Monday, February 27, 2017

Should emotions be taught in schools?

Emotions TED-Ed Blog

Who taught you how to identify and manage your emotions, how to recognize them when they arose, and how to navigate your way through them? For many adults, the answer is: No one. You hacked your way through those confusing thickets on your own. Although navigating our inner landscape was not something that was taught to us in school, it should be, contend a number of researchers. They believe emotional skills should rank as high in importance in children’s educations as math, reading, history and science.

Why do emotions matter? Research has found that people who are emotionally skilled perform better in school, have better relationships, and engage less frequently in unhealthy behaviors. Plus, as more and more jobs are becoming mechanized, so-called soft skills — which include persistence, stress management and communication — are seen as a way to make humans irreplaceable by machine. There has been a growing effort in American schools to teach social and emotional learning (SEL), but these tend to emphasize interpersonal skills like cooperation and communication.

Kids are often taught to ignore or cover over their emotions. Many Western societies view emotions as an indulgence or distraction, says University of California-Santa Barbara sociologist Thomas Scheff, a proponent of emotional education. Our emotions can give us valuable information about the world, but we’re often taught or socialized not to listen to them. Just as dangerous, Scheff says, is the practice of hiding one emotion behind another. He has found that men, in particular, tend to hide feelings of shame under anger, aggression and, far too often, violence.

How does one go about teaching emotions? One of the most prominent school programs for teaching about emotions is RULER, developed in 2005 by Marc Brackett, David Caruso and Robin Stern of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The multiyear program is used in more than 1,000 schools, in the US and abroad, across grades K-8. The name, RULER, is an acronym for its five goals: recognizing emotions in oneself and others; understanding the causes and consequences of emotions; labeling emotional experiences with an accurate and diverse vocabulary; and expressing and regulating emotions in ways that promote growth.

As a strategy, children are taught to focus on the underlying theme of an emotion rather than getting lost in trying to define it. When an emotion grips you, explains Stern, understanding its thematic contours can help “name it to tame it.” Even though anger is experienced differently by different people, she explains, “the theme underlying anger is the same. It’s injustice or unfairness. The theme that underlies disappointment is an unmet expectation. The theme that underlies frustration is feeling blocked on your way to a goal. Pinning down the theme can “help a person be seen and understood and met where she is,” says Stern.

RULER’s lessons are woven into all classes and subjects. So, for example, if “elated’ is the emotional vocabulary word under discussion, a teacher would ask students in an American history class to link “elated” to the voyage of Lewis and Clark. Instruction reaches beyond the classroom, too; kids are prompted to talk with their parents or caregivers about when they last felt elated. Researchers at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has found RULER schools tend to see less-frequent bullying, lower anxiety and depression, more student leadership and higher grades. So why isn’t emotional education the norm rather than the exception?

Surprising fact: While scientists and educators agree on the need to teach emotions, they don’t agree on how many there are and what they are. RULER’s curriculum consists of hundreds of “feeling words,” including curious, ecstatic, hopeless, frustrated, jealous, relieved and embarrassed. Other scholars’ lists of emotions have ranged in number from two to eleven. Scheff suggests starting students out with six: grief, fear, anger, pride, shame and excessive fatigue.

While psychology began to be studied as a science more than a century ago, up to now it has focused more on identifying and treating disorders. Scheff, who has spent years studying one taboo emotion — shame — and its destructive impact on human actions, admits, “We don’t know much about emotions, even though we think we do, and that goes for the public and for researchers.” Or, as Virginia Woolf so beautifully put it, “The streets of London have their map; but our passions are uncharted.”

Parents can start to encourage their kids’ emotional awareness with a simple prompt “Tell me about some of your best moments,” a phrase Scheff has used to initiate discussions with his university students. But he and Stern agree that schools can’t wait until academics have sorted out the name and number of emotions before they act. “We know we have emotions all day long, whether we’re aware of them or not,” Stern points out. Let’s teach kids how to ride those moment-by-moment waves, instead of getting tossed around.

Art credit: TED-EdAuthor bio: Grace Rubenstein is a journalist, editor and multimedia producer in California. Note: The article above has been adapted for TED-Ed from this article. To read daily coverage of the world of ideas, check out Ideas.ted.comTo read more great articles about education, sign up for the free weekly TED-Ed newsletter here >>

via TED-Ed Blog

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I made my classroom look like the real-world…and test scores soared

TED-Ed Blog diploma illo Shutterstock

Anthony Johnson is an elementary school teacher in North Carolina and a TED-Ed Innovative Educator. Below, he describes his innovative classroom structure: “Johnsonville.”

Think about the jobs in today’s economy — the ones we’re supposed to prepare students for after graduation. Are employees evaluated using bubble-in tests to prove they know the ins and outs of their job? Do they learn and use new skills one at a time in a vacuum? The questions sound a bit silly until you realize too often that’s what students take away from their education. Why is the culture to drill facts into students’ heads just to pass a test?

Just like in the real world, my students show what they can do through projects, teamwork, and research. Is it working? Well, according to state science exams, my students consistently score higher than other science classes in my district.

I’ve never been a big believer in teaching to a test. Indeed, since my first year in the classroom I’ve used a project-based model with my science and social studies classes. On the first day of school I issue my fifth-graders a PASSPORT (which stands for Preparing All Students for Success by Participating in an Ongoing Real-world simulation using Technology) and explain that their yearlong adventure to “Johnsonville” starts today. The school year is a simulation of adulthood where students work, create, and learn about personal finance and entrepreneurial skills. They experience real-world situations and gain insights into global affairs. Students tend to view my classroom less as a “classroom” and more of an interactive city where all projects intertwine to create an ecosystem of businesses and homes.

Each student has the opportunity to become an entrepreneur, politician, banker, and more. They are given $1,000 in Johnsonville cash to begin their lives. Students must buy a house or rent an apartment, earn wages, and manage their finances. As the children buy and sell items I donate, they learn math skills along with life lessons.

As they would in a real business, they manage a database of their clients or suppliers, create advertising plans, and track their income to ensure they are making a profit. Students even learn different levels of government and hold elections for positions of power, including president and city council. Students can also earn extra money through academic achievements and good behavior.

Here are a few reasons I believe this model works so well with students.

Project-based learning is relevant to students. In Johnsonville, students explore issues like buying a home, paying rent, starting a business, and managing finances. Students see adults face these same issues and can relate what happens in Johnsonville to the real world. Relevancy makes each lesson memorable, meaning students are more likely to remember the overall concept of a lesson as opposed to memorizing facts for a test.

It encourages collaboration. Desks are designed for individual students—which is why I don’t have any. In my classroom you will only find tables, collaboration bars, and sofas that are perfect places for students to think creatively and problem-solve. It is important that students take an active part in their own learning and are able to solve problems using what they know and have learned. By using critical thinking skills to collaborate and complete performance-based lessons, my students are fully engaged throughout the entire school year.

Students are in control. Other teachers trying PBL often tell me, “my kids can’t do it” or “it’s a lot of work.” I think the real issue here is teachers not wanting to give up control of their classrooms. PBL gives me the freedom to facilitate and encourage critical thinking. Additionally, I find students work better when the teacher isn’t hovering over them. PBL promotes students to think creatively and build the 21st-century skills they need to be successful in today’s job market.
Students are using pre-built, credible, standards-aligned curriculum. I have discovered Defined STEM is a great tool to help me create relevant lessons I can incorporate into Johnsonville. The supplementary curriculum provides students with research resources, videos, and project prompts that encourage students to think outside the box and put them in real-world situations.

On test scores

The state of North Carolina does not test students on collaboration and citizenship, but does consider critical thinking a key ability. I’ve discovered the best way to test student’s critical thinking skills is through project-based learning. In addition to working in the realm of Johnsonville, students complete at least one project a month to show what they’ve learned in a real-world situation.

North Carolina State testing shows that my PBL model improves student scores. At the end of the 2016 school year, my fifth-grade students scored an average of 85 percent on the state science exam, while my school as a whole scored 58 percent. It’s not a leap to suggest the focus on PBL and hands-on learning was the catalyst for this major boost.

It’s important to remember that every child is different and learns differently. Relating classroom lessons to real life helps students at any level connect with the content and interpret it in a way they are able to understand. When students become part of their own learning, they take pride in their education and become more engaged. PBL not only keeps students busy, but it allows each one to show what they’ve learned in a creative, supportive, and collaborative environment.

Author bio: Anthony Johnson is a fifth-grade science and social studies teacher at Isenberg Elementary School in Salisbury, North Carolina. He is also an Apple Distinguished Educator and TED-Ed Innovative Educator, and was recently selected as Teacher of the Year for the Rowan-Salisbury School System. This article appeared first in eSchool News.

Image credit: Shutterstock

To learn something new every week, sign up for the TED-Ed Newsletter here >>

via TED-Ed Blog

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

History vs…: a TED-Ed Lesson playlist

teded blog presidents day image

“History has remembered the kings and warriors, because they destroyed; art has remembered the people, because they created,” wrote William Morris. To learn how 7 notorious leaders are remembered by history, watch the TED-Ed Lessons below:

1. History vs. Richard Nixon

The president of the United States of America is often said to be one of the most powerful positions in the world. But of all the US presidents accused of abusing that power, only one has left office as a result. Does Richard Nixon deserve to be remembered for more than the scandal that ended his presidency? Alex Gendler puts this disgraced president’s legacy on trial. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.

2. History vs. Vladimir Lenin

Vladimir Lenin overthrew Russian Czar Nicholas II and founded the Soviet Union, forever changing the course of Russian politics. But was he a hero who toppled an oppressive tyranny or a villain who replaced it with another? Alex Gendler puts this controversial figure on trial, exploring both sides of a nearly century-long debate. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.

3. History vs. Genghis Khan

He was one of the most fearsome warlords who ever lived, waging an unstoppable conquest across the Eurasian continent. But was Genghis Khan a vicious barbarian or a unifier who paved the way for the modern world? Alex Gendler puts this controversial figure on trial in History vs Genghis Khan. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.

4. History vs. Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson was both beloved and loathed during his presidency. In this imaginary courtroom, you get to be the jury, considering and weighing Jackson’s part in the spoils system, economic depression, and the Indian Removal Act, as well as his patriotism and the pressures of the presidency. James Fester explores how time shapes our relationship to controversial historical figures. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.

5. History vs. Napoleon Bonaparte

After the French Revolution erupted in 1789, Europe was thrown into chaos. Neighboring countries’ monarchs feared they would share the fate of Louis XVI and attacked the new Republic, while at home, extremism and mistrust between factions led to bloodshed. In the midst of all this conflict, Napoleon emerged. But did he save the revolution, or destroy it? Alex Gendler puts Napoleon on trial. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.

6. History vs. Christopher Columbus

Many people in the United States and Latin America have grown up celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage. But was he an intrepid explorer who brought two worlds together or a ruthless exploiter who brought colonialism and slavery? And did he even discover America at all? Alex Gendler puts Columbus on the stand in History vs. Christopher Columbus. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.

7. History vs. Cleopatra

She was the most notorious woman in ancient history, a queen who enraptured not one but two of Rome’s greatest generals. But was she just a skilled seductress – or a great ruler in her own right? Alex Gendler puts this controversial figure on trial in History vs. Cleopatra. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.

Art credit: Brett Underhill/TED-Ed

To get brand new TED-Ed Lessons delivered to your inbox each week, sign up for the free TED-Ed Newsletter here >>

via TED-Ed Blog

Friday, February 10, 2017

Should every kid learn to love computer science?

I heart code TED-Ed Blog image istock
The short answer is yes. Here’s why.

In the Lego Movie, the protagonists are “master builders” — enlightened blockheads with a superior understanding of how the tiny pieces of their plastic world fit together. This special knowledge allows our mini heroes to, for example, solve a thorny plot problem by taking a car apart and reconfiguring its pieces to build a rocket. The moral of the story? Knowledge is power, and power can be taught.

In the real world, innovative builders are easy to find. They often share two tendencies: 1) a solid belief in their own ability to create change in their environment, and 2) a basic understanding of how code works. The question is: How might we empower the next generation of problem-solvers? Here’s one suggestion:

Teach computer science skills — to all students — starting at an early age. “The kids of today tap, swipe and pinch their way through the world. But unless we give them tools to build with computers, we are raising only consumers instead of creators,” says programmer Linda Liukas [TED Talk: A delightful way to teach kids about computers.]

There’s a huge demand for programmers in the workforce“Everyone deserves a chance at learning about technology innovation,” says Kimberly Lane, a teacher in Texas. Yet the benefits of teaching every kid to love computer science goes beyond future career opportunities. “We live and breathe technology everyday,” says Lane. “If the current generation doesn’t leave a lasting legacy of technology inventions, what will happen to the generations to come?”

Teaching computer skills to everyone has a ripple effect, too. Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, notes that when girls learn programming skills, they become change agents in their communities. “If you look at the projects they create in our programs, you can see that they’re thinking about how they solve the most urgent problems in their communities,” she says. “For instance, two of our Midwestern Clubs students designed a technical approach to detecting lead levels in water.” Meanwhile in Seattle, some summer program students designed a mobile app that shows LGBTQ+ community members where to find safe spaces near them in the event of harmful situations. “That’s what we mean when we say girls becomes change agents,” says Saujani. “They use technology to make their communities a better place.”

To find 5 places where any kid can learn how to code, read this.

For more teaching resources, sign up here for the weekly TED-Ed Newsletter.

Art credit: iStock

via TED-Ed Blog