SEL 101 – Dialogue

One of my favorite things about Mr. Rogers was his ability to effectively dialogue with kids. On “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” he would always propose thoughtful, open-ended questions to kids in his opening monologues. When kids were on the show, he would ask them very intentional questions and then express genuine interest in their answers. Mr. Rogers would often engage in vulnerable storytelling that helped the viewers understand the larger concept he had in mind. And most importantly, he would always remain calm.

It’s important to dialogue with the kids in your life, because it builds trust and meaningful connection. Once I started implementing intentional dialogue into my classroom, I had little to no problems with classroom management and experienced increased engagement, among other positive benefits. Let’s dive into practical tips on how you can incorporate dialogue into your classroom.

Kids won’t learn from someone they don’t like.

Rita Pierson

If you read the first blog post in our SEL 101 series, you’d know that based on my student survey results, dialogue with students was originally not my strongest point. The question on the student survey- “How much does this teacher want to learn about what you do when you are not in school?” was the lowest scored category my first couple of years. I totally understand that, as a general music teacher, it is hard to find time to truly get to know all of your students. Sometimes it feels like there is never enough time. But it is possible to show your students that, even though you may not have time to have a one-on-one conversation with each of them, they can have a meaningful relationship with you and know you as someone who deeply cares about them as a person.

Here are a few ways you can open up dialogue with your students:

1) Have a short “Morning Meeting” (or beginning of class meeting) where you have an inspirational message or ask them to reflect on a Quote of the Day (QOTD). You can find quotes on Instagram with the hashtag #QOTD, #quoteoftheday, or use a quote generator such as the “Daily Quotes” app. The quotes really help spark meaningful conversations. There are many more ideas for morning meetings on Edutopia.org, Responsiveclassroom.org, and the SELebrate YOU website.

2) Ask questions to show you’re curious about their lives. Ask them simple questions such as what they want to be when they grow up or what they like to do in their spare time. In our activity book, there is a flashcard set with examples you can use. Or print out multiple copies and have students get into pairs and ask each other the questions! It’s important that students feel safe, secure and seen.

3) Use Mr. Rogers’ techniques for dialogue

– Ask open-ended questions
– Active listening
– Express genuine interest
– Storytelling
– Stay calm
– Stay present

To end this SEL blog post series, we want to thank you for being a teacher. We know that because you are reading this blog post, you have a particular interest in learning how to affect your students on a deeper level. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to share our experiences and resources with you. As Mr. Rogers said, “There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” We hope that something said in our blog nourishes each one of you for the difficult work of teaching the next generation of students.

Thanks for reading and have a fantastic start to the school year.

-Paige & Adrien-

Narwhals & Waterfalls

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