Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Classroom Practice



How to Create Community in a Virtual Classroom

Summary:  This article provides some suggestions as to how to build community while learning remotely.  Some of the same activities that would be used in face-to-face learning can also be adapted to online learning.  Some examples include using cyber icebreakers, creating classroom rules and procedures, creating class traditions, doing collaborative projects, and  maintaining individual relationships.

Source:  Susan Yergler, Edutopia, August 17, 2020



Facilitating Dialogue About the Coronavirus Among Students

by Lauren Fullmer, Ed.D., Summit NJ Public Schools and Academy for SEL in Schools

When students turn on the TV, they see increasing numbers of deaths and cases of people infected. Walking through the grocery store, they see empty shelves and desolate aisles. Their parents tell them that they can no longer attend basketball practice and that their spring break trip to Disney will most likely be cancelled. And, the buzz around school is that their classes may take place virtually and if they already have gone virtual, it’s not clear when they will get back into their classrooms.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, my fifth graders’ worlds are rapidly changing. As teachers, it may feel more comfortable to avoid the “hot button” issue altogether. However, according to a guide developed by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and National Association of School Nurses (NASN), students need information about the potential risk and spread of the disease that is fact-based and age-appropriate. Furthermore, it is important that they have the opportunity to discuss their fears, as well as preventive measures to offer them some sense of control and to reduce their anxiety. Without access to factual information, students often imagine possible outcomes that are “far worse than reality.”

Throughout the year, my students have become adept in the process of researching the facts, as well as all sides of an issue, and then engaging in meaningful dialogue about it. By implementing strategies from the social action pedagogy known as Students Taking Action Together (STAT), they have respectfully expressed and listened to the perspectives of others on historical issues like the Holocaust and Revolutionary War, as well as current – often controversial – events, like the most recent outbreak of the coronavirus.

While any of the STAT strategies can be applied to facilitate respectful debate and dialogue about the coronavirus, I decided to implement Yes-No-Maybe. With this particular strategy, students are given the opportunity to answer “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” and explain their stance in response to several statements about a current or historical event.

Facilitating Meaningful Dialogue

To integrate literacy and to provide my students with factual information, they read several articles from a text set that I had created, related to the coronavirus. The articles addressed the differences between viruses and the flu, the impact of the coronavirus on the economy, U.S. schools’ responses to the pandemic, and misguided fears about COVID-19 and Asian Americans. As they were reading, they applied note-taking strategies that we had learned earlier in the week, compiling their notes in a collaborative Google Doc.

Students then were given the opportunity to weigh in with their Yes-No-Maybe opinions on several statements, including:

● If you’re staying away from people of a specific background, you’re just being cautious.

● You should not engage in your normal daily activities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

● Adults are right not to discuss the coronavirus with kids.

Students moved to corners of the room corresponding to their Yes-No-Maybe views and discussed the reasons for their opinions in groups of three or four. As I circulated the room to listen in on the small group discussions, students passionately discussed the injustices of avoiding individuals of Asian American descent, just because COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China. This broached a conversation about discrimination. One student stated that, “It’s unfair to not go near someone because of what they look like. Anyone can get the coronavirus, regardless of what you look like.”

As we moved onto the next statement and students regrouped, several students in the class got involved in a respectful debate about after-school activities. In sharing out to the whole class, one boy stated, “While my mom let me go to basketball, my friend’s mom didn’t want him to go. I get why she wanted him to stay home because there might be more germs with so many people getting together.” Clearly, using the STAT framework allowed the boys to collaboratively communicate their perspectives to one another.

Tips for Implementation

Given that headlines stories about coronavirus are not going away any time soon, our students need to talk about it. Here are some tips to help you facilitate meaningful dialogue:

● Get informed – Make sure that you educate yourself from credible sources like the World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control (CDC).

● Assess your students’ knowledge and experiences – Figure out what information and misinformation they have seen or heard on television, online, and from their parents and friends.

● Provide students with factual, honest, age-appropriate information and stories.

● Create a safe and respectful environment for students to discuss their views.

● Acknowledge students’ concerns and make them aware of what they can control, including preventive measures they can take to minimize the risk of infection.

● Model and encourage respectful listening and perspective taking.

● Confront issues of prejudice surrounding the disease.



PRESENTOLOGY (The Study of the Present)

by Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, University of San Diego

Background: Early in my teaching career, I was a junior high school social studies teacher.  Part of my teaching assignment was teaching a “current events course.”  The texts I used were the local and state newspapers. Our intent, at the time, was to engage students in a study of and conversations about what was going on in their community and in the world, and why.

As a result of these experiences, I wrote three books on the use of newspapers in classrooms: Project Update: The Newspaper In The Elementary And Junior High Classroom, Character Matters: Using Newspapers To Teach Character (co- authored), and The Newspaper: A Reference for Teachers and Librarians.

WHY Teach Current Events (CE)?

Here are six reasons for having CE become a key part of your classroom and school’s curriculum.

  1. Your students are already talking about what is going on in their world and the “real world” anyway, so under your guidance, take time each day to let them talk about current events—hearing and discussing multiple issues respectfully.
  2. A CE curriculum will introduce your students to a wide range of new content—the more you know, the more you
  3. A CE curriculum will contribute to creating, hopefully, students who are informed, engage, active citizens as well as lifelong news
  4. A CE program will provide the opportunity for teachers to help students develop digital media literacy skills, improve reading comprehension, critical thinking, problem solving, oral expression, and listening
  5. A CE program will encourage your students to improve their language, vocabulary, and writing skills especially using the “news style “—Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How—also an important skill for summarizing and interpreting digital
  6. Most CE teachers report that they tend to use a variety of grouping methods in their classroom as student collaborate to study, discuss, and debate issues and

Prior to the advent of digital media and technology, research using newspapers (the print copies) and current events in classroom showed:

  1. Students who use newspapers tend to score higher on standardized achievement tests—particularly in reading, math, and social studies—than those who don’t use
  2. Newspaper use helps teach students to be effective
  3. Reading newspapers can help develop and improve student vocabulary, word recognition skills, and
  4. Newspapers are effective tools for teaching many math concepts, particularly fractions, decimals, currency, and
  5. In surveys, students overwhelmingly support the use of newspapers in the classroom and have a positive attitude toward reading
  6. Using newspapers increase awareness of and interest in current
  7. Students who read newspapers in school tend to continue reading them when they become

My original guess was that the findings above would be the same for students in today’s schools and classrooms where using technology (online learning), digital media, and social posts, for the teaching and learning of currents events and citizenship is common.

I was wrong.

One of my colleagues sent me an article with the headline: “Study: U.S. adults who mostly rely on social media for news are less informed, exposed to more conspiracies.” 

Another suggested that I look at the Pew Foundation study that found “more Americans get their news from social media than from newspapers, that people who use social media for news are less knowledgeable than other news consumers, that they are also more likely to see and believe misinformation, and are not as concerned about it as people who consume news elsewhere.”

If that was not surprising enough, a CERC advisory committee member sent me an article on the “state of civics instruction” in which several surveys found that “barely one in four Americans could name the three branches of government,” that “just one in three Americans could pass the nation’s citizenship test,” and that “less than one-fourth of eighth-graders were judged proficient on the 2018 National Assessment of Educational Progress civics test.”

Two HOW Ideas!

One idea: In her article, “The Best Way to Teach Current Events? Let Students Lead,” Meghan Selway, notes that one of the problems teachers have in teaching current events is that students lack the background knowledge required to understand news events.

She asked her seniors what would make current issues more meaningful to them and they said they needed time to learn about the issues and events. Her solution?

  • Give students choices—have them select two topics from a list she provided.
  • Next she created “Current Issues Groups” of three to five students based on their interests. The groups met in class every other week to read the articles and then discuss the news events posted for their topic with their
  • Then, she tracked student participation by “creating a website for each class on Google Sites where students posted relevant news stories bi-weekly on a blog with accompanying ”…

Another idea: Heather Wolpert-Gawron is an award-winning middle school teacher and PBL coach. In “Teaching Current Events in the Age of Social Media,” she writes that [edited]:

Students have to know about the world around them, and part of our job as educators is to prepare them for the realities of the world outside the classroom walls. We need our students to leave classrooms knowledgeable and critical but also hopeful. Make your classroom one of positivity so that they have a place to go to feel that the state of the news is not necessarily the state of their own lives.”

She describes four resources that will help you.

1.       Utilize resources that differentiate informational reading levels.

  • Look at resources like Newsela to filter news stories not by topic but by grade level, so that articles are suited to your students’ emotional

2.       Create an archive of resources that focus on more positive stories.

  • Start with Common Sense Media’s list of news sources for kids. Remember, however, that every site has articles that need to be
  • DailyGood: This is a great resource of straightforward pieces with an emphasis on the amazing and
  • Yes! Magazine: The tagline for this magazine is “Powerful Ideas, Practical Actions.” It focuses on problems, yes, but also on how people are solving those
  • Positive News: This site focuses on challenging stereotypes and sharing what people are doing to tackle the world’s

3.       Help students read critically to tease apart the true from the questionable and the false.

4.       Teach students the necessity of unplugging sometimes.

Three Additional Resources

Besides using your local news sources, here are a few sites that will help you plan with a current events curriculum and instructional activities.


by Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, University of San Diego, BLOG, August 2020



The Twelve Days of Teaching Character & Civility

Teaching Character & Civility

by Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES. USD

Seminar: I had just completed my 40-minute talk urging teachers and other school personnel to focus on the character development of students in their classrooms and schools: “What is it?” “Why do we need it?” “Where do we find the time to do it?” “How do we do it?” “How do we know if it’s working or not?”

After the presentation, I opened it up for questions. A middle-grade teacher asked: “For now, I just want to know how to I teach my kids to be civil to one another in and out of my classroom?”

On the FIRST day of classes my mentor said to me:

“You asked me how do you teach students to be civil to one another?”

Character is about relationships – emotional and social. It is about teaching your students skills such as sharing, participating, following directions, and listening. It is about helping them to recognize their own emotions (self-control), how to recognize the emotions in others (listening and questioning), and how to motivate oneself (grit and perseverance). It is about learning how to be a friend, how to care for others, how to appreciate others, how to be polite, respectful, courteous, civil, and how to resolve conflicts peacefully.

On the SECOND day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I want you to think about the implications of this survey and read this article. Notice we are talking about skill development that students can and must learn in your classroom (and elsewhere).”

A survey of 8,000 teachers done at Vanderbilt University identified these top 10 skills that students need to succeed: “Listen to othersfollow the stepsfollow the rulesignore distractionsask for helptake turns when you talkget along with othersstay calm with othersbe responsible for your behaviorand do nice things for others.”

Read: 7 Ways To Teach Children Civility, Matthew Lunch, The EDVOCATE, 2-23-18. He says that “our children desperately need someone to teach them civility and show why it is important.” His seven ways include: 1) manners matter, 2) show tolerance, 3) give examples, 4) listen well, 5) apologize regularly, 6) encourage empathy, and, 7) practice what you preach.

On the THIRD day of classes my mentor said to me:

“We should discuss the curricular and teaching implications of these two studies. The Pew Research Center lays the foundation for your question about how to teach students to be civil.”

They report that of the ten skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life, communication skills, was selected by most of the respondents. In another report about 21st century skills, respondents noted that there is a need to teach children and youth two very important skills: communication and collaboration. In one sense, these make up a skills curriculum that you and others should be implementing to teach students oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills, including the emotional and social skills that we talked about.

On the FOURTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I do not know where I read this—it was in my notes without a reference. The author suggests ways ‘to help students learn to engage in productive, civil discourse in the classroom.’ You might try this with students in your classroom.”

First, begin with yourself—be the model in your classroom.

Second, monitor your classroom climate.

Third, state your dialogue expectations/boundaries clearly from the start. The author notes that the basic rule of civil discourse is to be respectful and don’t make it personal.

Fourth, start small and build as skills develop.

Fifth, have students watch civil debates and begin classroom debates using non-threating topics.

Sixth, have your students use a “private journaling” strategy in which you provide a debatable statement and have them decide whether or not they strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree and write out the “why” to their selection.

On the FIFTH day of classes my mentor asked me to try this activity::

“When you get a chance, try out this quotation activity with your students. I hope that after this lesson your students will be able to compare and contrast quotations, find information about the author of each quote, determine the meaning and implications of each quote, write and draw how the quote may apply to what they do and say, and, discuss the meaning of the quotes with classmates, friends, family.”

  1. “Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners, as well as a matter of good health.” —P.M. Forni
  2. “I think civility is important to getting things done.” —Amy Klobuchar
  3. “You can disagree without being “—Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  4. “Civility costs nothing, and buys ” —Mary Wortley Montagu
  5. “Civility is the art and act of caring for others.” —Deborah King

On the SIXTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“It’s the holiday season. Take a break. Go see the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Next, watch a couple of episodes of the TV program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Have your students see the movie and a few of the TV programs. Develop a teaching unit and other activities in your classroom that build on a relationship of care (one of FR’s themes). For example, have your students create posters of what Mr. Rogers says to them – followed, of course, by classroom discussion.

“You are loveable.

I like you just the way you are.

There is only one person like you in the world. You are my friend; you are special.”

On the SEVENTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I am a proponent of teaching students the why and how of asking questions. Teaching your students the skills of question-asking helps them clarify what others are saying or doing in a situation. I suggest you access The Right Question Institute and examine their Question Formula Technique, a strategy to teach your students how to formulate their own questions.” (

On the EIGHTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I suggest that you consider being the ‘character education leader’ in your classroom and school. To do that, you should know this about the character development.”

Character is taught to our youth through the media, the Internet, the environment they live in, their peers and role models, and by parents, teachers, schools, youth agencies, and religious institutions.

Character is about strengths and virtues that guide us “to act in an ethical, pro-social manner.” It is about choices—the ones we make daily (good or bad, ethical or unethical); about relationships and social skill; and about “emotional” self-discipline.

On the NINTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I want to tell you a story that I read written by 7th grade language teacher, Justin Parmenter, from Charlotte, N.C. He created an assignment called Undercover Agents of Kindness. He had each student draw a random classmate’s name from a bowl. In pairs, they had two weeks to perform an unexpected act of kindness. Then he had each pair of students write a missions report detailing what they did and how it went. Why don’t you try a similar activity with your students? Maybe call it Mission Civility.”

JP writes: “It was my students’ reflections on the kindness activity that revealed its impact most. Again and again, they acknowledged that it was difficult and felt awkward to approach someone they didn’t know well and do something for them. But almost every time they added that they were proud of themselves for doing it anyway and felt the power in brightening someone else’s day.”

On the TENTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I found an interesting article written by Melissa Benaroya titled How to Teach Civility During Divisive Times, Committee for Children, Feb. 24, 2017.”

She writes: “Civility goes beyond being polite and courteous; it involves listening to others with an open mind, disagreeing respectfully and seeking common ground to start a conversation about differences. Acting with civility requires children to be respectful, reflective and self-aware. Learning the skills of perspective taking, empathy and problem- solving helps children understand that their actions and words affect individuals as well as their entire community, encouraging them to rise up and act with civility in tough situations…. By teaching skills like empathy, problem- solving and perspective taking, we can help nurture civility in our children.”

One the ELEVENTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“Here are four resources to help you teach your students the positive behaviors of being civil and people of good character.”

  • Nine Lessons on Peer Relationships
  • Class Meetings: Creating a Safe School in Your Classroom
  • Behavior Problems in the Classroom: What to know, What to
  • 3 Steps to Civil Discourse in the Classroom


On the TWELFTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I have three gifts for the new year for you (no, not gold, frankincense, and myrrh). They are PEACE, HOPE, and LOVE!”

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES. USD 12-1-19



Positive Emotions in the Classroom: Tips for Boosting Curiosity, Hope, and Belonging

By Christa M. Tinari, M.A., coauthor of Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School: 48 Character-Building Lessons to Foster Respect and Prevent Bullying

Have you heard that feelings are contagious? This is true in the classroom, as well as in other social contexts, due to our brain chemistry and the physical changes that happen in our bodies when we experience emotions. Positive emotions decrease the stress hormone cortisol and increase feel-good chemical messengers in the brain (such as dopamine and serotonin), helping students feel physically and emotionally safe. This boosts feelings of safety and trust, which helps students build better bonds with those around them. When students feel good, positive actions follow, creating better social relationships. And stronger relationships lead to better learning.

Still, some may argue that spending time on boosting positive emotions in the classroom steals time away from academic tasks. Yet if students are experiencing strong negative emotions, learning is compromised. Students’ attention is focused elsewhere, and their emotional dysregulation may even lead to social conflicts or personal meltdowns. These situations require immediate teacher attention, disrupting class time and causing emotional stress to classmates.

Ultimately, when teachers and students have so much to gain and nothing to lose, there is good reason to focus on increasing positive emotions in the classroom. To get started, try these strategies to boost curiosity, hope, and belonging.


Curiosity, the desire to learn or know something new, is a natural quality that all humans possess. Before language is learned, babies are driven to understand their environment by exploring their surroundings through their senses. Studies show that once children begin to speak fluently, they will typically ask somewhere between 70 and 300 questions a day! So, how can we encourage our students’ innate sense of curiosity, which is such a powerful driver for learning?

Ask good questions.

What makes a question good? Good questions cannot be answered by a simple yes-or-no response. One of my favorite strategies is to use I wonder as a sentence starter, followed by ifwhy, or how. Wondering can be used in many contexts, such as during read-alouds, text exploration, and pair-shares. Try using pictures to introduce new content, prompting students to craft their own I wonder questions. These can be used to create a bulletin board to guide your subject inquiry. Or, pass an object around the room, having students focus their wondering on it, and follow up with story writing. This strategy develops creative and scientific thinking and piques curiosity. It’s also naturally fun!

Connect with students’ interests.

Provide time for students to research and plan their own passion projects. There is plenty of opportunity for students to focus on a hobby or passion while applying their emerging skills. For example, if your students are working on percentages in math and citing sources in English, you can build in requirements for them to include these skills in a project on Minecraft (or any other interest).

Don’t jump to conclusions.

When students experience problems, don’t blame, but instead get curious. Teach your students to be detectives who investigate problems rather than jump to quick conclusions based on (potentially) incorrect assumptions. You can use the I wonder technique again here. For example, when meeting with a student about missed assignments, ask, “I wonder what’s been getting in the way of you completing the work?” Using an investigative approach brings empathy, open-mindedness, and cooperation to tough situations.


Hope is defined as experiencing a positive expectation or aspiration about the future. A hopeful child happily anticipates the future. But students can lose their sense of hope, fearing that they are not good or deserving enough to succeed, but rather are doomed to fail. Students may feel that people are “against them,” causing them to be defensive and suspicious of others’ motives. On the other hand, students with a high amount of hope believe that others are there to help. Hopeful students set goals, create plans to reach those goals, and are able to persevere despite setbacks. Try these strategies to inspire hope!

Focus on strengths.

We must not get caught up in the deficit model of education which looks for what’s lacking in students. Rather, we should be able to identify multiple strengths in each of our students and help them uncover and recognize strengths within themselves. Do an internet search for “multiple intelligences” to find lists of the skill sets in each of the intelligence areas to help your students expand their thinking about what it means to be “intelligent.” Provide weekly reflection prompts, such as, “A strength or intelligence I used this week is _________,” “A strength I discovered this week is _________,” and “A strength I’m developing is _________.”

Positive Emotions in the Classroom: Tips for Boosting Curiosity, Hope, and BelongingTeach positive self-talk.

Unfortunately, many of our students have a negative script running through their minds: I suck. No one likes me. I’m no good at this. These kinds of thoughts contribute to feelings of hopelessness that compromise children’s motivation. To help students develop a new internal language, provide them with examples of positive self-talk, and have them generate their own examples. Make positive self-talk visible in the classroom through posters, collages, and reminders on brightly colored index cards. Add the word yet to students’ negative statements: I can’t do this . . . yet! Fostering a growth mindset reminds students that challenges are normal and change is possible.


Belonging refers to having a fond feeling toward one’s group or place and to feeling that one is accepted, respected, welcomed, and included there. Belonging is a well-researched concept in the youth development field, since it has been associated with better academic and health outcomes for students who experience it. A sense of social isolation or alienation, on the other hand, is a risk factor for negative behaviors, including substance abuse, self-harm, and, potentially, aggression toward others. Due to the many social dynamics at play in society and at school, some students have a higher sense of belonging than others do. Thankfully, there is much you can do to increase opportunities for belonging!

Greet every student.

Establish a daily greeting ritual that ensures every child is welcomed into the classroom. A 2018 study found that implementing a greeting ritual increased student engagement and decreased disruptions. I’m a fan of the “choose your greeting” posters that contain images of the options: fist bump, wave, high five, smile, dance, or hug. Students can simply point to the greeting they would like to give to and receive from you on their way into the classroom. Have students greet one another as well, practicing their social skills as they do so. Be sure to review expectations regarding safety, respect, and consent when inviting students to participate in greetings that include physical contact (even handshakes).

Sync up with sound.

Music and rhythm bring us together, because they actually sync up our heartbeats and breathing patterns. You may already use a clapping rhythm to get your class’s attention. Clapping in unison—try speeding up and slowing down or doing a call-and-response pattern—provides a sense of cooperation. Singing a song chosen by students to represent your class provides a sense of unity. Experiment with creating new words to familiar tunes. Play music or lead a call-and-response chant to facilitate transitions between activities or to make cleanup more fun.

Share admiration and appreciation.

It feels good to be noticed and appreciated. Facilitate a closing circle at the end of the week during which one student (voluntarily) sits in the appreciation chair while other classmates consider something they admire, appreciate, or want to thank that student for. Give students think time so that everyone will have something to share. If you have a large class or feel that sharing might be difficult, invite comments from five to six students. After each admiration or appreciation, the student in the chair responds “thank you.” Receiving honest appreciation from peers increases students’ sense of acceptance and belonging within the classroom.

A final word of advice: Remember to be proactive about cultivating your own positive mood. Your mood might be the number one influence on your students’ moods in the classroom. Once you start focusing on positive emotions, you will experience the ways in which positive vibes can transform your day. Students will be more focused, patient, and cooperative. Your students will form closer bonds to you and to their peers. Learning will become joyful again!

Author Christa TinariChrista M. Tinari, M.A., is a bullying prevention, social-emotional learning, and school climate specialist. She speaks at educational conferences and provides training and consulting to schools across the country. Visit to learn more about her work.



The Inclusion Storytelling Project Takes a Cue from Students on Kindness

By Anna Griffin, 826 Digital Manager

Last fall, 826 National invited students across the country to share their stories on bullying as part of the Inclusion Storytelling Project. One student at 826 Boston, Jekaya, recalled a time she witnessed bullying on a bus, sharing that “I wanted to say something [to the bullies], but in my head I was confused.”

Jekayaka is not alone. More often than not, students want to do what is right. But when the right thing means standing up to a bully, many freeze. At 826 National, the largest youth writing network in the country serving 65,000 students annually in 826 centers and online, we believe that writing is a powerful tool. Through writing, students ignite and channel their creativity, explore identity, and advocate for themselves and their community. We also believe in the power of student voices. But sometimes, students struggle to speak up when it matters most.

To that end, 826 National partnered with Cartoon Network’s Stop Bullying: Speak Up initiative and launched the Inclusion Storytelling Project with a simple idea: if students write about their experiences with bullying, it will help them summon the courage and words necessary to stand up for themselves and each other. It will help students to stop bullying before it starts.

Now is the time to listen to students and discuss how they can be a part of the solution. Bullying is on the rise, as one national student survey suggests, with one in three students reporting that they’ve experienced bullying. Incidents of bullying have increased during middle school in particular, and certain subgroups of students are being disproportionately affected at increasing rates.

The Inclusion Storytelling Project began with students engaging in discussions on the importance of kindness and empathy. They learned strategies to stand up to bullies and wrote stories featuring upstanding characters. They reflected on how bullying has affected them and those around them. At the project’s culmination, each 826 chapter published students’ stories, poems, and scripts, and a few student pieces, including Jekaya’s Story, were selected to be animated by Cartoon Network.

This year, 826 National and Cartoon Network have expanded the Inclusion Storytelling Project by launching free Social-Emotional Learning resources for educators on, which includes step-by-step lessons, writing prompts, and student writing examples encouraging kids across the country to share their individual stories about kindness, inclusion, and empathy.

Invite your students to join the national conversation on bullying prevention using best practices from the Inclusion Storytelling Project:

Share Your Story: Writing can be tough. For many students, sharing personal experiences about bullying is tougher. Break the ice by telling your students about a time when you were bullied, a time you were silent, or a time you spoke up. Whatever you share, keep the story real and get vulnerable. This will help build trust before asking students to do the same.

Shift Perspectives: Students build empathy when they expand their perspective and consider the experiences of others. Ask students to put the old adage of “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” to work by having them write from the perspective of a character, a friend, or, as in one lesson on 826 Digital, a villain.  

Build Purpose: Too often, student writing stops with a final draft. A critical piece of the writing process is lost when student writing is not shared with a broader community. Build purpose for young writers by submitting their stories to the Inclusion Storytelling Project, or by creating other opportunities for students to tell their story with a wider audience: publish their stories in a class book, host a book reading and release party, or ask students to make videos or PSAs that extends their message beyond your class.

Create Solutions: Talk to your students about what it would take to make their school or community a kinder, more inclusive place. The Compliments Project, which began from a student’s suggestion to anonymously give compliments to classmates, is a great place to look for inspiration. Encourage students to turn their ideas into words into actions, and they will make a connection: when I share my voice, I create positive change.  

Nana-Wadieh, a student at 826NYC writes, “People have feelings that are as soft as feathers.” It’s time for us to take a cue from our students on kindness. Their voices show us that in a world that is brimming with stories of cruelty, there is a rising tide of hope. Think of the difference that could be made—in your school and across the country—if we hear their words.

Anna Griffin 
826 Digital Manager 
826 National (
44 Gough Street, Suite 206
San Francisco, CA 94103
T: (415) 864-2098




Arts Ed Now: Help Lead the Way for Arts Education and SEL!

by Kira Rizzuto, Program Development Manager, Arts Ed NJ 

Research indicates that the benefits of learning in and through the arts are social-emotional as well as cognitive. Arts-based learning has impact upon important outcomes such as improvements in student learning and mastery, student engagement, and positive school culture and climate. As students engage in arts learning they are developing skills they will need to thrive as citizens and as leaders. Participation in the arts fosters collaboration, empathy, and critical thinking.

Arts Ed NJ is committed to making clear the connection between participation in the arts and the goal of a well-rounded education for all students. As the voice of arts education in New Jersey, Arts Ed NJ works together with its many partners to ensure favorable conditions for arts education to take place in schools across the state. At Arts Ed NJ we know that learning in and through the arts is enjoyed by students and valued deeply by parents, educators, and educational leaders. Enthusiasm for arts education is shared by many in New Jersey. In fact, more than 90% of New Jerseyans believe that arts education is an important part of a student’s education. Additionally, 87% of New Jerseyans believe arts education helps students become more creative and imaginative, 81% believe it builds confidence, and 74% believe it improves communication skills.  

In September 2016, a statewide public awareness campaign was launched in New Jersey with an overarching goal of increasing student participation in the arts K-12 by 2020. The campaign website, Arts Ed, provides the resources and tools needed for effective advocacy, so that high quality arts education–the foundation of arts-rich schools and districts–can continue to thrive in New Jersey. The multi-year campaign reflect the realities present in today’s arts education landscape, and is intended to assist parents, educators, administrators and community leaders make a strong case for creative learning and the important role that arts education serves in student development and achievement.

Arts Ed Now Ambassadors are empowered to show public support for the value of arts education, promote policies that encourage more active participation, and are prepared to be effective advocates. The message of the campaign is clear: Active creative learning is good for all students…and good for New Jersey! Stop by campaign central,, for more info, and while you are there order stickers, signs, and other tools that will help you make the case for the arts. Join with other Ambassadors throughout New Jersey who are already leading the way for arts education!

Kira Rizzuto 
Program Development Manager

Arts Ed NJ 
16 Mount Bethel Road
Suite 202
Warren, NJ 07059




Tips For Getting You and Your Students Off to a Great Start!

by Edward DeRoche,  Character Education Resource Center, Director, University of San Diego

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”                                                                                                                        —Carl Jung

To get ideas for a blog on how new and veteran teachers can successfully prepare for a new school year, I spent an hour on the Internet and discovered a rich source of advice and suggestions for teachers. The range of information includes ideas on how to arrange your classroom, 50 ways of getting through the first week, and 101 ways for handling stress throughout the school year.

So, what is left for me to say? Very little, except some personal observations for what they are worth, and maybe a smile or two because I’ve touched on experiences that you have had or heard about. I begin with a reminder. Your students have had three months off. That means they have lost three months of learning and some people may blame you for this loss.

By now you may have spent some of your own money on school supplies and your own non-paid time getting your classroom ready— arranging the desks, adding decorations, finding out if the equipment works, hanging posters, counting textbooks, and enjoying the quietness of preparation. You probably have the photocopying machine humming because you know—or have heard—that the best way to quiet a classroom of unfocused, talkative students is to give them a packet of worksheets.

You also know that during that first week of school you have to over plan because when kids have nothing to do, things happen. Some educational specialist will tell you to greet each student—shake hands, and look them straight in the eye when doing this. Maybe give a hug or two (careful here, check the school policy on hugging). The experts also suggest that you to get to know your students’ names as soon as possible—no nicknames until the second semester.

All agree that you must review your classroom rules as soon as possible, generally within the first hour. It’s best to post them. Kids have a tendency to forget “rules” at school and at home. The experts also suggest that you “get to it,” start teaching content, impress the students with your knowledge and make it look like they might learn something.

Some specialists recommend that you send a letter or email to parents during the first week of school. There are all kinds of sample letters on the Internet so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Be sure to tell the parents how much you look forward to teaching their son/daughter this year. The rule is: Stop thinking of what could go wrong and start thinking of what could go right. 

Here is something you might consider. I just heard a speaker who talked about having his children sign a “contract” with him and their mother about the use of media in their home—what is expected, what they can and cannot do, how much time they can spend on their media devices.

This might be a good idea for you. Develop a “contract” (or call it an “agreement”) in which you list your expectations for the students in your class. Invite parents to do the same—invite them to send you information about their expectations. It might be interesting to get the students in one this idea as well by having them list their expectations. Thus, a three-way contract to be discussed and used as a guide for the school year.

I was once told that it is a good idea to end a blog with bullet points, so here are a few:

•  Do not go into the teachers’ room during the first month. You may hear things that will destroy your enthusiasm for teaching the rest of the

•  Develop a sense of humor— Your students’ behaviors will contribute to this. Humor is going to help you stay mentally healthy.

•  In many cases, teaching can be and often is stressful. There are days when you will be angry, frustrated, anxious, and emotional. Do something about it. Take a break, write about your feelings in a journal, go to the movies, the theater, etc. Most importantly, do something physical. Try yoga, take a long walk, jog, or work in your yard. Also, be flexible. Set your own comfortable pace and schedule, and work on developing a positive attitude about

•  Teaching can be a lonely experience. Don’t let it be. Collaborate! Cooperate! Be a leader and team player. Get involved in school and community activities. Take a professional development course. Also, go online, there are a number of teacher blogs and forums that offer advice for dealing with stress, for invigorating your teaching, and for inspiring you to keep going. A positive relationship is to your mental health as location is to real estate.


Edward DeRoche,  Character Education Resource Center, Director, University of San Diego




Preventing Microaggressions: Creating a Safe Space to Discuss Race in the Classroom

By Chloe G. Bland, Ph.D., Chair, Psychology Department, Assistant Professor, College of Saint Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ

As white educator, my first and central responsibility is to become aware of the myriad power dynamics that exist in my classroom because any lack of awareness of my power, my privilege, and our shared cultural norms makes it very likely that I will perpetrate a microaggression as I interact with my students.

Therefore, I heighten my own awareness of where I personally fit in the system of power and privilege. As a faculty member, I always have power and privilege. Add to that white privilege and my own history of ignorance about race. It is incumbent upon me to use my power and privilege to support, validate, and legitimize discussion of race in the classroom. Otherwise I am in grave danger of creating a hostile environment for my students.

I find it important to keep up to date on strategies that work to reduce my own perpetration of microaggressions in the classroom. Sue, Lin, Torino, Capodilupo, & Rivera, (2009) suggest letting your students know that discussing race is okay by actively creating a safe space at the very beginning of the year. For example, this can be accomplished with activities where students get to bring a part of themselves to class and share it with the group.

The Artifact Game

I have used multiple variations on this theme. However, my favorite activity is the artifact game. I first learned this activity from Elizabeth Williams-Riley and Bari Katz at the Common Ground Institute sponsored by the American Conference on Diversity in January, 2016. Each student brings in an artifact—defined as some specific, tangible object but nothing more detailed than that so as not to influence students’ choices- that is representative of who they are, broadly construed. Everyone gets a chance to share their artifact and why it is important to them. The magic of this exercise is that it instantly exposes our complex identities. We often think we know our students, and our students often think they know their peers. Yet, there is always so much more beneath the surface.

Once we become familiar with each other’s nuanced identities, there is a palpable shift toward a kinder and more respectful classroom climate. I developed and teach a class called, The Psychology of Racism, where I do this exercise in the beginning of the semester, before we delve into the sensitive topic of racism. The atmosphere instantly changes. For example, I have had students from vastly different backgrounds and cultures begin to identify with each other. The personal stories that emerge from this exercise bring students closer and open a space for more difficult and deeper conversations.

Validating Feelings

Another important piece in creating an atmosphere that is safe for everyone is to validate experiences and feelings of all students. Too often, when race is discussed in a classroom setting white students get uncomfortable and try to shutdown or defend themselves (I know this from being the person who is uncomfortable with the discussion). Some of the subconscious avoidance tactics I have personally employed when finding myself in an uncomfortable discussion of race include eye rolling, shifting or slouching, doodling, fidgeting, becoming quiet or trying to defend oneself, or crying. While crying is not always problematic, it can be used by people in the majority culture to shut down conversations about race when they feel uncomfortable. Such reactions create an unsafe space for everyone in the class, but particularly for People of Color. The underlying message that is communicated when white students take these actions is, “I am fragile and refuse to engage with issues that challenge my worldview.”

Part of our jobs as instructor may include speaking to white students who display these typical reactions to discussions of race. When I was a scared white student just waking up to the racial realities in the United States, I believed anything I did or said was okay because I knew I was a good person and always had good intentions, even when i did or said something that offended those around me. I have learned that in fact, I was wrong. Good intentions do not have a privileged place in discussions of race. We must hold ourselves accountable for the effects of our words and actions, regardless of our intentions.

Chloe G. Bland, Ph.D., serves as Chair of the Psychology Department and Assistant Professor at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ. Her email is





Teachers Can Impact Bullying More Than They Realize

Summary:  This article reports on programs that can help stop bullying and the role that SEL can play in creating safe spaces for students. The role that teachers can play in stopping bullying is also outlined in this article.

Source:  Amelia Harper, Education DIVE, October 24, 2017

Categories:  Anti-bullying, Positive Relationships, Classroom Practices, SEL Basics