User Spotlight: Dr. Julie Bassi

At SiLAS, we know how talented and passionate our users are. That is why we wanted to start a new feature where we spotlight these educators and how they’re using SiLAS to improve student learning!

Our first user spotlight is Dr. Julie Bassi. Dr. Bassi is the school Psychologist at Bow Elementary School in Bow, New Hampshire. Among the many hats she wears, Dr. Bassi is responsible for teaching guidance classes. There she teaches her students how to have conversations with each other, even when they seem not to be getting along that well.

Here are 6 questions with Dr. Bassi:

What were your first thoughts after seeing SiLAS?
I thought my students would love it. I thought my students would have a blast playing around with it, and I thought that it would be a great new medium to practice teaching kids how to listen to each other and speak to each other in meaningful ways.

What are your goals for your students growth? How does SiLAS help?
I would like all my students to practice letting other people know how they feel about issues, and practice listening to what other people have to say. SILAS helps by setting up a medium where kids can practice having conversations in ways that are not immediately entrenched in their feelings, but they can rehearse events and situations that may have happened in the past and may happen again in the future, and they can become better listeners and more compassionate toward one another – promoting learning and growth in all areas.

What do your students think about SiLAS?
I think they enjoy the process approach to learning about communicating, with a finished product at the end to showcase their work. I think they get a kick out of hearing their own voices, though they often report that “it doesn’t sound like me!” I think they like playing with the game controller, but in a way that facilitates learning with a clear purpose of learning to work together to solve problems.

What is your favorite SiLAS story?
We created a social animation where two girls are fighting in art class, and one student drew on the other student’s art project, and she says, “I’m so mad at you; it was my perfectest picture ever!” I didn’t know that we could go beyond perfect, but I guess we can! I also got a kick out of working with two fourth grade boys who mastered the “eye rolling” when they didn’t like what the other character had to say.  I also laugh when they try to walk off the set and sometimes ram into each other.

What do you think other teachers should know about SiLAS?
Not only are we practicing SEL, kids are also practicing reading fluency, writing fluency, and pulling off a lot at once when they bring their social scripts to life. There is a collaboration in place when kids work together to record their pieces, and academic instruction is a big part of the mix.

Whats next for you and your students?
We are taking a bunch of videos and showcasing them for an “Ignite the Night” parent night. Basically, we will invite kids and parents to a 45 minute showcase, giving the kids an opportunity to show their “film” and to answer questions (in a public microphone setting) about the experience of writing the scripts, thinking about topics that tend to invite controversy, and working through those issues in constructive ways with SILAS characters. We call the practice “guidance gig,” but essentially it’s a way that we can teach kids to let others know how they feel and why, and we teach them that when other kids share feelings like that, it’s their job to listen, repeat back to clarify, and make amends if needed. Also, there’s always a plan for next time. SILAS can help us teach and reinforce this practice.

Congratulations to Dr. Blassi for being our first SiLAS Spotlight! She and her students are so impressive. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

Stay tuned!

SiLAS Animation Contest Winners

Last month we announced that we would be hosting our first ever social animation contest! This month we are happy to announce the winners!

We had so many outstanding submissions! Below are the Top 5 Winners for overall animations. 

Top 5 Social Animations

Carrie Neil’s Class, Huntington, IN.

Lauren Timmins Class, Parsippany-Troy Hills, NJ

Emily Simmonds Class – Bright Beginnings Secondary, NJ.

Terese Manalansan Class – Center for Lifelong Learning, NJ

Ettie Luban – Bright Beginnings Primary, NJ

Real-life Application

At SiLAS we are always focused on carryover. We want the skills that students practice and learn in the game to transfer over to the real world. One submission had such amazing real-life application, we decided to make that animation a winner too. Here’s what the teacher, Heather Hipple, had to say about this video:

“My students have been talking about conflict resolution for several weeks. The individual who made this video has been struggling. One day a few weeks ago, I took a group of eighth-graders out into the community to perform community service. This individual went with me. There were some boys on that trip that were very mean and rude to my student. But, my student handled it like a champ! This was the first time in a long time that he acted appropriately in a difficult situation. I saw the whole thing. Later that week, we were working on SiLAS scripts for appropriate conflict resolution. He asked if he could reenact that day at the park when he handled the other  appropriately. (He even showed himself choosing to walk away and not engage in a fight in the video). Of course I thought that was an awesome idea! He was so proud of himself that day and gets to experience that pride again and again when he shows his classmates this video. It was awesome!”

Here’s the amazing video:

Heather Hipple Class – Huntington, IN.

Congrats to all those who submitted!

4 Ways SiLAS Improves Social and Emotional Learning Carryover

We created SiLAS with one goal in mind: we wanted to create a program that would allow users to transfer social skills learned in SiLAS into real life. As teachers, we have witnessed the difficulties students have incorporating Social/Emotional skills, which are learned from structured lessons, into their own personal repertoire. Our team members have all used pencil and paper social skill programs at one time or another in our career. When we were in the classroom, we’ve even used our competitors programs, which encouraged our students to sit alone while watching animated stories and answer questions about what the characters should do next. In each scenario, we were disappointed by the lack of interest and carryover that students had exhibited in the programs. To get the carryover we wanted from our students, we knew we would have to try something different. Here are the four ways SiLAS was built from the ground up to improve SEL carryover:

Motivation: Making SiLAS an avatar-based video game that uses Xbox controllers is an important part of our program. When students see the characters and the controllers, they are much more motivated to give our program a try. Using avatars has also been show to make students more likely to try a program like SiLAS. The fun and excitement SiLAS brings to the classroom encourages students to practice, revise, and following with their social animations which all effect carryover.

Multiplayer: As we mentioned, other social skills program are anything but social. They often have students working alone. We wanted to make sure the SiLAS was a multiplayer experience from start to finish. From making social scripts to creating animations, students who use SiLAS are always working together. Teachers have had great success paring their students with themselves, peers, and general education classmates. Since SiLAS can be used with a diverse group, it presents plenty of opportunity for special learners to gain the experience and practice they need to carry over their skills into the real world.

The Role Playing Feedback Loop: SiLAS is effective because of its script writing and role playing feedback loop. Similar to a star athlete watching game film, students can create animations and then view them immediately at which time those students receive feedback on their performance. SiLAS provides teachers and students with the opportunity to create exciting videos in which those students role play various scenarios replicating real life social issues. The videos can be viewed repeatedly which provides the students with feedback on the social movies they have created using the avatars. After role playing on SiLAS students will be prepared when the same situations occur in real time. Our users report using SiLAS to role play unfamiliar social and emotional skills that cause stress such as asking to sit with someone at lunch or asking to be part of the basketball game at recess in the game before the real world event has been reported to be helpful for their students.

Custom Rubrics: We have custom made our rubrics to provide clarity about what is expected from each student who uses SiLAS. Our rubrics are a scoring tool that can be used to assess students skill level on his/her video performance. These scores can be compiled both prior to teaching the lessons and making the videos as well as after the lessons are completed and the students make a video. The rubric can also be used as a measurement of carryover as the same rubric that can be used in SiLAS can be used in the real world to assess the same social skills growth.

As we continue to develop SiLAS it is and always will be with goal of making the lessons students learn in SiLAS applicable to the experiences the students will have in their own lives.