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Can social-emotional skills be strengthened at the same time as literacy skills?
Educators assert that social-emotional development is a necessary precursor to academic success in all content areas. Literacy skills form the foundation for nearly all other academic knowledge and skills—students read to learn, whether they read books or screens. Zaner-Bloser’s Voices Literature & Writing (VL&W) integrates social-emotional learning (SEL) into supplemental literacy instruction focusing on deep comprehension and oral language skills. How well does this pairing work in VL&W?
During the 2012–2013 school year, more than 1,700 K–6 students participated in an evaluation of the Voices Literature & Writing program. Four schools took part in the quasi-experimental study: two elementary schools in each of two school districts were randomly assigned to either receive the Voices Literature & Writing curriculum (treatment group) or use their existing literacy and social-emotional learning materials (comparison group). All four schools had roughly equivalent class sizes, and their students were similar in other characteristics.
Students in all four schools were assessed at the beginning and at the end of the school year for literacy skills and social-emotional development. In addition, the 88 teachers taking part in the evaluation completed a survey at the beginning of the school year that asked about their schools and their teaching experience. Teachers generally had similar education levels and classroom experience in all four schools. During the school year, teachers completed monthly activity logs and, at the end of the year, answered survey questions about their experiences with Voices Literature & Writing or their existing materials.
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