: Four books for teaching social and emotional learning Stella Jones explores how books can be used to develop social and emotional learning
Four books for teaching social and emotional learning
Stella Jones explores how books can be used to develop social and emotional learning
by Town End Research School
Part one of this blog series considered why a shared language for social and emotional learning (SEL) is essential. But it also raised the challenging question of how teachers can integrate quality SEL into an already packed school day. So, how can time-poor teachers teach SEL effectively?We teach children the core skills at the heart of SEL by integrating them into what we already do – we further harness the power of the books we use. Books that are already part and parcel of our curriculum can be fitted with an additional SEL lens, meaning no extra financial or time costs.
The EEF SEL guidance report cautions us to not rely on‘crisis moments’ for teaching skills. However, this refers to our own pupils’ crisis moments. Instead, we can exploit crisis points and difficult situations raised in our texts to develop children’s ability to problem solve, make decisions, evaluate relationships and be more socially aware. Unpicking these scenarios is a powerful tool through which to teach and practise SEL skills explicitly.
Here are four of my favourite texts to help develop pupils SEL.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a text used by UKS2 in my trust through which to teach reading and writing. It just so happens to deal with an abundance of themes that lend themselves to teaching SEL explicitly. The book is about a boy with a facial disfigurement and has multiple narrators offering different perspectives. Wonder deals with each individual’s struggles, and dilemmas and how their interactions, decisions and experiences affect one another. It addresses the themes of prejudice, bullying, relationships and resilience.
This book is excellent for supporting pupils’ emotional responses and developing self and social awareness through activities such as‘Writing in Role’ and‘Hot-Seating’. These techniques will be looked at in greater detail in the next blog of the series.
There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom by Louis Sacher
There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom by Louis Sacher is a gem for teaching SEL skills at UKS2. The story centres around a‘naughty’ boy who struggles to manage his behaviour, emotions and relationships. Readers see beneath Bradley’s external actions and empathise with his feelings and motivations; readers see the consequences of Bradley’s choices for him personally and for those around him. The story explores family, friendship, bullying, awkwardness, belonging and perseverance and examines the links between self-esteem, behaviour, learning and personal growth.
I have witnessed significant shifts in the conduct and self-awareness of more challenging pupils after delving deep into this book. It also supports other children to be more understanding, tolerant and aware of how exterior manifestations can result from internal struggles. Activities like‘This Path: That Path’ and‘Inside: Outside’ are techniques that this novel lends itself.
We can exploit crisis points and difficult situations raised in our texts to develop children's ability to problem solve, make decisions, evaluate relationships and be more socially aware. Unpicking these scenarios is a powerful tool through which to teach and practise SEL skills explicitly.
Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
Anthony Browne’s Voices in the Park is a fascinating picture book that can be used with children in primary school and beyond to explore familial relationships, friendship, loneliness and inequalities. It is ideal for naming feelings and emotions. Like Wonder, we witness each character’s differing perspectives. The intricate illustrations offer another dimension to powerful SEL teaching, meaning that the technique‘Picture Detective’ is perfect for exploring this book.
Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival
Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival is a perceptive picture book, perfect for KS1. It provides opportunities for children to identify emotions and understand that it is normal to experience worries and concerns. It demonstrates how to recognise, communicate and deal with negative feelings.
The book supports children in comprehending their thoughts and feelings and understanding how they influence their own and others’ behaviour. A useful technique to use with this book is‘Track and Trace’.By fitting an SEL lens to the novels, poems, biographies and extracts already used, we can facilitate rich discussions and pose compelling questions that provoke thoughtful responses.
It is a powerful way for children to practise and apply their social and emotional skills. All this whilst improving reading comprehension skills too! I recommend Books for Topics and Dean Boddington’s blog for other ideas for texts rich in SEL opportunities.
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