15 February, 2022
Social-emotional learning in the classroom has changed the way many teachers approach everything from primary academic subjects to free period and recess. These social-emotional skills that students gain help them manage their emotions and build strong relationships. They're essential to students' ability to learn and grow.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the learning journey a student embarks on towards independently understanding himself/herself, showing empathy, regulating their emotions and managing their behavior. It's a process of highs and lows with many benchmarks and milestones along the way. As cheesy as this may sound, it's about the journey, not just the destination or end goal.
SEL consists of five essential skills: Self awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. When teachers focus on this learning journey, it can lead to a total improvement in classroom culture, student engagement, and student personal growth.
We know how busy a teacher's life can get. There's just not enough hours in the day for everything. Which is mainly why social-emotional learning tends to fall in the secondary learning material category. This is especially the case when the core curriculum — like reading, writing, math, history and science — are time-consuming.
But I think it is equally important to help students develop their social-emotional skills because if they are mentally and emotionally healthy, they are more equipped and ready to face life's challenges beyond their school journey. Here are some ways I believe teachers can integrate social-emotional learning into the classroom.
Start the day or week with a check-in chat. Talk to your students. Make it a goal to start every week with a personal connection. It doesn't have to be a time-consuming or take up the whole period. It could be as simple as giving a warm greeting or asking them about their weekend before cracking open your lesson plan.
Ask a question, have a quick karaoke session, set positive intentions for the week with the whole class. Even if you're teaching online, taking that 10-15 minute check-in session with your students can go a long way to keeping them engaged for the rest of the day.
Take advantage of story-time to teach valuable lessons. Whether it's reading aloud in your activity corner, or it's the reading material for English class, use these stories to create teachable moments. If you play your cards right, they are the perfect tool to explore social-emotional themes with your class.
They're not just for little children either. There are plenty of picture books, in-depth classic stories or even comics for older students to relate to. Use the themes in these stories to explore many social-emotional learning topics that you want to cover, without having to add extra learning material for your class.
Give your students the opportunity to work with partners or in groups. Working with a partner helps them learn to cooperate and builds community within your classroom. The ability to work well in a group is a very important life skill, especially one that will benefit your students in their careers and professional lives. Students will learn how to negotiate with others, develop leadership skills and discover their own strengths, so they can best contribute to the team.
You should also avoid assigning partners for every team project or group assignment. Alternate between strategically assigning partners and letting them find their teammate on their own. This will allow students to also make their own choices and learn decision-making.
Creating a caring classroom environment is the key here, and that all starts with the teacher. No matter what age, children and teenagers need to practice managing their emotions. One way to teach students about conquering their feelings and managing their emotions, is to recognize those feelings and emotions. Whether it's the emotions of students themselves or the feelings of characters they can relate to.
This is one of the skills that can be sown into literature as you talk about character's feelings and needs. Be open with students about how to manage their own emotions and give strategies for what they can do in your classroom.
This chaotic pandemic has created a lot of stress and anxiety for students. Practicing mindfulness is one activity that may get rid of anxious feelings and help students further develop their social-emotional awareness.
"Treat others how you want to be treated". That's a great lesson my high school English teacher taught us, and it truly stuck with me. Empathy is one of the most critical skills for students to develop. It is the foundation for considering about how others think and feel so that we can respond in a socially appropriate and compassionate way.
Today, empathy plays a key role in social-emotional learning in the classroom. Once students learn how to manage their feelings and reactions, they can learn how to treat others with kindness and respect. You can help your students practice empathy on its own or through literature that's part of your class lesson. Discuss the characters and how they might feel in different and various situations.
Teachers can nuture kindness and also encourage empathy and reward positive behavior by offering a small award when a student performs a good deed. Encourage random acts of kindness in your class. You can set up bowls or boxes where students can write a note when they notice a classmate doing something kind and helpful. Once a month, teachers can draw from the bowl and award a small gift to that student. Some teachers even put tickets in a jar, and when the jar is full, the students receive a class party or a special treat.
If there's anything the pandemic's affect on education has made crystal clear, it's the urgency and importance of social-emotional learning for students. Children and teenagers need social-emotional skills to be successful at school, home and for the rest of their lives and careers.
These skills help them build confidence, understand their strengths and weaknesses, collaborate with others, navigate social situations, develop strong relationships and make better decisions. But as a teacher, it all starts with you.
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Hadeel Al Haddad
The Digital Marketing Specialist owl. The passionate bookworm/book-owl that runs on caffeine and loves soulful music. As a morning Owl, I'm at my creative peak while the sun is still up. I'm a wordsmith who enjoys writing, traveling and making punny dad jokes. Yes, seriously!