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Fostering Social-Emotional Growth Through Literacy

In order to improve equity and education for our students, we need to start thinking beyond assessment and instruction. Acting on this unprecedented opportunity for improvement requires bringing students’ emotional and social skills into consideration, focusing on methods that not only improve achievement, but also foster social-emotional growth.

The The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines social-emotional learning (SEL) as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.” Or essentially how students develop the necessary social skills for all types of societal interaction.

However, we’d like to redefine SEL as social-emotional literacy, since literacy and social-emotional development go hand-in-hand. In fact, in a brief published by the Center for Responsive Schools, language instruction is found to be arguably the most important and effective mode for improving SEL.

This is due to the important crossovers between SEL and literacy, as many of the skills contained within SEL involve reading emotions and situations. Key word reading, as improving mastery of written language also opens up opportunities for students to better understand social cues and interpret emotions. This goes both ways, as improving SEL development is also linked to increasing reading comprehension.

Beyond the importance of preparing students for the social challenges ahead, improving SEL is also a critical link to increasing student achievement, particularly during early childhood years such as preK-3. Much like how improved literacy skills increase social-emotional capacity, the social-emotional improvements in turn increase literacy skills, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of student achievement.

Perhaps more importantly, these methods of instruction are a driving force for equity, as many education critics cite home environments as a critical factor of achievement. If properly implemented, social-emotional instruction can work to fill in the inequalities created by variations in at-home development, equalizing the playing field for all students.

Much like other instruction, it is essential for SEL to be delivered in an individualized method, focusing on each student’s specific needs. This is another critical piece to equity, as closing the achievement gap requires recognition of student differences. Not every student is entering with the same tool-kit as their peers, the only way to build this kit and put them on the same trajectory towards success is to teach what they need most.

The future of equity in education starts with social-emotional learning, which is why A2i is firmly committed to providing children the effective instruction they need, without cutting any corners. Stay tuned in to our weekly blogs and news updates to learn more about how our past research has prioritised SEL, as well as how we’re using our research findings to lead the charge in SEL.

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