SEL (social emotional learning) and how it can be woven into classroom experiences is a big conversation in education right now. I think for so long, social emotional learning has been the job of the school counselor or for parents to address in the home environment. As we have realized that our students need more SEL than they are able to receive once a week or in their own homes, we have started to address what this might look like in the classroom.
I have to say that it only makes sense to me that social emotional learning is a priority in the classroom. Our learners spend the majority of their time during the week with their teachers and it's not as difficult as it might seem to weave SEL concepts into what students experience each and every day.
I wanted to take a little bit of time to address the social emotional aspects of Genius Hour. Genius Hour is the opportunity for students to pursue their passions during the school day. Through Genius Hour, learners are given the opportunity to learn by doing, make real connections to the content, and practice life-ready skills. Why would we not make an effort to weave SEL into this experience as well?
My favorite SEL resource is CASEL. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning is such a great place to find research and resources specifically centered around social emotional learning and the impact that it can have in the classroom, on campuses, and throughout districts. CASEL breaks social-emotional learning into five categories: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision- making, relationship skills, and social awareness. Let's dive into how these can be addressed throughout the Genius Hour process.
Self-Awareness: Genius Hour is all about self-awareness. In order to find what you are passionate about, collaborate with others, and learn from the experience, learners must be aware of who they are and how they operate. Using tools like the DIRT Survey and My Creative Type from Adobe can be great springboards for students to become more self-aware. The Passion Bracket from AJ Juliani also gives students an opportunity to really explore what they love as well as what bothers them. Genius Hour gives students the time and tools that they need to get to know themselves and really explore what is important to them rather than being told what to learn and how to learn it.
Self-Management: So often in school, students are told what to do, when to do, where to do, and how to do. Because of this, they are not always given the tools that they need to manage their own emotions, reactions, and learning. Genius Hour is completely driven by the learner working on the project. They must learn to manage their time, emotions, and willingness to take risks as they work to create change, make an impact, and learn about something that is meaningful for them. Giving them tools like the Pomodoro Technique and Emotional Regulation is a wonderful way to help make connections between Genius Hour and their lives beyond the walls of the classroom.
Responsible Decision-Making: Making decisions is hard. For learners that have not had to make independent decisions before, it's even harder. This is why when you ask students what they want to do for Genius Hour, they respond with something like, "What do you want me to do?". Genius Hour gives students opportunity after opportunity to make responsible decisions. What do you want to learn about? Who do you want your outside expert to be? How will you pitch your idea to the class? How will you share your learning? Putting them in the driver's seat gives them an opportunity to make real decisions and understand what it feels like to face the positive or negative consequences of those decisions.
Relationship Skills: Many teachers allow their students to work together on Genius Hour. They may work with a partner or a group with similar interests or ideas. Even when working independently, you can give students an opportunity to practice their relationship skills by making thought partnership a priority throughout Genius Hour. You can learn more about this idea and download the Thought Partner Cards for Genius Hour HERE. Students can also practice relationship skills as they collaborate and learn from an outside expert while working on their Genius Hour project.
Social Awareness: "Social Awareness is the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports." This definition comes from Transforming Education and basically sums up what Genius Hour is all about. Taking Genius Hour to the next level gives students an opportunity to not just design a product but design real change in their classroom, on their campus, in their district, community or even the world. So many of our learners are unaware of what is going on in the world around them. Genius Hour provides an opportunity to practice empathy and provide solutions. Using tools like The Global Goals will help learners explore real issues that they might not otherwise know exists.
There you have it. Weaving SEL into Genius Hour only makes sense and is possibly something that you are already doing. If you haven't implemented Genius Hour just yet into your classroom, this is just another reason to do so. Passion-based learning gives learners an opportunity to learn by doing, practice life-ready skills, and explore social emotional learning in an authentic way that makes sense.
If you'd like to learn more about Genius Hour, please check out any of the resources below and share how you make SEL a priority in your classroom in the comments below.