SEL Development, Part 2: Play Starts With Adults

We previously posted in SEL Development, Part 1: Play is for All Students about the report released on March 12th by the Aspen Institute called The Practice Base For How We Learn: Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development.

In this five part series, we look at each section of the report, and show how Play-Based Communication is the natural solution to the problems presented. Premise 1) Play is for All Students:

Section two of the report starts by stating that students who integrate SEL/Play into their classrooms are more effective at engaging students in learning, managing their classrooms, and resolving conflicts, thus fostering highly effective learning environments. But the report recognizes that teachers and other adults need support:

“The best professional support takes place not in one-time workshops, but through ongoing dialogue and interaction with colleagues and coaches/consultants over an extended period. Teachers learn by engaging peers in rich conversations about lesson design, about the ethical handling of challenging situations, and about applying an integrated approach to best practices. When schools routinely enable such conversations, they foster continuous growth and professional expertise that result in more e ective classroom instruction”

Play Tectonics has indeed developed a workshop series. These workshops are based on 40 years of in-classroom tested methodologies, which have been recorded in teacher journals and reported on in the March 2017 Edutopia article Talk to the Hand: An Innovative Use of an Age-Old Toy, as well as presented by Jeff at the Emotions, Learning, and Education Symposium held in Copenhagen, Denmark, November, 2004. The meeting was sponsored by the OECD/ Center for Education and Research Innovation (CERI) and the Learning Lab, Denmark.

The workshop series begins with the adult attending a workshop with Play Tectonics instructors to learn how to embody Play Language and create dialog with the Paptertalker™ Hinge Puppet. After practicing Play Language and inquiry methods with other colleagues, the adult introduces the children to Play Language. With minimal instruction, children are taught to design and fabricate their own puppet creations, and after recording observations, the adult returns to share finding and contribute to further workshops.

This workshop cycle fulfills the goal stated in the report of improving skills through reflection:

“Just as students need to reflect on their evolving social and emotional skills in order to improve them, teachers need the opportunity to not only learn how to teach these skills, but to understand how they can advance their own social and emotional development. Through guided practice, teachers can learn to recognize the messages they are sending and to model positive social and emotional approaches.”

Finally, the report stresses for SEL/Play throughout the entire school

“A consistent approach across all classrooms and administrative offices creates a reliable environment with well-defined social norms, understandable terminology, and clear expectations. This consistency provides the kind of structure and culture that supports children as they work to develop their own social, emotional, and academic competencies.”

While school-wide and indeed, district-wide adoption of such methods are a worthy goal, we have to acknowledge the difficulty of transforming the learning culture from the results-driven factory environment into a healthy learning habitat. Play Tectonics stands ready to work with school administrators on any level to share 40 years of experience of living and working in the Social Emotional Learning space, which has been documented in the annals of neuroscience. However, we have always seen this as a grass-roots problem, to be implemented one classroom and one teacher at a time. We believe that, through increased awareness via studies like the Aspen Institute report, the time is at hand for such one-on-one implementation to be the kindling for transforming the totality of the American educational landscape. Up Next: Play Requires Strong Leadership

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