1st Grade Crew // Social Emotional Learning Through Character Building

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School at Detroit Prep is much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Developing these skills is certainly necessary for our students’ future success. However, it is not sufficient. In order to set our students up for the best academic and career success, we know that we must spend just as much time developing their social and emotional skills. Social emotional learning in the primary years has been linked to later career readiness and even to happiness levels well into adulthood.

One look at our daily schedule will demonstrate how critical we believe social emotional skills are, which have just as much time allotted on the schedule as math, reading, and writing. Twice a day, we meet for “crew” where we practice activity and self-reflection built around six habits of character: compassion, cooperation, curiosity and creativity, integrity, perseverance, and responsibility. During this time, you might find us playing “I spy” and then reflecting about how it helped us meet our compassion goal for the week: “I can put myself in someone else’s shoes.” At our end of the day crew meeting, you’d notice students giving each other appreciations for how they showed these habits of character during the day or making amends with students whom they have hurt.

While crew meetings give students many opportunities to reflect about their own social emotional learning throughout the week, we know that we must help students explicitly make connections between these skills and academic work. So, for the past few weeks, our crew has been spending a few minutes following each academic period reflecting about how we used the habits of character during learning. Students share responses like, “I showed compassion by using kind words when I worked with my table,” or “I had to persevere when I felt confused during the math exit ticket.” These few minutes allow students to make clear connections between the work they do in crew and their academic learning, ultimately teaching them ways to integrate social emotional skills throughout their daily life. So, at Detroit Prep, it’s more accurate to say that we learn the three “r’s”, as well as the four c’s curiosity, creativity, cooperation and compassion.