We approach lessons for Homeroom as any teacher should approach any lesson. The time allocated to Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is much to small to waste, so each lesson needs to be impactful. The prep time allocated to Homeroom lesson planning has to be different than the prep time most teachers allocate to their regular lessons because a lesson my take longer to plan than to teach. This may seem like a bad return on investment for the teacher but the difference is that in a sharing community the number of students impacted by the lessons is far greater than the number of students the original author would ever teach in their own class. With that in mind, crafting SEL lessons is a skill that can be learned and with practice and inspiration can be some of the most rewarding lessons that teachers will write.
In our process we identify the key learning that is to take place during the lesson and write that as the learning target. Learning targets for Homeroom might be part of a school-wide system to support students or lessons specific to the needs of the Homeroom. Additionally, lessons for Homeroom may only take one period or may be a multi-session lesson that grows over time.
It is key to think of the learning that is to take place and ask if each part of the lesson facilitates that lesson. If it doesn’t, it is not included. The parts of our lessons, the prompt, the greeting, the share, the reading, the activity, and the closure, should be unified toward the learning target so that there is coherence. Additionally, each part of the lesson needs to be included so rituals and routines are established and the flow from “impersonal and easy” to “personal and hard” is facilitated.
Just as each lesson needs to move from “impersonal and easy” to “personal and hard,” long-term planning needs to be thoughtful so that as the students grow together as a community they become more comfortable with the process and each other and the conversations and topics covered are deeper than would have been possible early on. One example is that Tom rarely does activities where the students are required to touch each other early in the year because they may not be comfortable breaking that barrier yet. As they year progresses however, the level of comfort may allow the creation of a human pyramid or lifting each other over physical barriers.
One important byproduct of long term planning and consistency with the model is that eventually the students can start to create lessons of their own. Student voice and choice is an integral part of Homeroom and if the teacher is consistent with lesson model students eventually find it possible to create excellent lessons of their own. Tom once hit a writers block on a lesson series that he was working on and turned to Megan for help. Megan turned it over to the kids and they finished the series including some of their favorite activities to hit home on the learning targets that had previously established.
Tom likes to say “Parenting is simple, but it isn’t easy” and writing lessons for SEL is the same way. Read more on the parts of the lesson here, see some example lessons here, and contact Megan and Tom here to more information or to host a consulting session.