Facilitating Meaningful Conversations with Learning A-Z’s New Social-Emotional Learning Resource
Learning A-Z, a Cambium Learning Group company, launched its newest solution called Meaningful Conversations, part of Raz-Plus.
While building this new resource, we interviewed hundreds of teachers and kept coming back to one theme: the need for teachers to foster relationships with their students and to build connections. We created Meaningful Conversations to help educators do just that, and purposefully made the product go a step further than reading materials. The materials were created to support age-appropriate classroom conversations. To help foster those conversations, a variety of anchor pieces are provided including reading material (both fiction and non-fiction) and videos. These materials provide rich experiences to help the teacher and students navigate those classroom conversations.
There are ten topic areas (examples include family, friends, bullying, and racism) based on grade bands. To support each topic area, we sought writers and illustrators from different backgrounds to create content that provides different perspectives about the given subject — for instance, what makes a family special. We included robust teacher resources that offer suggestions on how to implement the student resources all centered around an age-appropriate driving question related to the main topic. An SEL guide is provided for teachers along with a teacher and caregiver toolkit with support for how to create more inclusive classrooms and how to implement culturally responsive teaching techniques.
Based on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) research, Meaningful Conversations uses the “windows and mirrors” metaphor, first introduced by Rudine Sims Bishop. This concept illustrates why it is necessary for students to have windows into other people's lives as well as mirrors that reflect their own lived experiences. As mirrors, students should see their stories reflected in educational materials — especially those who come from backgrounds not often portrayed in school materials. Research supports that representation matters. Seeing stories about people who look like you validates a child’s perspective and increases feelings of self-worth and identity.
While it’s important to see oneself reflected in the materials consumed at school, it is equally important to see into other people’s lives. By reading or hearing stories about others (windows), students can understand what it’s like, for example, to be raised in a single-parent family, and to see that their family might not be like everyone else’s family. Windows into other students’ lives allow students to have exposure and therefore develop increased empathy and a deeper understanding and appreciation of others.
Meaningful Conversations enables teachers and students to have discussions that encourage celebrating one another’s differences and help build empathy, understanding and respect for themselves and for others. In the world we’re living in today, that life skill is arguably one of the most important.
I am proud of Learning A-Z for creating this product and not shying away from the difficult conversations because, as the name suggests, those are the most meaningful.