Social emotional learning (SEL) helps students understand their thoughts and emotions and how to express and feel these emotions. While SEL can increase self-awareness, it can also help individuals show more empathy toward others because they’re better able to understand what another individual may be feeling. Social emotional learning can help to improve a student’s attitude toward school and other individuals. It can also lead to reduced depression and stress, which can ultimately increase self-esteem and boost performance in school.
In our diverse world, it’s becoming increasingly important to incorporate SEL into the curriculum. The good news for educators is that social emotional learning does not need to be a single designated subject like math or science. Teachers can leverage SEL strategies to promote learning in everyday classroom activities. Here are some ways teachers can connect with students and incorporate SEL in the classroom in a remote and in-person environment.
How to Incorporate SEL in the Classroom
There are many simple, creative ways to encourage social emotional learning in the classroom. While some lessons and subjects may lend themselves better to this type of learning than others, try some of these activities with your students to see which ones they respond to best.
Emotional Check-In for Students
Start or end the school day with an SEL check-in. Ask each student how he or she feels. Visual aids that depict various emotions may help younger kids articulate their feelings. Make sure to follow up with any students who express negative emotions like anger, frustration, or sadness.
It’s important to gauge each student’s comfort level during these check-ins. If it seems certain students are reluctant to share, you may want to have one-on-one check-ins throughout the day instead doing this in a group setting.
Incorporate SEL Into Story Time
Whether you’re reading aloud to the class or your students read on their own, you can turn story time into a lesson in SEL. Ask the students to describe what happened to the protagonist or another character and how they think this character feels based on their circumstances. You can also delve a little deeper and ask students to put themselves in the character’s shoes and think about how they would feel in a similar situation.
As an added bonus, you’ll be able to make sure the students are able to comprehend what they’re reading.
SEL Journal Prompts
Give your students time to write in their journals. You can mix up the routine by designating some journal time for free writing and using prompts or guided topics during other writing sessions. Try to use thought-provoking prompts like “describe how you’re feeling today,” or “write about a time you felt scared/brave/happy/loved.” The options are endless, the goal is to encourage your students to engage in self-reflection and articulate their feelings in writing.
Need some more ideas? Try these journal prompts for kids.
Some kids may not love journaling. Self-reflection through art is another fantastic way to help students understand their feelings and express them in creative ways. Ask your class to draw or paint their feelings or tell a story through a picture they’ve drawn.
Social Emotional Learning Strategies While Teaching at a Distance
Many of the activities mentioned above can be adapted for remote learning, but we also want to equip you with some specific SEL strategies you can use with students who are home schooled or who may be completing classes online or via Zoom. Here are some ways to connect with students while teaching at a distance.
Schedule Virtual Check-Ins
With social distancing, it’s more imperative than ever to check in regularly with your students. Whether it’s touching base on how they’re feeling emotionally or getting a gauge on how they’re adapting to their new learning environment, try to schedule recurring time to connect with your students.
You may also want to set aside some time to connect with parents who can provide some insight into how their child is doing with stay-at-home measures and remote learning.
Apps, Games, and Websites
Take advantage of technology and have your students use these apps to practice social emotional learning.
- Breathe, Think, Do: From Sesame Street creators, this free app for iPhone and Android teaches problem solving, self-control, planning, and task persistence.
- Sanford Harmony SEL App for Teachers and Students: This mobile app from National University offers new ways for teachers to incorporate social emotional learning practices into classroom activities. The easy-to-use interface can be used to create lesson plans and activities to strengthen classroom relationships.
- Emotional ABCs: You can use this teacher-led SEL tool in your (virtual or in-person) classroom to teach your students emotional skills. This workshop-based program teaches kids to identify their feelings and how to respond and make good choices based on their emotions.
- GoNoodle: GoNoodle uses movement and mindfulness videos to promote physical wellness, academic success, and social-emotional health.
Of course, be sure to check in with parents about any screen-time rules or hesitations they may have about their children using mobile devices and apps.
There’s no reason you can’t incorporate reading for social emotional learning at home. You can read aloud to the class via Zoom or assign a book to your students to read on their own. Ask the students to write about what’s happening in the story and how they think the characters are feeling as a result. Then, take turns asking students to share what they wrote. This will give you the opportunity to discuss various emotions with the kids and talk about appropriate responses to particular feelings.
Journaling is another activity that can be done at home with little to no additional materials. You may not have time for all of your students to share their entries, but you can rotate or ask students to share their journal response with a family member.
SEL Strategies Promote Lifelong Learning
Social emotional learning takes education beyond academia and equips students with important lessons they can use in school and in the real world. Whether teaching in person or in a remote-learning environment, you can encourage social emotional learning in everyday activities to help your students understand their emotions and learn to empathize with others. Try these activities in your classroom, whether in person or remote, and help your students learn important life skills that will stay with them forever.
Earn a Certificate or Master’s in SEL From National University
SEL is becoming increasingly important in academic environments and it’s important for teachers to continue to hone their knowledge and skills in this area. National University offers no-cost tools from Sanford Harmony to equip teachers with tools and strategies to promote SEL in the classroom. For educators who wish to broaden their skills and enhance their qualifications, National University offers a Master of Arts in Social Emotional Learning. With flexible class schedules and online and in-person options, teachers can complete a certificate or master’s degree around their busy schedule. Education professionals may also qualify for a full-tuition scholarship from the Sanford Harmony Scholar Program.
Whether you want to level up professionally or add some SEL strategies to your teaching toolkit, there are several resources at your disposal to help you to develop emotionally-aware, empathetic students. Leverage these SEL resources to help your students learn valuable lifelong lessons and set them up for success in the classroom and beyond.