For most students, the classroom is the first place where they are exposed to others with differing backgrounds, upbringing and belief systems. Educators, on the other hand, are tasked with creating an environment that provides an equal opportunity for academic success regardless of a student’s background. Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) was developed as a tool to help educators provide a caring, just, inclusive and healthy environment to support all students.
SEL is an integral part of not only a student’s educational development but also human development. SEL can be defined as the development of the skills required for self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships and responsible decision-making. Implementing SEL into classrooms enables students to be caring and civil, make healthy decisions, problem-solve effectively, be respectful and responsible, be good citizens and be empathic and ethical.
Benefits of Social-Emotional Learning:
SEL is an invaluable tool for educators. Not only does SEL promote personal awareness, but it also promotes social awareness. When a student can identify and manage their feelings, motives and desires, personal awareness allows students to become more self-aware and can lead to an improvement in their attitudes towards school, decision-making, conflict resolution and develop a sense of purpose in their education.
Additionally, social awareness provides students with the ability to understand, empathize and feel compassion for those with differing backgrounds and cultures which is prevalent in the classroom. When a student becomes socially aware, they can consider the perspective of others and understand their needs which allows them to work effectively in teams and develop healthy relationships with those who may have alternative perspectives.
By developing these social skills, students are better prepared for life outside of the classroom and as the next generation of the workforce.
Implementing Social-Emotional Learning in the Classroom:
Implementing SEL into the classroom may seem intimidating at first, but by adding a few elements and intentional SEL-focused activities, you’ll be able to prepare your students for success.
Sequenced: Connected and coordinated activities to foster skills development
Active: Employing active forms of learning to help students strengthen new skills
Focused: Dedicated time and attention to developing personal and social skills
Explicit: Targeting specific social and emotional skills
Additionally, CASEL found that SEL-focused classrooms often include:
A supportive classroom environment which helps students feel emotionally safe, a part of a united community, motivated and challenged.
Integration of SEL into academic instruction which combines academic learning with opportunities for students to practice and reflect on their social and emotional competencies
Explicit SEL instruction which provides students with appropriate opportunities to practice and reflect on their social and emotional competencies.
5 SEL Activities to Implement in Your Classroom:
1. Practice Self Awareness with reflections
After completing an assignment, have students answer a few self-reflection questions based on their emotions toward the project. What did they enjoy or find challenging about the project? What do they feel most proud of? By reflecting on their work, students are encouraged to acknowledge their emotions and how those emotions impacted their choices and behavior while completing the assignment.
2. Develop Self-Management by assigning projects that require effort and time
Before assigning a more rigorous project that would require several days of work for the students, have them develop a timeline in which they must consider their individual responsibilities inside and outside the classroom in order to have the assignment completed on time. Additionally, throughout the project, have students compare their progress to the timeline they outlined and help those who are falling behind with work management strategies. By preparing for a longer project, students are able to hone in on their self-management skills and take into consideration individual factors that could hinder them from completing the project on time.
3. Learn Social Awareness by offering opportunities for students to support and learn from one another
When preparing a lesson, assign small groups of students’ segments of the lesson to prepare and teach to the class. Remind them to consider the learning styles of their peers when presenting the lesson and have them provide a slot of time for the group to assist other students who may not grasp the lesson to ensure the entire class understands the lesson. By having students consider the needs of others and helping their peers understand the lesson, students can become more socially aware of the needs of those around them.
4. Grow your students’ Relationship Skills by setting expectations for providing peer feedback using constructive criticism and sensitivity
Encourage your students to provide constructive criticism and feedback when working on projects in either a one-on-one or small group setting. By offering multiple opportunities to provide and receive feedback, students can learn not only how to implement the feedback they are given but how to provide appropriate support for their peers.
5. Advance your student’s Decision-Making by teaching decision-making strategies and offering students the ability to practice
Provide opportunities for students to practice their decision-making skills by assigning projects that can be achieved through different processes, allowing students to take paths determined by themselves. This allows students to understand the impact of their decisions and the potential consequences of them as well.
By implementing social-emotional learning, your students are better prepared for success inside and outside the classroom. For more information on implementing SEL in the classroom, iCEV has developed the SEL Toolkit to help educators implement projects and activities related to SEL competencies.