SEL at Home: T.G. Connors Elementary School Gets Creative

Over the past 2 months, schools have shifted teaching and learning in a way they have never done before. From solving problems like access to devices and the internet, to innovating new ways to deliver content, track attendance, and engage parents, it feels like there have been more changes in the past 2 months than in the past 10 years! 

Hear from some of our partner schools below to learn more about how they have been facilitating social emotional learning remotely. We hope you gather some ideas to help support your school communities, too! 

T.G. Connors Elementary School in Hoboken, NJ recently started using Move This World. As schools closed and they transitioned to remote learning, they knew they needed to continue supporting social emotional learning at home. We spoke with Ryan Sorafine, the Dean of Students and Programs, to learn more about how they’ve been supporting students during this time. 

MTW: What does virtual learning look like in your school community right now? 

Mr. Sorafine: Our school has rolled out remote learning in three phases. Each phase of our remote learning plans have been created strategically to best suit the needs of our school community. During our current phase students are taking part in two 45 minute live Zoom meetings with their Language Arts and Math teacher daily. After each live Zoom session, students have a period of independent practice, where their teacher is available for office hours to assist their students for individualized support. In addition, students have weekly schedules where they can access related arts classes with pre-recorded videos along with daily assignments. Our K-2 students are using Class Dojo as a means to communicate questions and assignment submissions while our 3-5th grade students are using Google Classroom to communicate with their teachers. Our integrated service team is available to provide counseling and support to students and families in need.

MTW: What does SEL look like in your school community right now?

Mr. Sorafine: During this unique time of distance learning it has been a priority of ours to continue to focus on the importance of Social and Emotional Learning. Our team at Connors discussed some of the challenges that our students would be faced with and ways we could continue to support them to ensure they still felt connected to our amazing school community. Over the past four weeks students participated in a virtual spirit week, an online talent show, and classroom Zoom meetings. This gave students a way to share their experiences while staying connected to their classmates. Students participate in the morning Pledge with Principal Addi, celebrate birthdays with one another, and watch a DIY science experiment that students can replicate at home daily. Students also compete in daily video riddle challenges that I post.   

We have continued to use our Move This World social emotional learning platform during morning meetings that take place during live Zoom sessions. Students are still practicing their emotional management tools at home and we’ve shared the Move This World videos for students to access at home. In addition, we have supplied all families with copies of the Emotional Building Blocks and the 10 Emoger posters to use with their children at home. Although this period of social distancing is new to all of us and has definitely come with some challenges, we are confident that it has made our school community stronger and more resilient. We are extremely proud of our entire school community and grateful for the effort put forth to keep our students emotionally healthy. 

MTW: Can you tell me more about the daily videos you are creating? What kind of challenges or questions are you asking students? What have been some of the most surprising responses you’ve received?

Mr. Sorafine: Every morning our students log on to their remote learning daily plan and they are met with a morning announcement from Principal Addi. Ms. Addi recites the Pledge of Allegiance, sings “Happy Birthday” to our students and demonstrates science experiments for our students to try at home. In addition, I follow up the morning announcements with a daily riddle. The intent of this was to get students excited about logging on in the morning. This provides a sense of belonging and motivates our students daily. The videos are done in a fun way and are always centered around Social Emotional Health. During these morning meetings, students are asked to submit videos sharing their talents, school spirit, or silly faces. Each week I put together a slideshow and share it with our school community. This has caught on and students are beginning to send me riddles and other challenges to use.  

MTW: How is SEL supporting families in your community right now? 

Mr. Sorafine: The teachers and students refer back to their Emogers when they are overwhelmed during our remote learning. I received this email from a kindergarten student (sent to me by their parent): 

 “Move This World was featured in one of our Kindergarten student’s ELA assignments yesterday when she wrote about her toddler brother hitting her and her response was ‘walk away quietly.’ He’s also started saying the same thing sometimes when he gets angry, which is awesome for a 2 yo!  It’s such a great program!!!”

Journal entry from a Kindergarten student from T.G. Connors Elementary School in Hoboken, NJ

 

MTW: What advice do you have for other schools that want to help families practice SEL at home right now? 

Mr. Sorafine: First, keep it simple.This should be used as an emotional release and should not be an added stressor. All students need to feel safe, respected, loved, and valued. During this time of distance learning their ability to cope with emotional challenges are paramount. I recommend finding an activity that they can do that brings back the feeling of being with their school community.

For these reasons, it’s important that social emotional skills become the core of our distance learning plans.

The implementation of a user-friendly curriculum such as Move This World has provided our school community a common language that has easily turn-keyed to our families during distance learning. While these skills are important all the time, it’s easy to argue that learners need them now more than ever.

Whether you are an administrator, classroom teacher, school counselor, social worker, school psychologist or parent, it is important to connect with all of our students. Communication is key and students must have a chance to be heard as well. Whether it’s through video conferencing, real-time chats, or phone conversations it is crucial that the connection is not lost.

“Move This World allows my students to learn fun and interactive ways to help with social and emotional learning. My students are engaged in a morning message daily, practicing different skills to utilize in the classroom. I love seeing them implement the different Emogers. The closure videos allow my students to take a brain break and have a moment to breathe throughout the day. I really can notice a difference after they participate in the relaxing video. Move This World is an excellent program that I am glad my school participates in!” -Ms. Fleischer, Kindergarten teacher 

Thank you, Mr. Sorafine, for sharing how you’ve been able to innovate and adapt to remote learning while continuing to prioritize social emotional wellness! 

This time of school closures has brought unprecedented challenges for all of us, and schools have had to shift to remote learning very quickly. Our partner schools have navigated those challenges with SEL at the forefront of their work, and we hope their stories give you ideas about supporting SEL in your school community, too! 

Are you ready to implement social emotional learning in your district or school? Share your information and we’ll be in touch!

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