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[Weekly Inspiration] Using the Power of Art to Teach Social-Emotional Skills

[Weekly Inspiration] Using the Power of Art to Teach Social-Emotional Skills

As the topic of social-emotional learning becomes more and more prominent around the world, educators are looking for inventive new ways to teach these skills in their classrooms. Two Chicago teachers have found a unique way to combat this need – through the power of art and music.

Jonathan Neumann, a 6th grade teacher at Richard Henry Lee Elementary School, constructed a special lesion on graffiti art designed to help challenge social-emotional skills. Students would have to use discipline and time management in order to finish their project and understand the historical and cultural impact of graffiti they studied – the usual stuff.

But when the time came for students to create their own art, Mr. Neumann took it a step further. He allowed time for group sessions that allowed students not only to share their work, but also to talk about the message that they were trying to convey through their art and manage their feelings throughout the process.

Ten miles away, chorus instructor Katie Colby at Jones College Prep High School uses core components of music instruction – rhythm, vocal technique, singing in groups – to inform social-emotional skills. She encourages her students to blend their individual sound and technique with the sound of the group, and to constantly be conscious of both. As students refine their abilities, they learn to balance both their individual sound with the sound of the group, which helps them to always remember the teamwork aspect of group music. She allows her students to mess up, to feel discomfort, and tries to help them work through those experiences on their own.

“There’s development of ‘I am an individual,’ and perseverance to improve technique,” she said. “But there’s also the idea that you have to be conscious of what’s going on around you, that you can’t be lost in your own world all the time.”

A new study by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research and Ingenuity suggests that teachers who can recognize hidden social-emotional learning potential in their lessons and include opportunities to embrace that potential can access deep and meaningful education. These teachers embody that idea, searching for the deeper connections between students that can be found in their lessons.

Check out the full story here, and consider the ways that social-emotional learning skills might be weaved into your own instruction.

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