Contextual Teaching of Social Skills/Journal Writing Page 1 of 7 Pages Contextual Teaching & Learning Contextual Teaching of Social Skills/Journal Writing Being a Special Education Teacher, Social Skills and Journal Writing are very important skills to teach students to monitor themselves, their feelings, interactions with others and simple writing with meaning. Any time an ADHD or EBD student can write their feelings with no restriction as to format or content, the attention they give and the willingness to learn these skills actually lets them have the ownership of what they learn in doing the journal, incorporating social skills and simple data collection and understanding. Many skills are learned through journal writing. Social skills, so often neglected as a subject to teach, really give prominence to journal writing. Through my experience as a teacher of the regular and Special Education classrooms, children are at their most comfortable when they can be themselves, with no barriers that cannot be climbed. April M. Ripandelli Emerson Elementary School Special Education Department Research: Special Education is an area in which there is much informality and less rigidity. The expectations of the student are sometimes lowered, which strengthens the bond of student with learning. This area lends well to cognitive learning, giving each child the ability to more easily develop an understanding of objectives chosen for each task. The smaller class size lends itself to have a more one-to-one social interaction—students with students, students with teacher. Monitoring of their attitudes, feelings and choices can be done more effectively by the student and the teacher. Writing is such an important skill that can be difficult for students that require Special Education. Through the use of journals, the student is “less fearful” of expressing themselves through writing. Two quotes that fit well here are from the book, “Best Practice: New Standards for Teaching and Learning in America’s Schools” (Zemelman, Daniels and Hyde, 1998). The quotes: “The most powerful learning comes when children develop true understanding of concepts through higher-order thinking associated with various fields of inquiry and through self-monitoring of their thinking”; “Learning is always socially constructed and often interactional; teachers need to create classroom interactions that “scaffold” learning.” These quotes give a good definition of cognitive learning and the basic concept of “scaffolding”, the incorporation of many ideas/concepts into one area, utilizing the skills students learn and then using them to discover how all academic/social areas can be related and appreciated on their level. Contextual Teaching of Social Skills/Journal Writing Page 2 of 7 Pages Journal writing itself can take on many forms. The teacher can develop the concept to give individualization for each student. Specific goals and be established and changed or altered, as is deemed necessary for each student. Through the use of journal writing and teaching of social skills, the student can first develop their Research, Continued: own feelings about themselves, accepting how others feel about themselves and each other and how to appropriately become more productive class members, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, peers, etc. Journals can actually help develop personal relationships. First of all, journals are confidential tasks between the student and teacher. The teacher/student relationship can become more personal and gives reassurance to the student that what they are writing is “okay”. Knowing that there is confidentiality between teacher and student gives the student permission to share anything, without the recourse of grades and criticism. Self esteem and self worth become heightened and expressed through other areas of the academics and social relationships. Journal writing is, of course, reflective. When you reflect, you think about the things that have happened that day, yesterday, last week, etc. “ Reflecting is an ongoing process. Some people/students choose to create a product as a way of reflecting so they can share their discoveries with others. Presenting this project, such as a journal, can help you see what you’ve done in new ways and through new eyes. It can also spark others into action.” (Lewis, 1998). In summary, social skills and journal writing are very important tasks for every student to learn and implement. Daily writing in their journal helps students improve not only academic areas, but also lends itself to teach a child patience, taking their time, accepting themselves as they are, appreciation of others’ personal space and so many more. This then is carried into the future aspects of the student’s life–in adult relationships, on the job relationships, family relationships, etc. After all, as teachers, isn’t it our mission to teach students to become well rounded, confident adults, able to share themselves with the world around them—to make a living for themselves and make an enjoyable personal life for themselves as well? Yes, it is, and I, as a teacher, am honored to have such a responsibility. The School and Business Communities: Communities: In Bartow County, the schools have the proud distinction of having strong support from the business community. Many industries, such as Shaw Industries, donate monies to help support many programs in the schools. One of mention is the Character Education Building Program, sponsored by Shaw Industries. This program, paid for completely by Shaw, is an extensive program that teachers present to their students for developing character, responsibility, consistent behavior, acceptance and knowledge as to “why they have to learn what they learn”....which is, of course, carried through the students’ life from school through their chosen career. The job scene today is one of variance and complexity, one of technology and competition. The mission of Bartow County Schools is to give each and every student the tools necessary to become a well rounded and contributing member of society. Hand in hand with the schools, the business community is there...to ensure that all venues are available to do just that....for the benefit of the student and the community. Contextual Teaching of Social Skills/Journal Writing Page 3 of 7 Pages Content Background: The adage, “Teach a child the way, and he will follow”, sums up the content in the area of journal writing and social skills. Any knowledge/wisdom we as educators can depart regarding social behavior is necessary. Absorbing this knowledge/wisdom is up to the individual student. By the time the student reaches grade four, many behavioral skills are learned, some good and some not so good. Many academic skills are learned. Putting the two together, social skills and academics, gives the student the insight for relevance. Through relevance, the task at hand becomes more meaningful. Journal writing taps the skills learned in Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies—and also gives the time for reflection of their day. The journal writing activity is designed to address other skills such as time management, the ability to keep up with their materials and puts the responsibility on the student. State Standards: Science - Grade 4: 1. Inquiry - Asks questions, makes inferences and predictions, using estimation and measurement, uses evidence to construct explanations, makes sketches and diagrams to explain ideas, organizes data into tables and charts for interpretation, reads and interprets various types of graphs, formulates simple hypotheses, identifies and controls a limited number of variables. 27. Earth Processes - Investigates how the sun’s rays striking the Earth cause the seasons. Explores how the tilt of the Earth changes the angle of the sun’s rays and causes the seasons. 29. Earth Processes - Uses weather instruments to collect data and measure factors (such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind speed and wind direction). 32. Earth Processes - Discusses the effects humans have on weather and climate and vice versa. Describes climatic effects of removal of tropical rain forest; burning of fossil fuels; seeding of clouds; use of fluorocarbons and emissions from internal combustion engines. Social Studies - Grade 4: 3. Citizenship - Identifies the words of the first verse of “The Star Spangled Banner” and recognizes it as the National Anthem. 29. Information Processing - Gathers information through reading, listening, observing and surveying. 35. Information Processing - Organizes information into useable and efficient forms, e.g., graphs, charts tables, outlines. 38. Information Processing - Makes predictions and comparisons based on factual information. 45. Civic Participation - Shows respect toward others. Mathematics - Grade 4: 1. Rounding - Rounds two-, three-, or four-digit numbers to the nearest ten, hundred or thousand. Contextual Teaching of Social Skills/Journal Writing Page 4 of 7 Pages 11. Measurement - Selects appropriate customary and metric units of measure ...such as Temperature, Degree Fahrenheit and Degree Celsius. 24. Statistics and Probability - Explores the concepts of mean and median. 25 Data Analysis - Collects, reads, interprets and compares data from charts, tables and graphs (pictographs, bar graphs and circle graphs) using a variety of scales and estimation. State Standards, Continued: 26. Data Organization - Organizes data in charts and tables, and constructs bar graphs or pictographs using appropriate scales of one, two, three, four, five or ten. 27. Probability - Determines probability of a given even through use of manipulatives (equally likely, likely, least likely, most likely, likely and not likely). Language Arts - Grade 4: 13. Reading - Increases vocabulary to reflect a growing range of interests and knowledge. 19. Reading - Uses word order and sentence structure to read. (Syntax - “Does it sound right?”) 36. Writing - Uses correct spellings for frequently used sight vocabulary. 38. Writing - Writes legibly: Correctly forms letters and numbers; Correctly spaces words and sentences. 40. Writing - Writes about self selected topics. 41. Writing - Writes in a variety of genres to produces paragraphs and compositions: Personal narratives Imaginative stories Responses to literature Content area pieces Correspondence (including writing letters and addressing envelopes). 63. Grammar and Usage - Applies standard rules of capitalization. 64. Grammar and Usage - Applies standard rules of punctuation. 65. Grammar and Usage - Spells frequently used words correctly and applies common spelling rules. 72. Grammar and Usage - Writes simple and compound sentences, and avoids fragments and run-on sentences. Materials: Markers of all colors Pencils/Pens Colored pencils Art paper Composition notebooks Newspapers Thermometer for inside Thermometer for outside Teacher made chart of new words (follows) Fahrenheit Celsius Contextual Teaching of Social Skills/Journal Writing Page 5 of 7 Pages Weather Thermometer Graph Temperature Large Graph listing days, dates and temperatures Procedures and Activities: Day One: Problem-Based Learning (Learning Topic Initiation) Problem- Objective: Introduction and explanation of journal writing and terms necessary to add certain teacher directed data. On day one, the student will learn what a journal is and how it can help them reflect on the day. The following terms are also introduced: degrees, Fahrenheit, Celsius, weather, thermometer, temperature and graph. The teacher will ask that each student write the meanings of all the mentioned new words on the inside front cover of their new composition book, given to them by the teacher. This composition book will serve as the journal. The teacher will then explain that the weather can affect how we feel and react with others. Time elements will be given and explained as far as how much time allowed to write in journal, at what time, etc. Teacher directed data will be given, which is added to each day’s writing. These include: temperature of day, weather of day, how they feel that day. Explain that this is an ongoing writing and at the end of the year, they can have it to look at during the summer…and be surprised at what they have written! Problem- Day Two: Problem-Based Learning Objective: Set tone of writing from previous day’s experience. Feelings discussed about the day before writing experience. Give out art paper, one piece per student. Give out markers, pencils, pens, etc. Also, put yesterday’s temperature on classroom graph. They can then put it on their graph, which they will make. The teacher will add the incentive of drawing in the journal---expanding the artistic ability. Students, one by one, will go and read the thermometer that is outside to get current temperature. Then….writing!!!!!! Day Three: Cooperative Learning (Supportive and Meaningful Communication) Objective: Students will start writing at stated time, given on day one. Social Skills are defined and examples given. Day three class discussion centers around the ideas of social skills---what are they, why are they, how are they, when are they. Role play situations will be incorporated, such as behavior at a football game, behavior at a movie theater, behavior at a restaurant…..and the students’ choices. Each student will have a chance to be a part of a role play activity. Then….writing…. Day Four: Cooperative Learning Objective: Students will show more of an appreciation of their writing. Contextual Teaching of Social Skills/Journal Writing Page 6 of 7 Pages Day four is a pivotal day…THE BIG QUESTION IS ASKED BY THE TEACHER!!!!!!! What have you learned so far from your writing? How do you feel about having time to write? Questions like this====then teacher will test verbally for word usage, what social skills are, etc. Then…writing!!!! Procedures and Activities, Continued: Day Five: Self Directed Learning (Self Evaluation) Objective: Students will become more aware of their feelings about their writing and how this can help them with other situations. Teacher will ask students how they feel about what they have written the past few days. She will give them her feelings about her own, too. Then…writing!!!! Day Six: Self Directed Learning Objective: Journal writing without teacher prompting. Social Skills incorporated in Rip’s Restaurant. On day six, the teacher will explain how we can take social skills into a public/business environment. Discussion about Rip’s Restaurant, giving each student a role to play, such as customer, cook, water/waitress, manager, cashier. They will be able to order real food from Rip’s menu, pay with play money…add their bill….count their change…..and then be able to write in their journal about the experience---their feelings and excitement about the Rip’s Restaurant activity, which will be at teacher’s discretion. Day Seven and all Days Following: Journal Writing and teacher directed data entry will continue throughout the year…. Assessment: Rubric---developed from actual writing experience Pencil/Paper Activity: Matching of definitions of words given on Day One Self assessment Bibliography: Georgia’s Learning Connection. Georgia Department of Education (2002). Quality Core Curriculum Standards. (http://www.glc.k12.ga.us) Contextual Teaching of Social Skills/Journal Writing Page 7 of 7 Pages Harwell, Sandra and Blank, William, (2001), Promising Practices for Contextual Learning. Texas: CCI Publishing, Inc., pp. 19 - 24. Herrington, Anne and Moran, Charles (1992), Writing, Teaching, and Learning in the Disciplines, ed. New York: Modern Language Association. Hopkins, Gary, (1999), Article: Journal Writing Every Day: Teachers Say It Really Works. Connecticut: Education World. Bibliography, Continued: Kumchaiskul, Sumalee, (1998), Abstract: Contextual Learning Experiences in Pre-Service Early Childhood Teacher Education. Lewis, Barbara, (1998), The Kid’s Guide to Social Action. Minnesota: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., pp. 20 - 22. Parnell, Dale, (2001), Contextual Teaching Works! Texas: CCI Publishing, Inc. Zemelman, Steven, Daniels, Harvey and Hyde, Arthur, (1998), Best Practice: New Standards for Teaching and Learning in America’s Schools. New Hampshire: Heinermann, pp. 224 - 225. Biography: April M. Ripandelli is a tenth year teacher of Special Education in Bartow County, Georgia. She taught eight years in Northeast Georgia, in a small rural community. This year, 2003-2003, makes her second year in Bartow County. She is a graduate of Berry College, in Rome, Georgia, with a BS in Elementary Education, minors in Math and Music and an M.ED. in Elementary Education with emphasis in Psychology and Reading. She is currently seeking enrollment for her Doctorate.
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