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  • 04 Apr 2018 8:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It is an easy thing to say “Social Thinking is incorporated into all aspects of the Learning Prep day” but what does that really look like?

    Social Thinking is a concept developed by Michelle Garcia Winner. She recognized that for some people it is hard, if not impossible, to pick up on the “unwritten social rules of society” just by watching. She knew that for some people these skills needed to be explicitly taught and this teaching should not occur in isolation but should be everywhere. That is why in 2012 LPS took on the mission of training every staff member in Social Thinking. Michelle Garcia Winner believes that there is a social component to every aspect of a student’s academic day and the best way to target these skill deficits is in the moment.

    Social Thinking shows up in all sorts of ways at LPS. While all students are learning the “why” behind the social behaviors we are trying to coach, the manner in which we teach to the different grade levels shows up in different ways and is tailored to their developmental level. All students are learning that there are behaviors/actions that are “expected” and “unexpected” and that people around us have thoughts about what we do and how we act. Some examples of everyday activities where Social Thinking skills come into play at LPS are:

    • Basic ready-learner classroom skills involve listening with your eyes, ears, brain, body and heart.
    • In Reading Comprehension class character and plot predictions require you to “think about how someone else might be feeling” or put yourself in their shoes.
    • Bake sales provide wonderful social thinking opportunities to practice being aware of how much time one typically should take when standing in front of several long tables of wonderful treats trying to make your selections (making swift selections is not an easy task.) Making eye contact with your server when you have made your choice is a signal that you are ready to order. Additionally, students practice money management skills and need to manage asking how much they owe, paying for their treats and knowing when they need to wait for change.
    • Fun days such as “Silly Sting your Principal push the students to the limit of flexible thinking to help all the students understand that while this might be a situation where someone might be mad (if you surprised them by silly stinging them in the face) this is not one of those times as we agreed to do it, it was for a good cause, and we were not going to be mad. Teaching the concepts of good-natured fun is a challenge as the definition changes depending on the situation and the age.
    • Fun Days such as PJ day, hat day, Red Sox Opening Day, crazy hair day, etc. help our students develop more flexible thinking, as well as challenge their social thinking skills. “Is it expected that I would wear this today?” “Yes, because that is the plan but it would not be expected to go to work or a meeting on a different day dressed this way.”
    • In all classes we may ask students to “make a smart guess” when we want to encourage them to take a chance and use the information they know to answer question.
    • In the cafeteria, where all tasks are unstructured, we ask students to think socially the entire time - finding a seat - seeing that someone has their backpack on a seat to save it, turning their body towards another student, so the other person knows you are interested and using the “social fake” when you are not interested!
    • Being a “Social Detective”, as Michelle Garcia Winner calls it - “reading the room” - having students figure out what is expected of them by looking at what other people in the room are doing and then doing the same.
    • We make “smart” and “wacky” guesses all day long, because MOST social situations don’t have written rules to follow - we need to try and understand another person’s perspective in order to interact with them and have them have good feelings about being around us. It is NOT good enough to simply memorize social rules and follow them - we need to understand WHY we are acting a certain way in one social situation and why we are doing something different in the same situation - for example it is “expected” to wear a swimsuit at the beach, but very “unexpected” to show up in school in a swimsuit.
    • We ask students to use their Social Thinking skills in classes to monitor their talk time, “read the room” and know when it is time to get to work, or hold their “bubble thoughts” when others are talking.

    The fact that Social Thinking is addressed by every staff member creates many opportunities for students to learn as they go in a non-judgmental manner. Having the common language Michelle Garcia Winner provides with Social Thinking allows students to learn these skills throughout their day in every class and with every staff and student. This learning/teaching carries over into the less structured parts of their day which is where we see the greatest need for support. Simply teaching social skills is not effective. We need to prepare our students for life, just as our motto says. We need to teach students to THINK socially in order to have positive interactions with others. That’s what we do, all day long!

  • 21 Mar 2018 11:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I want to share with everyone what highly effective schools do to advance character education and why it all matters! Walter Lippman, an American writer said that good character and ethical behavior are not transmitted through our genes rather we have to work at it. William James, an American philosopher contributed to this idea by telling us that we are who we are as a result of habits that we cultivate during the course of our life, particularly during our formative years.

    The integration across school’s educational program of the core ethical values, including but not limited to respect, responsibility, honor, compassion, courage and empathy, is essential to the development of everyone that is part of the learning community (students, staff, parents). Our most important responsibility is to do all that we can to enable each child to be a person of great integrity and to understand that we all have an obligation to contribute to the common good.

    Core ethical values are widely shared, pivotally important beliefs that form the basis of good character. They meet the tests of reversibility (Would you want to be treated this way?) and universality (Would you want all persons to act this way in a similar situation?) Core values tend to be interpersonal in nature (How we act with and towards others) rather than personal (Relating to individual issues).

    Core ethical values may be defined as the basic principles, characteristics, and ideals that we use to make decisions and judgments in our lives. Many people will add to this definition stating that they are unchanging, essential tenets by which all of us are obliged to live.

    Core ethical values should deal with issues of right and wrong, and they are a matter of obligation. They do not relate to issues of personal preference, taste, or opinion.

    Core ethical values affirm our human dignity, help us to maintain our rights and the rights of others, and nurture the character development of young people. They are educationally significant because they may advance student academic achievement and prepare them to be good citizens, productive workers, and ethical human beings. Core ethical values not only define who we are, they exemplify our character traits.

    Character traits are the inner qualities of an individual that are exemplified in behaviors or incline the will to choose right over wrong. Character traits are the basic features of who we are, on our own, in relationship with others, and through our relationships with others within our community, the nation, and the world. In essence, they enable us to do the right thing even when no one is watching. If our personal reputation is the most important thing we have, and I believe that it is, and if we want to be judged by the content of our character, and I believe that we do, then taking seriously our responsibility to assist young people to both model and to become stewards of good citizenship must be our highest priority.

    The goal of highly effective schools is to make core ethical values an integral part of the school experience: this includes modeling ethical behavior, open dialogue about ideas and issues that have ethical significance, relationship building based on relational trust, and celebrating the school’s core ethical values, guiding principles, and shared standards of ethical conduct. This work is, of course, nuanced to the age, grade, and comprehension level of the students

    I encourage you and your family and you and your colleagues to engage in the following exercise.

    Make a list of the values you believe are most important to your life.

    • What do these values mean to you?
    • What characteristics do these values have in common?
    • Are they the same values that you would like to be taught in schools? Why or why not?
    • Why do you believe that it is important to teach core ethical values in school?

    LPS is dedicated to helping each member of the school community to be a person of integrity and to contribute in significant and timely ways to the common good. It is to that end we focus on both the cognitive and the affective development of our students. This mission is most effectively achieved when the school and the parents work as partners in the education.

  • 06 Mar 2018 8:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In 2002, Learning Prep School began implementing a new system of visual tools into our elementary through high school curricula. These tools, called Thinking Maps, are an exciting way to teach students to think on their own and process information independently. They were developed by Dr. David Hyerle in 1988 and are based on the fundamental thinking processes. Every person analyzes information in eight different ways: defining, describing, comparing/contrasting, classifying, breaking down into parts, sequencing, examining cause/effect, and establishing relationships between things. Thinking Maps are visual tools for understanding and mastering these eight thinking processes in a way that is clearly defined and common to teachers and students alike.

    After students become fluent in Thinking Maps, they are able to apply multiple thinking skills to problem-solve and develop higher-level, abstract thinking. By implementing this program school-wide across the curricula, students learn more effectively and efficiently, thus enabling learning objectives to be covered in less time and with greater retention. In addition to promoting integrated thinking and interdisciplinary learning, Thinking Maps are utilized by teachers to assess student progress, gauge student knowledge, track student performance, and even assess their own lessons as they discover what students have learned from class.

    These amazing tools comprise a visual language that works in every grade, in every subject, and at any level of academic activity. Students are able to organize and see their own thinking; teachers can then use the completed maps to observe the students’ thinking processes.

    Thinking Maps have been used at Learning Prep consistently since September 2002, and the results have been notable. Benefits that have become apparent throughout our school include:

    • Students and teachers share a common language that improves communication and facilitates the learning process.
    • Students are developing a higher level of thinking (application and evaluation) while working on recall and comprehension skills.
    • Many students’ attitudes have become more positive toward learning.
    • Most students have demonstrated improvement in their ability to organize thoughts.
    • The quality of learning has been taken to a higher level, as activities have become more meaningful and relevant.
    • Many students demonstrate a greater retention of knowledge.
    • Improved quality and increased quantity of writing has been observed by teachers.
    • Teachers who have used Thinking Maps to plan lessons and develop curriculum have noted improved organization and focus.

    As students continue to internalize the thinking processes taught within the context of the maps, additional benefits become increasingly evident. We greatly anticipate watching our students grow as they become more fluent with these effective visual tools. Learning Prep School is pleased to be on the forefront of this innovative educational trend.

    For more information on Thinking Maps:

    Books about Thinking Maps:

    • Visual Tools for Transforming Information into Knowledge by David Hyerle (the capstone chapter is written by Cynthia Manning and features Learning Prep School)
    • A Field Guide to Using Visual Tools by David Hyerle
    • Visual Tools for Constructing Knowledge by David Hyerle
    • Student Successes with Thinking Maps: School-based Research, Results, and Models for Achievement using Visual Tools by David Hyerle
    • Visual Tools: From Graphic Organizers to Thinking Maps by David Hyerle

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Learning Prep School provides an individualized language-based program to students with complex learning profiles, including dyslexia, expressive/receptive language issues, autism spectrum disorder, and social communication disorder.

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