8 practical ways to incorporate a Social/Moral/Spiritual/Cultural element into any lesson.
Developing team spirit, communication and compassionate behaviour in our learners is a must, so in this Practical Tips Gift, you’ll find easy ways to make Social/Moral/Spiritual/Cultural understanding a part of lessons across the curriculum. When it comes to that all-important SMSC element of lessons, my motto is:
“Don’t bolt it on badly, soak it in seamlessly!”
1. Structuring Teamwork
When we ask learners to work together, we often just say something like: ‘I’d like you to work in pairs to do this and I’ll come round and help you . . .,’ Instead of this vague guidance, give the pupils specific instructions about how they should work together. For example:
“I will be looking for people who are really listening to one another and taking each other’s ideas into account. If you don’t agree with something, be brave enough to explain why. If your partner is not contributing very much to the discussion, try to draw them into the conversation by asking them questions in a polite, friendly way”.
A Discussion Frame would be ideal here. This could be anything, from a simple list of points to consider, to precise instructions as to how the discussion should be conducted, or even a series of sentence starters to really structure the pupils’ talk. You may also wish to model the techniques necessary for a successful group or pair discussion. You could take a volunteer for this and then demonstrate to the class how to initiate a discussion, and explore ideas in a productive way. You might also include examples of how NOT to behave – for example by blocking a suggestion, missing opportunities to build on ideas or monopolizing the conversation. Pupils can then be invited to comment on the techniques you used and decide what moved the talk forwards and what did not.
2. Encourage personal opinion and/or empathetic response
Plan an activity that requires pupils to formulate an opinion on a meaningful topic. These opportunities equip learners with the experience they need to avoid becoming ‘Don’t-Know,-Don’t-Care’ anti-social blobs.
Ask learners to imagine how somebody else might feel or have felt. For example, a historical figure, a fictional character, someone from a different culture or country, etc., etc. The exercise could be an oral one, or it might form part of a written exercise – the old “writing a diary entry” trick, for example.
By doing this, you are giving your learners an opportunity to exercise a very important life skill: the ability to put themselves in another’s shoes.
3. Charity Work
Of course one of the best ways to develop Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural understanding across every age group is to encourage learners at your school to partake in charity events and fundraising.
Please visit my charity’s Projects Page to see how you could get your school involved in helping us. Reach Out 2 Schools works with the amazing Lincs2Nepal to change the lives and futures of children in impoverished communities, where a decent education is their only hope. You can find loads of fun ideas here for how to let your school help make a difference to children who are growing up in poverty and if your school would like to get involved and help us, I would be absolutely delighted to hear from you! (You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org )
4. Lessons in life
We know that one of the most effective ways to engage a learner’s interest is to draw a link between what they are learning and their own interests and popular culture. The growing trend in reality TV has sent a Mexican wave of interesting lessons through schools everywhere. The issues and controversy which always form such an integral part of these programmes conveniently seem to provide reference material for a plethora of topics covered by the curriculum. In relating the lesson’s content to concepts within the learners’ own frame of reference, you are highlighting the link between what they are learning and their lives outside the classroom. This concept is at the heart of the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural element of a lesson. We often, albeit unwillingly, make it far too easy for learners to view what they learn in lessons as being useful only for passing exams.
This sounds like an odd one, but plagiarism has implications for every subject and there are always opportunities for illicit copying, either from each other or those infuriating websites with names like ‘instanthomeworknow.com’. You can also draw clear links between this and other theft-related issues such as illegal downloading of music and films from the internet and shoplifting. Initiating this crucial discussion about the moral implications of plagiarism in the task you are setting is an obvious way to reinforce the importance of doing what is “right” – not what is “easiest”.
6. Back to the Future
As part of their SMSC development, learners need to have a well-informed understanding of the options and challenges facing them as they move through the school and on to the next stage of their education and training. Actually, there is a very simple way to attend to this requirement in your lesson: draw clear links in your lesson between the qualifications the pupils are preparing for and the jobs that these will open up for them. You could refer to the likely attitudes of potential employers in a casual way or even draw the learners’ attention to a classroom display, poster or list of the jobs that require a level of competency in your subject.
7. Family homework
Setting homework which requires a pupil to converse in a meaningful way with a member of their family obviously serves to enhance their social development, particularly if traditionally they do little more than grunt ‘nothing much’ in response to the ubiquitous ‘What did you do at school today?’ question, before sitting down in front of a computer game for 4 solid hours. Tasks like ‘Get a parent or carer to test you’ may allow the less diligent parents to escape their duties too easily. Instead, ask pupils to interview their parents about a relevant topic and record the parent’s responses. Alternatively, ask your learners to teach what they have learnt to a parent or carer and, using an evaluation sheet provided by you, have the parents feedback to you how well they understand what they were taught.
8. Encourage Peer Support, Respect and tolerance for others
Assign a supportive peer to each learner, who can offer assistance and ideas during pair or group activities. This is something that will be commonplace for you anyway, as it simply involves instructing pupils who they should work with. In this way we are teaching pupils to draw support from one another, to turn to one another for help and advice and to be readily available to assist others in need.
Have fun turning those little darlings in your class into sociable, cultured, moral, spiritual beings!