At Tobin, we believe that social emotional learning is as important as any other subject in a child’s education. Without the ability to work well with others, solve people problems, self-advocate, be a flexible thinker, and understand the impact your own behavior has upon others, it is hard to imagine being successful in life and career beyond school.
We work hard to incorporate these important principals into everything we do at Tobin. Our teachers focus on these important skills through day-to-day modeling and role playing. We use every available opportunity to reinforce and teach these valuable skills and give children the opportunity to practice these life skills in a safe, supportive setting.
Think Social! By Michelle Garcia Winner
Originally designed to support special needs children with social pragmatic struggles, The Tobin School incorporated the innovative curriculum by Michelle Garcia Winner as a whole school language. This positive program brings the nuts and bolts of social emotional learning out in the open and provides fun and clearly understood language and activities to support all children in these skill areas.
Included in the Think Social program we use here at Tobin:
- Expected and Unexpected Behaviors – teaching what is expected in school and group settings and what is unexpected (note that we do not refer to these acts as bad or wrong)
- Whole Body Listening – what does your body look like when you are really listening? Your eyes are on the speaker, your body is turned toward them, your body is still and open…
- Thinking with Your Eyes – thinking about what is happening around you, ‘reading the room’ to pick up clues of what you should be doing
- Big Problem/Little Problem/The Problem Meter – using a visual guide to help children look at a problem and to evaluate their own reaction to the issue
- Thinking of You, Thinking of Me – thinking about how others see you and your behavior and how your actions can be seen by others in ways you don’t expect
- Being a Social Detective – thinking like a detective to figure out what is happening in a social situation
- Superflex vs. Rock Brain – flexible thinking is a valuable skill for everyone, we learn to identify heroic Superflex thinking vs. the dreaded Rock Brain
- Other Social Super Heroes – Mean Jean, Space Invader, Time Stealer, Body Snatcher, Hurried Harry—using superheroes and villains to help identify challenging and positive behaviors makes them tangible for young children. We are excited to incorporate the newest Unthinkables here at Tobin, including: Snowball Man, The Blaminator, Sell-Fish, Tattle Taylor, Brain Eater and The Enforcer
- Bubble Thoughts – we all have lots of thoughts, some are not for sharing and some are, we talk about which thoughts are great to share and which should stay in a bubble
While we use the Think Social approach widely at Tobin, we also support these efforts with a variety of other materials, children’s books, and techniques to encourage children to problem solve, understand and express their feelings, and productively handle their own emotions. For example:
- We’ve incorporated the ideas contained in the wonderful children’s book, "How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids" by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. We introduce the students to the idea of their own invisible, personal bucket, which holds all the love and happiness that you receive each day. It feels good when this bucket is full but not so good when it is empty. We explore the idea that your actions can be bucket fillers or dippers for others and work hard to make sure we are working on filling our individual and collective buckets each day!
- Our older elementary classes feature a daily ‘social secret’ as part of their Morning Meeting routine. So many of our social rules, manners and customs are unwritten and yet, expected, parts of behavior. Some examples of social secrets including, “Some people don’t like to be touched. You should always ask before touching.” “Blowing your nose into a tissue is acceptable and police, showing it to others is not.” And “ Fair means that everyone gets what everyone needs. It does not mean that everyone gets the same thing. Equal and fair may not be the same thing.”
- We use The Angry Octopus iPad app, as well as other books, activities and tools to explore feelings and words to identify emotions. We focus on understanding that everyone feels a range of emotions and all are okay but that some ways of expressing emotions work better than others, i.e. there are ways to show you are angry at school that are acceptable (taking deep breaths, asking for a break, squeezing putty) and some that are not acceptable (putting your hands on others, yelling hurtful words, etc.)
- We use the wonderful book, "Personal Space Camp" by Julia Cook to address the idea of personal space. We talk about everyone’s need for personal space, how different people have different needs in this area, and use activities to become Personal Space Experts!
- We use the THINK acronym to help students understand the impact of what their words on others. We encourage our students to THINK before they speak: Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Important or Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?
- At Tobin, teachers accompany their students during snack, lunch, and recess (often the most difficult social times of the day for many children!) to actively work on supporting conversation, positive play skills, and peer problem solving.
- Teachers actively work on conversational turn taking, waiting a turn to talk, and self-advocating throughout their student’s days.
- Recess and PE support cooperative games which support working together as opposed to competition.
- When students struggle at school, our faculty work with our older students to complete a ‘problem paper’ allowing the child to not only process what actually happened and their role in the situation, but to look at better ways to handle difficult situations in the future.
- At Tobin we support all our students in learning to self regulate through the use of the “How Does Your Engine Run?" Program. This approach actively encourages students to think about their own feelings and physical reactions and what it feels like to be ‘just right’. We work with the students to self-identify techniques that they can use to help them get to this point of being ‘just right for learning’.
- We use the CHEER (Character Education for Early Results) Program for our early childhood classrooms which Tobin compiled and designed to specifically support these social emotional learning skills in our youngest students.
- Our school actively works to build a community feeling in our small school where ‘all the teachers know all the children, and all the children know all the other children and all the teachers’. A safe, supportive, comfortable environment is the best place to learn and grow.
- We encourage community service throughout the year in a number of ways, with all school events (our annual Read-a-Thon, Change for a Change campaign, food drives, etc.) , campus wide ventures (our annual Volunteer Fair!), and class supported efforts (Running Strong for Native American Youth, etc.) These efforts are meant to be participatory and meaningful and to allow the children to see how their own actions can directly benefit others.
- At Tobin we don’t forget the basics of etiquette and respect—modeling respectful interactions, proper manners, requiring proper dress and behavior. Our students are often complimented when we visit other locations, go on field trips, or attend performances.