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Teaching SEL-Infused ELA Lessons with the ‘The Shark Caller’

Teaching SEL-Infused ELA Lessons with the ‘The Shark Caller’

By Katie Caprino

I picked up The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell a little little bit in the past at a end by a person of my favored seaside bookstores. There was anything about this novel’s address that drew me in. When I opened it, I was magnetically drawn to the sea, just as Blue Wing, the story’s principal character, was.

Blue Wing lives with shark caller Siringen. Her mothers and fathers were being killed by Xok, a shark that has been the root of her anger for lots of several years. Blue Wing is none far too enthusiastic when Maple (who has also dropped her mother) arrives to city with her father. By way of numerous twists and turns, they arrive to understandings about how to cope with reduction and assist themselves and many others offer with the anger that often accompanies loss.

As a reader and reserve blogger, I certainly cherished this e-book. It was 1 of my preferred middle grades reads in a while. As a literacy professor, even though, my head setting up making connections between Bethell’s The Shark Caller and socio-emotional learning (SEL).

If you want to see fast video clips about SEL, you can enjoy CASEL’s What is Social and Psychological Discovering (SEL)? or the Committee for Children’s Social-Psychological Understanding: What is SEL and Why SEL Matters



In this weblog submit, I supply a few tips for using The Shark Caller to have interaction your middle grades ELA students in SEL.

1. Contemplate the Significance of Naming Feelings.

Inquire learners to generate down a list of as numerous thoughts as they can consider of. Then have them share from their have notes to generate a class checklist of feelings. Up coming invite learners to study Brené Brown’s (2022) 87 Human Thoughts & Ordeals (see PDF on this web site).

Brown’s assortment is complete. Learners could even need to have to glance up the definitions of some of the thoughts detailed! At last have pupils go back again to their course listing and compare – using be aware of what is very similar and unique.

It could be powerful to check with learners irrespective of whether they see connections to this training and The Shark Caller’s people, who are discovering their possess emotions. This could also lead into a discussion around why folks may possibly present emotions other than the kinds they are actually sensation.

In these kinds of an work out, pupils are not only pondering about the characters’ struggles with identifying their accurate emotions, but they are also executing some introspection about their have issues with pinpointing their legitimate thoughts, which could direct to improved self-awareness.

2. Create “Why This Emotion?” Collages and Explore.

I have under no circumstances been pretty as very pleased of a group of middle schoolers as when I questioned my pupils to depict an emotion working with art materials (e.g., construction paper, journal clippings, etc.). And I only gave them 5 minutes!

To do this with The Shark Caller, invite students to select a single of the character’s thoughts to depict in a collage. Then have students share their collages with classmates. Stimulate classmates to inquire Why? to keep discovering characters’ a number of emotions.

For case in point, if a pupil results in a collage to depict anger, a different classmate’s Why? might direct to a realization that the anger comes from unhappiness, which may perhaps be the outcome of guilt and shame, which might prompt added Why? questions. Inspire learners to assist their responses to the Why? concerns with proof from the text.

Possessing students explain their collages to classmates allows them engage in character investigation in a way that infuses social-emotional mastering. In some cases it can be a lot easier to speak about another’s thoughts right before their have.

To make this activity immediately related to students’ emotions, you can have them do the identical but with a person of their emotions. This may possibly be much more proper when you are positive your classroom local community is a harmless and trusting a person for all learners.

3. Evaluate Empathy within just The Shark Caller.

Theresa Wiseman (1996) articulated the defining aspects of empathy: “seeing the planet as some others see it,” “being non-judgemental,” “understanding another’s emotions,” and “communicating the comprehending.” RSA also has a temporary video in which Brown speaks about how these features of empathy distinction with sympathy, which is an critical distinction I figured out much later on in everyday living than when I was in center college.



Obtaining learners generate an infographic that illuminates one particular instance of empathy inside The Shark Caller would assist students realize the text and its figures on a deeper stage and also most likely start out to contemplate moments when they have exhibited empathy.

To connect the novel’s feelings to their possess, learners could then journal about a time when they confirmed empathy or when they could have proven empathy. This kind of insight about the self might support college students when they have interaction with their friends or household members.

There are so a lot of alternatives with SEL-infused literacy classes! Remember to allow me know what you do with The Shark Caller and any other titles!


Your pupils may enjoy this Scrapbook developed by Zillah Bethell that can make connections among The Shark Caller and her very own childhood increasing up in Papua New Guinea. (PDF)


Bethell, Z. (2021). The shark caller. London: ​​Usborne Publishing.

Brown, B. (2022). Atlas of the coronary heart checklist of emotions. Retrieved from https://brenebrown.com/assets/atlas-of-the-heart-record-of-feelings/

Committee for Youngsters. (n.d.). Social-emotional discovering: What is SEL and why SEL issues [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/view?v=ikehX9o1JbI

CASEL. (n.d.). What is social and psychological studying (SEL)? [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/enjoy?v=Y-XNp3h3h4A

RSA. (n.d.). Brené Brown on empathy [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/check out?v=1Evwgu369Jw

Wiseman, T. (1996). A notion examination of empathy, Journal of Superior Nursing, 23, 1162-1167.

Katie Caprino is an Assistant Professor of PK-12 New Literacies at Elizabethtown College. She taught middle and significant university English in Virginia and North Carolina. She retains a BA from the College of Virginia, a MA from the College or university of William and Mary, a MA from Aged Dominion University, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Katie researches and provides on children’s, middle grades, and youthful adult literature the training of composing and incorporating technologies into the literacy classroom. You can follow her on Twitter @KCapLiteracy and go to her e book blog site. Find Katie’s other MiddleWeb posts right here.