Write Your Own Learning Journey
An important Social Emotional Learning (SEL) classroom writing project (or homeschooling writing project!) for all of us. A lesson plan for every teacher, parent, student, and human.
Early in life, every day, and everywhere.
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This SEL lesson plan is a classroom writing project for any group of humans to engage in together. At school, for homeschooling, or wherever you’d like.
Want to create a mindful, calm space? Begin with 2 minutes of deep breathing, or 10 deep breaths. 6 seconds in, 6 seconds out. Another option: 2 minutes of total free writing, where nobody’s pen or pencil leaves the paper for the whole 2 minutes. A great primer for this classroom writing project! 🙂
Through this SEL classroom writing project, we will be better able to: Improve Culture Together, Suspend Judgment, Be Curious & Empathetic, Recognize and Confront Bias, Live Compassionately, Teach with Curiosity, Have Complex Conversations, Reweave Community, Write Creatively and Openly.
Ask an EMPATHY QUESTION to frame the writing project: “What parts of your life do you dream of sharing with the world? What do you wish people knew about you? If you could share your story with the whole world, what would you share?”
You might find it helpful to share something yourself first. Trust the group and share something personal. A few people might raise hands and answer next. Encourage everyone to share openly, and don’t force/push anyone to share more than one is comfortable with. Not everyone is ready to share as openly as others — trust takes time to earn and to build.
Appreciate everyone sharing, and remind everyone that you understand it may take time for everyone to feel comfortable sharing more and more over time. Gratitude for the group always helps! Then show the group a Learning Journey (or two) of your choice. Ask the group to write their questions about the person as they watch, or have them say questions out loud while someone writes the list on a board / group note.
ZOOM OUT TO THE GLOBAL LEVEL: “It sounds like there is a lot we can learn about ___’s story. Who else in the world do we wonder about? How might we better understand people from different homes, countries, cultures, and overall life experiences?”
You might find it helpful to start by sharing cultures or communities you wonder about, and seek to better understand. Your response doesn’t have to be about a place far away; you might even share you wonder about your neighbors — or others in this group! As your students share next, introduce a written story of your choice. You may want to match this story with one of the Learning Journey videos you watched in part one.
Choose green sections that are relevant to your classroom needs and read aloud or in small groups. As you find a section that helps students reflect on their own lives, ask something like: “What have you learned about ___ that you didn’t know before reading this story? Has that changed the way you see this person now? How do you feel about them? Do you feel more distant from them, closer and more connected, or something else?”
GET CREATIVE: Begin a “FREE-WRITE” exercise with the group to help draw out assumptions and ideas. This is key to our classroom writing project mission.
The goal with our Free-Write is to write for 3-5 minutes straight. This is best done on paper, not typing on a screen. “Take no breaks at all. The main goal: Try to never lift the pen/pencil off of the paper as you write. Share everything or anything about yourself that you wish the world (or our group) knew about you, without hesitation and without pausing your writing at all.” Bonus: do the activity with everyone! (After all, learning is for all of us — educators / parents, too!)
After 3-5 minutes, ask if anyone is willing to share their writing. You might also ask if anyone is more curious now (about certain people in their lives or around the world) than they were before today’s session. “Did you become more curious about anyone today? People in our group? People in other communities? The people from our video(s) today? Or maybe even more curious about yourself?!”
If you have time in your session today, you might now do the same free-write style exercise, though with a new focus: “What do we wonder about others that we want to better understand? (You might find it helpful to reference part two of this lesson plan for ideas on how to frame these questions.)
Pose a COLLABORATIVE “LOVE LEARNING” QUESTION:
Here are some ways you might frame this section. “Do we understand people from other communities and cultures well enough? Do we understand ourselves and one another well enough? What can we do to build a greater desire for understanding in our lives and communities? What are ways we can promote empathy and understanding with the people in our lives?”
Discuss as a group, and also feel free to share your own thoughts. Here’s an example: “I’ve had experiences where I felt people didn’t understand me and my perspective. Where people have judged me. And I’ve also had experiences where I’ve done the same — where I didn’t take the time or make the effort to learn about someone before judging them or labeling them. (Insert your example here). Why do we think that happens? What can we do about this? Can practice help us get better? How?”
You might suggest that building empathy isn’t as easy as doing it once and then calling ourselves empathetic. You might share that this is a practice. A lifelong practice. Just like we don’t shoot a basketball or do a dance move just once, empathy is a constant practice we can get better at. And remind everyone: “There’s so much to learn about how we can have an impact through our mindsets and our actions. The conversation doesn’t have to stop here — take it with you to lunch or dinner today. You could even do this same lesson with a new group!”
KEEP LEARNING AND WRITING AT HOME:
This classroom writing project doesn’t have to end in the classroom. Start tracking how many times you judge someone or their actions before seeking understanding. Reflect on moments from class today, and write 5-7 paragraphs (or longer or shorter, depending on your goals) showcasing a persuasive case for why empathy matters, using examples from your own life where empathy could have helped the situation. Include data or research that shows the value of empathy in your short essay.
WRITE A FULL LEARNING JOURNEY TO CONTINUE YOUR CLASSROOM WRITING PROJECT MISSION:
Find a partner in your class or in your family, and schedule times to hold interviews to learn more about the way the person lives life. Then reverse roles and have the person ask questions about your life, family, challenges, and dreams along the way. Draft each other’s stories. Share feedback to help fill in the gaps and to learn about one another. If you’re feeling extra motivated, you can even work to create a video like the ones we watched today in part one. Video project, writing project — whatever you feel!
Diving Deeper :: Classroom Writing & Homeschooling Project Idea Details
This writing project lesson plan is perfect for your classroom or homeschooling writing project adventures. Here’s a bit of background on the research behind the Learning Journeys we create, which may be helpful to learn more about the Learning Journey Writing Project detailed in the lesson plan above!
Better World Ed is informed by Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) data, global competency writing and research, and educational/behavioral psychology research. Most importantly, it is informed by consistent experiences learning from educators and students.
This guides the development and writing of Learning Journeys: videos, stories, and lesson plans that encourage the practice of empathy, understanding, and meaningful learning about new cultures and academic concepts. The goal: help you(th) love learning about self, others, and our world.
Teachers and students feel Learning Journeys are unique because of the use of real, authentic, and captivating storytelling and writing as a hook and learning foundation. A good story can inspire curiosity in all of us, regardless of age. In the classroom, providing real stories from a unique human’s perspective helps students make deeper connections with what they are learning. Classroom learning and class writing projects can then come to life.
Through wordless videos that share a glimpse of someone else’s world, students tap into and further develop their curiosity — a skill proven to ignite a sense of lifelong learning and to increase academic achievement. Removing the context and prescribed narrative from a video gives students room to use their imagination, another essential life skill, to understand the narrative based on what they see.
Pairing the wordless videos with standards-aligned lesson plans, students and teachers dive into real-world applications of problem-solving and critical thinking. Students have the opportunity to actively explore new regions of our world, and to engage in dynamic learning experiences that increase empathy, curiosity, and problem-solving. In this lesson plan project, we do that through writing.
Better World Ed classroom content can be used to teach a variety of topics like math, science, social studies, literacy, and writing all while building social emotional learning competencies to help students learn to love self, others, and our world.
Better World Ed’s Social Emotional Learning curriculum is designed to be adaptive across learning environments. Our Learning Journeys can be used in school, in virtual learning environments, for homeschooling, at home with family, and as professional development for educators. For math learning. For writing projects. This is for anyone eager to learn about self, others, and our world in a deeper way.
We are here to support educators, parents, students, and schools with lesson plans, resources, tips, guides, writing projects, and more to support our global videos and written narratives. We want to be as helpful as possible in making Global SEL possible early in life, every day, and everywhere.