Two Ways to Support a Learning Community

As a new school year begins, of course we wish that all children could walk into the classroom each day ready to learn. In an ideal world, our classrooms are populated by children who are well-rested, well-fed and have everything they need to reach their full academic potential.

The reality, as we know, is quite different. Data from Scholastic’s Teacher & Principal School Report: Equity in Education reveals that principals and teachers nationwide believe that equity in education should be a national priority. But the majority of educators say that many of their students face barriers to learning from outside the school environment. These barriers are prevalent across poverty levels, including 66% of educators in low-poverty schools. This means that every morning, our teachers work with children who might be facing family or personal crisis, need mental health services, are living in poverty, or are homeless or hungry. Providing equitable educational opportunities for our students is a complex challenge.

This striking data highlights the need for schools to support students beyond providing instruction.

One thing we can do right away is to actively foster a community of readers that learns about the world and each other through books. Carefully selected read-alouds can support social-emotional learning in every grade. When teachers read aloud, they can introduce new concepts with support, engage in conversation and dialogue, and provide students with prompts for response writing.

Below are selections that teachers can read with students to support social-emotional learning:

Kindergarten: Llama Llama, Mad at Mama; My Brother Charlie; Clifford’s Good Deeds: Be Responsible

1st Grade: Clifford the Firehouse Dog; I Read Signs; Officer Buckle and Gloria

2nd Grade: The Bully from the Black Lagoon; A Bad Case of Stripes; Giraffes Can’t Dance

3rd Grade: Common Ground, The Water, Earth, and Air We Share; Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot; Double Team

4th Grade: The Hero Two Doors Down; Thank You, Mr. Falker; Flora & Ulysses

5th Grade: The Survival Guide to Bullying; Drita, My Homegirl; Climate Change

We, as educators, are important members of the learning community. And as we support students, we must also continue to learn ourselves so that we can meet our challenges head-on. The Teacher & Principal School Report revealed that 97% of teachers and 100% of principals want effective, ongoing, relevant professional development. Among the areas in which both principals and teachers want PD are to gain strategies for working with families, provide support for students in crisis and strategies for develop a positive school culture and climate.

This school year, we must remember that our students come to us carrying more than just their books and backpacks. It is up to us engage in active learning as well, so that together we can work to help all children achieve academic success.