: Synonym spectrums to support Social and Emotional Learning Research school director, Stella Jones, shares how to use books in a targeted way to develop Social and Emotional Learning.

Synonym spectrums to support Social and Emotional Learning

Research school director, Stella Jones, shares how to use books in a targeted way to develop Social and Emotional Learning.

by Town End Research School
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Effective vocabulary instruction thrives on active engagement, contextual exploration, and meaningful discussions. Fostering curiosity and encouraging students to delve deeply into the intricacies of words are essential components for expanding their lexical repertoire. An invaluable approach to cultivating a profound and interconnected word bank involves delving into synonyms and discerning shades of meaning.

Recognising and Nurturing Emotions
It’s easy to assume that children naturally understand and express their emotions, but the truth is, many may not possess the language to articulate their feelings effectively. This crucial skill needs explicit teaching. Before delving into understanding and empathising with others, pupils must first be equipped to recognise and regulate their own emotions.

Getting more bang for our buck from our books!
Enter the enchanting world of books, where children can safely and powerfully explore, practice, and test their social and emotional skills. Books serve as a valuable tool in this journey. Pupils engage in thoughtful discussions, evaluating words on a spectrum chart that resonate with the characters’ situations. Each word becomes a doorway to exploring personal responses, delving into connotations, nuances, and unique implications. Through this collective exploration, they collaboratively choose one word that best encapsulates the emotion portrayed in the book.

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Charting Emotional Understanding
A spectrum chart becomes the canvas for this emotional exploration. As pupils navigate the emotional landscape of characters, they not only broaden their vocabulary but also develop a deeper understanding of the intricacies of feelings. By connecting words to specific emotions, they lay the foundation for recognising and expressing their own emotions with clarity. This process cultivates a sense of emotional intelligence, empowering pupils to navigate the complex landscape of human emotions with empathy and self-awareness. This emphasises the critical concept that not all synonyms are created equal. Context matters.

Building Empathy and Connection
Teaching children to navigate the emotional terrain through literature is not just about words on paper; it’s about fostering empathy and connection. As pupils embark on this shared journey of emotional discovery, they not only gain insights into the characters’ worlds but also develop a profound understanding of their own emotional landscapes. Through the collective choice of a single word, they not only forge connections with literary characters but also with each other, creating a shared language for expressing and understanding the beautiful tapestry of human emotions.

Example of spectrums in action
The author, Tom Percival, writes books specifically to explore feelings. His book The River, is an astounding and provocative book to help children understand the idea that emotions aren’t static – they are ever- changing. It follows a boy – Rowan – and his emotions before, during and after he experiences grief and loss. It explores that absence or numbness of emotion that grief can cause.

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This picture is after the grief starts to thaw for Rowan because he has found a new pet. If pupils were asked to name his emotion here, it’d be very unlikely that the word HAPPY wouldn’t be suggested. He is smiling and so may seem happy but sometimes happy isn’t precise enough. It can mean too many different things to different people in different contexts.

Knowing the context that he’s just emerging from deep grief and allowing a new friend in is important. It’s absolutely about the mood linked to context.

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Pupils spend time discussing and evaluating the words on the spectrum chart in relation to the context and situation. They explore their own personal perspective to each of the words – the connotations, nuances and implications unique for them. Between them, they will agree and settle on one word that best reflects the emotion portrayed in the picture.

This activity supports pupils to LEARN TO TALK, whilst also LEARNING THROUGH TALK. It develops collaboration and builds relationships between pupils. It supports pupils understanding of the shades of intensity to our emotions. It grows their expressive language and vocabulary of feelings.

They have greater vocabulary to express and understand the broad spectrum of emotions! Happy will never be the same again!

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Social Emotional Learning Strategies Booklet

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Social Emotional Learning Reading Strategies

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Shades of intensity

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