SEL: The Essence of Collaborative Conversations
During the school day, your child participates in collaborative conversations with classmates to support reading and writing. Collaborative conversations are discussions between students in which ideas are presented, defended, and elaborated upon. Engaging in these discussions helps students deepen their knowledge, identify evidence to support their thinking, and make real-world connections. While collaborative conversations are integral to the learning process, they require social-emotional learning skills such as whole body listening, turn taking, and even knowing how to disagree respectfully. Please see below for tools to support your child in building these conversational skills.
Listening: An Essential Skill for Collaborative Conversations
When we tell children to listen, most of them think that means hearing what someone is saying. There is much more to listening, however, as listening not only involves making meaning of sounds; it includes perspective taking, paying attention to the context in which words are spoken, exhibiting self-control, and showing others that you are listening.
Teach Whole Body Listening
Teach listening as a skill that can be broken up into many parts other than your ears. For instance, have a discussion about what it means to listen with your mouth, hands, brain, etc. A great resource for younger children is Whole Body Listening Larry at Home by Sautter and Wilson. For older children, talk about how they can "show that they are listening," and discuss how this is essential for building and maintaining relationships.
Tips for teaching whole body listening:
- Read Whole Body Listening Larry at Home and have your child draw a picture of the different parts of his/her body that he/she uses to listen.
- Incorporate whole body listening vocabulary at home. You can say things like, "I see that you are working hard to listen with your eyes," or "When you reassured your sister, you really demonstrated that you were listening with your heart."
- Model whole body listening and ask your child how it made him/her feel when you were actively listening.
- Practice mindful listening by engaging in a mindful minute before school starts. With all the daily distractions we encounter, this skill needs to be practiced regularly. For more information about mindful listening, click here.
Disagreement is a normal part of life. Learning to disagree respectfully is a skill and one that requires explicit teaching and practice.
- Encourage your child to listen without responding. This can be very difficult and is best practiced first when not upset such as a dinner time discussion versus a fight with a sibling. After your child is done listening, they can paraphrase what was shared by saying, "So what I think you are saying is _____." Once they have repeated what they heard, then it's time to provide their perspective. You might even give your child a prompt or sentence starters such as, "I believe this because ________", or "My experiences support this opinion because ________."
- Have children debate against instinct. One way to build empathy and understand the value of different opinions is to have your child argue in support of a viewpoint that is different than their own. You can do this when there are differing opinions in your household, when reading a story together, or even watching a movie.
Additionally, encourage your child to follow the following tips for talking and debating issues with peers:
- Make eye contact when giving and receiving information.
- Maintain calm body language and a respectful tone.
- Make sure the person feels heard, even if you don't agree with their opinion.
For a lesson on disagreeing respectfully, click here.
Books that Teach Communication and Perspective Taking