In 2020, a new expectation was added to the Ontario curriculum: Social Emotional Learning in Math.
This topic is so important to develop positive attitudes in learning Math. I have seen countless children arrive in a Math class filled with feelings of anxiety. Sometimes, these feelings come from off-handed comments from parents, siblings or their favourite TV stars who say “Oh I can’t do math!”. This can create a feeling of math being scary or ‘hard’ when we know it is neither of those!
Another reason for anxiety in Math is not feeling safe to make mistakes. Some students can feel afraid to make errors in class. As teachers, we need to do our best to ensure an emotionally safe learning environment for our students. They need to know that they can use their problem-solving skills safely and confidently. That mistakes are valued and a natural part of learning.
This emotional part of math is why, I absolutely love this new expectation. It gives students the skills to create a positive Social Emotional Learning experience in Math.
I created a Social Emotional Learning in Math Unit to help you to work through the new expectation in a creative way that will keep your students’ attention and provide them with practical skills to develop in Math.
How is the unit structured?
I designed this unit using 6 read-alouds, each focussing on the 6 new Social Emotional Learning topics (Strand A in the new 2020 Curriculum). The following is included: posters, poems, co-created templates and individual reading tasks for each section.
You can display the discussion posters on a bulletin board so that your students can use them as a reference when faced with a Social Emotional problem during the day.
Each topic covers the following activities:
- Introduction: I used a poster to discuss the topic as a class.
- Read-Aloud Picture Book is used to develop thinking further.
- Whole-Class Activity revolving around co-creating a chart about how to use the strategy. (I have included a completed example and a blank version for brainstorming)
- Independent Task will consolidate the ideas learned in the other activities.
Let’s Look At Each Topic A Little Closer…
After reading the story The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas, I asked the students to discuss how the monster learnt to deal with his feelings. Give students the opportunity to identify times they had the same emotions as The Colour Monster. Allow them to compare their experiences.
This independent activity will assist your students in being able to identify a problem and thinking of ways to solve it as well as understand that having a variety of feelings is normal. Feeling frustrated is okay. Feeling proud is okay. Let’s validate those feelings and give them space in our classroom.
What Do You Do With A Problem by Kobi Yamada gave us the opportunity to study and discuss how the character had a problem but chose to use the opportunity to “learn and grow.”
I gave my students the opportunity to share their own problems that they learned from. I related the story to a Math problem. We discussed the fears they had with Math and why somone might think problems were “scary”. We also discussed how we felt when the problem was solved.
I chose to use Math as the focus of the individual activity. I have some students that give up easily when completing Math problems – I’m sure you do to. This activity helped them to think of solutions to try to solve the problem. What steps should they take? (No… asking me for the answer is not the first step!). They were able to work through their solutions and decide on the best, applying some problem solving as well as emotional regulation strategies to help them keep their mind and heart calm and focussed.
This activity gave them the skills to not give up immediately, or to jump out of their seat to ask for help, or to not panic, or fear the incorrect answer… but rather to try and try again using another method. It is all part of the learning process!
After reading The Thing That Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires, allow your students to make connections to the story. Ask questions like:
- Hove you felt like there was something you couldn’t do?
- How did you handle it? Did you make excuses?
- How did you feel?
- What strategies can you share?
This independent activity will assist your students to encourage other students that are experiencing difficulties. I always have to tell my son “We don’t give up in this house”, perseverance is hard for little ones who don’t have as much experience with changing a plan or even dealing with failure in general. Having that growth mindest and persevering when things get tough is a key skill kids need to develop.
It is a highlight in my day when I catch a student encouraging another to persevere in a challenging situation. You know… those moments when you see empathy, care and understanding from a little person at the most unexpected time – my heart melts!
After reading Teamwork Isn’t My Thing, and I Don’t Like to Share by Julia Cook discuss the importance of collaborating in Maths and in other areas. Give your students the opportunity to share examples of times they worked together and what they did that worked.
Students will have fun using the interactive digital version that is included in this digital unit (or the printable one) to sort the “good collaboration” and “not-so-good-collaboration” events. This is a great tie into learning skills review as well!
Read A Little Spot of Confidence by Diane Alber. Ask your students to identify how the spot changed from feeling anxious to feeling confident. Some students may want to share how they were anxious about something but became confident.
The individual activity focuses on writing Math affirmations that can help them feel more confident about Math.
Once my students were able to identify their positives and were able to think of possible solutions, challenges became more attainable. I had my students affirm themselves in front of a mirror. We also affirmed one another by placing the affirmations around the class. Such a nice way to create some warmth in the classroom!
We read The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. I used this book to identify how the character has a plan but it doesn’t work out as they expected. We discussed the difference between Good and Bad choices.
Students completed an activity to reflect on the story. They think of and find solutions to the problem.
If you are looking to cover this new expectation in a fun and meaningful way, check out this unit! I think it is a great way to build a warm and comfortable community of caring learners who are ready to take risks and see themselves as mathematicians!