style diversity. This post describes Perceptual Thinking Patterns, now referred to as Mind Patterns, and asks, “How can individual differences be served in a sustainable way?”
Learning Styles Revisited This second post about Mind Patterns explains the schema in closer detail, and describes some ways we worked with kids to help them honor and respect their own approach to learning, and others’ approaches. To the right, note-taking from a class discussion focused on a particular student.
Finding the Right Game Searching for a way to interact with my elderly and increasingly wordless father, I reached back into my teaching experience–which told me to look carefully at what had become interesting to him.
Struggling to absorb my father’s death, I spent a lot of time walking outdoors in the early spring, remembered the emotional nourishment of outdoor education, and found comfort in a game I taught my students.