Woodall focuses on social, emotional intelligence | News

Woodall Public Schools administrators recognize that social and emotional intelligence are indicators for success in life. So to better promote those traits, Superintendent Ginger Knight and Counselor Kim Kocsis have partnered with CharacterStrong, a company that has developed social and emotional learning curricula.

The company was founded in 2016 by Houston Kraft and John Norlin, and its learning materials have been implemented in about 3,000 schools around the country.

Woodall uses PurposeFull People for elementary school students, pre-K to fifth grade, and CharacterStrong Middle School for its sixth- to eighth-graders. Woodall had money from the CARES Act to invest in student emotional health, and after doing research, Kocsis and Knight decided to invest in CharacterStrong. Students received their first lessons in September.

“Our goal is for me to come into the classes and do CharacterStrong lessons schoolwide once a week. We introduce a new character word each month and that word is our focus throughout the month. Our students earn character cards when they are ‘caught being truthful,’ for example, or ‘caught being kind,’ which is our February word of the month,” said Kocsis.

Kids who receive character cards are recognized during the morning announcements and have their pictures taken with Principal Ray Pinney; those are posted on Facebook. At the end of the month, cards are drawn and kids can receive small prizes.

“Our main goal is to build character traits in our students by giving them a character word focus each month. Through lessons, we have talked about courage, perseverance, respect, honesty, gratitude, and now kindness. We refer back to those character words and use them for conflict resolution, problem-solving, etc.,” said Kocsis.

She said students have enjoyed the lessons, which are interactive and fun.

“CharacterStrong provides us with many activities to use to teach the lessons throughout the month, as well as recommending story books to go along with the lessons. So, there are elements of literacy embedded. We also have learned songs, games, and done art projects to go along with our lessons,” said Kocsis.

The curriculum is helping middle school students at a time when they are susceptible to developing mental disorders, such as depression, eating problems, anxiety, and more. Students who experience food and housing insecurity, poverty, and abuse are more likely to have mental disorders.

“The middle school curriculum is designed to help that age student address things such as goal-setting, emotions, empathy, and leadership. The lessons are designed to last about 30-40 minutes and there is a lot of movement and participation built in it,” said Kocsis.

While some students have thrived in home settings, a larger portion of them perform better in classrooms, and the coronavirus pandemic has affected mental health. Students have had fewer opportunities to develop social skills that will help them throughout their lives.

“With everything students have faced with COVID, some social skills they would have learned and practiced at school have been altered, to a degree. Using the CharacterStrong lessons has helped teach, practice, and refine those skills,” Kocsis said.

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