Emotional Literacy - August 2020 Professional Development

Monday August 31, 2020

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What is emotional literacy? Emotional literacy, "the ability to recognize, understand, handle, and appropriately express emotion"[1],is a key developmental trait needed to improve motivation and cognitive achievement. It is a foundational capacity for developing empathy. Another term for it is Emotional Intelligence.

Understanding emotions in ourselves allows us to identify and understand those same emotions in others--this is at the core of empathy. Our empathetic capacities are a direct correlation of our emotional literacy. While emotions are a natural human experience, emotional literacy is the skill to identify and comprehend those emotions in the world around us. It is a skill that must be nurtured and leads to self-awareness, empathetic thinking and social responsibility.[2]

Why is it important to develop emotional literacy?  Having the ability to understand the emotions in ourselves allows us to understand them in others, this is at the core of empathy; emotional literacy builds empathetic capacities. It broadens the ability to self-regulate emotions and to respond to what others are feeling in an appropriate manner. Developing this literacy in students allows them to more clearly see and care for each other's humanity. It promotes equity and stands against discrimination. Developing these skills in students can also develop their decision-making capacities and improve their academic success.

How does testimony and IWitness develop emotional literacy? Through the transformative power of story and through engagement with different points of view, students have access to worlds and experiences outside of their frame of reference. Yet, recognizing familiar emotions connects them via the human experience and cultivates empathy.

Intrinsic in all testimony are emotional reactions: some are subtle and contained and while others are more easily detectable. Viewers can detect them in the words, facial expressions, body language, and voice intonation. These expressions are framed by the details of the stories survivors and witnesses share and the historical context of their experiences.  Testimony-based resources explicitly and implicitly fosters students' emotional literacy through observational guidelines, interpretive questions and reflective projects. 


Webinar: Mindful Explorations on IWitness 
Available On-Demand!

Mindful Explorations, our newest testimony-based mini lessons, are brief, powerful lesson plans that promote social-emotional skills and capacities as they challenge students to reflect on the obstacles they may face, the goals they have for themselves and the relationships they aspire to have in their lives. Testimony calls to our shared humanity. These life histories forge personal, relatable connections with students through stories of everyday experiences--attending school, encountering propaganda--as well as through more extreme narratives--being displaced, losing a loved one.  Developing students' social emotional aptitudes is crucial for the formation of their identity, the fostering of their success, and preparing them to be stronger than hate.   

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IWitness Activities to Develop Emotional Literacy: 

[1] Sharp, Peter. Nurturing Emotional Literacy: A Practical Guide for Teachers, Parents and Those in the Caring Professions. Routledge, 2014, Google Books, Web.

[2] Craig, Heather. "The Theories of EmotionalIntelligence Explained." PositivePsychology.com, 29 Apr. 2020,positivepsychology.com/emotional-intelligence-theories/.


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