The purpose of this concept project is to identify the relationship between a lack of social, emotional and literary skills and student achievement in poor economic neighborhoods, and to develop a strategy for fostering these skills in the classroom so that student achievement can improve. According to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development,
While coming from a low socio-economic background is not necessarily predictive of success or failure for individual students, the achievement levels for this sub-group as a whole within our schools are cause for great concern. These factors indicate that schools with students from low socio-economic backgrounds require additional support to achieve the same outcomes for them as for other groups of students. (2010)
Students’ social, emotional and literacy skills are directly linked to academic performance and achievement, and that is where we must focus additional support for students in poor economic areas.
As the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s research shows, “socio-economic disadvantage is generally associated with factors such as low-quality living environments, mobility, family unemployment or underemployment, lack of access to resources that stimulate learning such as books and pre-school programs, poor health and social discrimination”. (2010) These factors result in a lack of social, emotional and literacy skills because they deprive students of conducive environments that foster emotional and social development and deprive students of quality educational resources as well. When a student is lacking the opportunity to meaningfully and accurately explore her intelligence, express herself and develop her skills through relevant schoolwork in a collaborative group environment, her performance will suffer and achievement will be difficult to reach. But when teachers are able to teach basic literacy skills through activities that foster social-emotional skills at the same time, student achievement in poor economic areas improves. As noted by the International Academy of Education, “Research shows that social-emotional skills can be taught to students and that their presence in classrooms and schools improves academic learning.” (p. 3)
Social-emotional skills are “the set of abilities that allows students to work with others, learn effectively, and serve essential roles in their families, communities and places of work” (International Academy of Education, p.3) In order to offer students from poor economic backgrounds additional support in social and emotional skills while focusing on literary skills, teachers will need to provide group activities that actively engage students in learning in a way that is relevant and meaningful to their lives. A good lesson on recycling in the poor economic classroom, for example, would actively, socially and meaningfully engage students in learning if the activity involved taking the students on a walk around the block to observe the effects of recyclable litter and organizing a mock “clean-up” whereby students would have to sort and recycle similar materials accordingly. By providing active, group-oriented activities such as this, teachers can foster students’ social, emotional and literacy skills which will, in turn, improve student achievement and success.