How to Increase Social Engagement At Your School

Students of Nan Hua High School gathering in t...

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As I continue to understand the work of  J. DOUGLAS WILLMS, SHARON FRIESEN, AND PENNY MILTON in their 2009 report What Did You Do in School Today? I am understanding more specifically the notion of Social Engagement.  For quite some time now, when we talked about engagement, we were all referring to academic or intellectual engagement.  Social Engagement; defined as “meaningful participation in the life of the school” in a lot of ways is the first requirement needed to influence the success of academic and intellectual engagement.

The outcomes of social engagement defined as having: “Friendships, social networks, sense of belonging, self-confidence, and often enjoyment of school'” I believe are the key factors, the initial purposes and our first point of school.  It’s always interesting that we mostly know “what” to do in schools.  The trick is to know how!  How do we support students in developing friendships, building social networks, developing a sense of belonging, developing self-confidence and enjoying school?  Great questions!

I think we have been working quite specifically and purposefully on the outcomes of Social engagement.  We participate in the Alberta Government Accountability Pillar to measure our growth and success.  I will probably forget a few things here, but here are some of the things we do:

  • Self-confidence:  set goals, work on them and review them.  Differentiation to support all students in being successful.  Understand learner profiles to properly support.  Develop report card comments that are strength based, rather than deficit based.  Use restitution, rather than punishment, whenever possible.
  • Friendships and social networks: keep some friends together in classes, encourage a variety of learning opportunities including small group and partner time, specific friendship groups/clubs focussed on social skills development during class time and at lunch, 27 minute unstructured play time at lunch, cross-grade activities in the school, buddy classes, “fun” noon-time clubs.
  • Sense of Belonging: monthly school assemblies, school tee-shirts, clubs, teams, student helpers, classroom meetings (morning meetings), Touchstone for specific students, culturally diverse celebrations and learning.
  • Enjoyment of school: know your student!  Have fun!  School wide activities such as pajama day, sports day, assemblies, new initiatives such as drum fit, recognition of personal successes.

Perhaps if I think longer, I could add to the list.  But, more importantly, what can you add to the list?

For more on the complete What Did You Do In School Today report by the Canadian Education Association click here


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  1. Caron McBride

     /  January 17, 2012

    Our school looks at incorporation of field trips which increase student engagement by not only focussing on program of study curriculum objectives but provide hands on learning opportunities. Taking the classroom into the City of Calgary shows students current areas of focus that are relevant to Calgarians and Albertans.

  2. Is it fine to place part of this on my web site if perhaps I publish a reference point to this web page?

    • Lori Cullen

       /  June 3, 2012

      Hi, thanks for visiting my blog and for asking about sharing my writing 🙂 I really appreciate it! I am absolutely fine if you share what I have written as long as, like you suggested, you give reference back to the original blogpost. Let me know the website after you publish, I am interested to see what you are doing!

  1. Increasing Student Learning » At the Principal's Office
  2. Be A Pro-Active Principal With Student Behaviours » At the Principal's Office

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