Since remote learning began, students have been faced with a multitude of challenges that are unique to the times. Dedicated weekly social-emotional learning (SEL) classes for students in 1st through 12th grades (SEL is integrated into the curriculum in preK and K) have proven to be particularly valuable during this time, equipping students with the tools needed to develop resilience, confidence, and well-being.
In the spring, lower school SEL specialist Lisa Hinshelwood noticed there was a need for third and fourth grade students to develop executive skills, such as skills around organization, planning, and prioritization.
“When we went to remote learning in the spring, we could tell students were doing things on the side while they were in Zoom classes,” Lisa said. “I found out recently that a student read an entire book when he was in class! Immediately, the fourth-grade teaching team and I decided that the first lesson for the fall would be about multi-tasking, which is an anti-executive skill.”
Studies show that there is actually no such thing as multitasking, that the brain is not capable of doing more than one thing at time. “In my extensive research, I could not find anything positive for our bodies and brains when we multitask” Lisa noted. “I did a lot of research over the summer about neuroscience and multitasking, and developed a new lesson for the fourth graders.”
This lesson began with students brainstorming their ideas about multitasking. Some noted that perhaps multitasking is helpful “because “you can get more done,” or “you can be thinking about what you need to do next when you are working on one piece of work.”
After completing a challenge designed to demonstrate how the brain switches back and forth between tasks (rather than doing two tasks simultaneously), students shared reflections: “My brain is in different places,” one student noted, while another shared “My brain is tired.”
“Students realized that perhaps multi-tasking perhaps isn't what they initially thought,” Lisa said.
Fourth graders then came up with a list of strategies for how to prevent multi-tasking, including making lists, setting a timer, closing tabs and apps, and working in a quiet environment.
“Social-emotional skills are vital for a functioning society,” Lisa said about the importance of beginning SEL classes with our youngest learners. “At this age, kids are so open and have flexible growth mindsets. When we teach these explicit skills early, they become lifelong skills that they continue to practice. At Nueva, we don’t see SEL growth as different from academic growth. We know that if we don’t tend to students’ emotional states, it won’t matter what class they are in because they won’t be able to reach their full learning potential. The more good SEL skills students have, the more resilient they will be in life.”