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Experts Find Emotional Learning Benefits Students

Experts Find Emotional Learning Benefits Students in the Long Run

Educators are finding that teaching their students about emotions can help them out in the long run.

One teacher, Thomas O'Donnell at Matthew Henson Elementary School in Baltimore, uses a program called PATHS where he teaches students about emotions. In order to reach them emotionally, he uses a character named Twiggle the anthropomorphic turtle, according to an article on NPR.org.

"Who can tell me why Twiggle here is sad," O'Donnell asked his class.

"Because he doesn't have no friends," a student said in the article.

"And how do people look when they're sad?" O'Donnell asked.

"They look down!" the whole class screams out, said the article.

Twiggle, the article said, "is lonely, but, eventually, he befriends a hedgehog, a duck and a dog. And along the way, he learns how to play, help and share."

"We previously reported on a national study comparing PATHS and other, similar programs showing positive effects in preschool," NPR said. "They are based on research showing that kids who act up a lot in school and at home — even very young kids — are more likely to have mental health problems and commit crimes years later as adults."

According to the article Kenneth Dodge, a psychologist at Duke University, asked, "Could we do something about that to prevent those problems from actually occurring?"

Dodge has "dedicated his career to answering that question."

"He and his colleagues launched the FastTrack Project to see if they could change students' life trajectory by teaching them what researchers like to call social-emotional intelligence," the article said. "Back in 1991, they screened 5-year-olds at schools around the country for behavior problems. After interviewing teachers and parents, the researchers identified 900 children who seemed to be most at risk for developing problems later on."

Half of the kids "went through school as usual — though they had access to free counseling or tutoring," the article said. "The rest got PATHS lessons, as well as counseling and tutoring, and their parents received training as well — all the way up until the students graduated from high school."

"By age 25, those who were enrolled in the special program not only had done better in school, but they also had lower rates of arrests and fewer mental health and substance abuse issues," said the article. "The results of this decades-long study were published in September in the American Journal of Psychiatry."

Dodge said the findings prove "in the same way that we can teach reading literacy, we can teach social and emotional literacy."

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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