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Simple Ways to Introduce Social Emotional Learning (SEL) In Your Classroom

by Eddie Rayner

In education, the traditional school of thought has historically centred around the belief that education and emotions must always be kept distinct for ensuring the best learning outcomes.

However, that ideology seems to be a thing of the past, and today educators globally are realising the psychological impact the learning environment can have on a student. 

Teachers now universally agree that social and emotional skills play a critical role in both individual student progress and group cohesiveness and recognise its role in advancing educational equity and excellence. This is captured by the concept of SEL (Social Emotional Learning).

What Exactly is SEL?

CASEL defines Social Emotional Learning (SEL) as the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions, achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions. 

In simplistic terms – SEL basically provides a foundation for safe and positive learning and improving a student’s ability to succeed in school, careers and, in fact, life. 

SEL processes essentially try to address five core competence areas under their ambit. These include:

  • Self Awareness
  • Self Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Skills
  • Responsible Decision making

Statistically, there lies enough evidence in favour of SEL on advancing learning excellence. Research has shown that SEL can improve academic achievement by 11 percentile points while also positively impacting pro-social behaviour such as kindness, sharing, empathy while enhancing positive attitude and reducing stress and depressive tendencies.

As such, the benefits recognised across the learning community, SEL has been emerging as an integral aspect of modern-day education and human development. Progressive institutions across the world are making a deliberate effort to incorporate SEL methodologies into their lessons. 

Research has shown that SEL can improve academic achievement by 11 percentile points

Simple Ways to Introduce SEL into your Classroom

Introducing SEL in your classroom need not require massive changes to existing teaching styles, extra time investment or access to a library of specialised resources. 

There are many simple and nearly effortless ways through which you can integrate SEL activities in your classroom and provide students with the opportunity to grow holistically. Here are five such ways – 

1. Introduce brief morning meetings

Starting the day with a fixed routine of brief morning meetings can be a very simple way to connect with all the children in the classroom and set the tone to instil the keys to successful socio-emotional learning skills throughout the day.  

Such meetings offer a quick chance to address items that may not be covered in the academic curriculum; by making room for a few minutes in the morning or even in the afternoon; before wrapping up.

As a teacher, you could include straightforward activities in such meetings, such as encouraging kids to greet each other, have positive discussions, build relationships, or share what they are thankful for with the class. Such simple interventions can reinforce SEL skills and turn the class into a haven to share expectations together.

2. Conduct partner assignment or group activities

Group or partner activities offer an interesting and effective way to build social and emotional abilities in young minds. By design, they make children interact with one another and engage in collective problem solving while having fun. The result is improved communications skills, empathy, and practice to effectively collaborate in tasks.

To implement the same, you need not always plan deliberate group activities all the time. You can simply pause your lectures, pair students, and ask them to discuss what they have understood with their partner. If you do assign some group tasks, you must take care to hand out clear expectations for ensuring the best results. 

The magical power of children’s books is well recognised across the globe for igniting imagination in young minds

3. Introduce journal writing

Writing is one of the best and most comfortable ways for anyone to feel safe while sharing opinions, feelings, and reactions – including children who are introverts by nature. Written communication allows a way to freely express ideas, hopes, and challenges while also clarifying a student’s thinking process.

By encouraging children to write a personal journal, you can present them with the chance to reflect on what they have heard or learnt and form their own thoughts about any topic. 

Simple ways to introduce journal writing in class can be by asking students to record their thoughts after discussing a social and/or emotional topic or alternately sharing their feedback from a story that they may have read or heard. You could even ask them to maintain a gratitude journal and include what they are thankful for every day to encourage gratitude writing as a form of self-expression. 

4. Start creative challenges

Another great way to develop the SEL skill among children is by making it feel like a healthy gamified challenge. For instance, you could choose a virtue every week or month and encourage students to come up with ways to develop and express that.

For instance, let us consider kindness. As a teacher, you could encourage the class to do random acts of kindness and then share what they did with the rest of the class. This could also be organised as a challenge where the class is divided into small groups, and each group is expected to brainstorm and come up with ideas or perform role-play acts to display their skills. 

5. Encourage reading habits

The magical power of children’s books is well recognised across the globe for igniting imagination in young minds while also developing essential reasoning and literacy skills. What kids’ stories also do while they read or listen is to allow a greater chance to relate, connect and pick up social and emotional strategies from the fictional characters in them. 

Hence, as an educator, instilling an inclination for reading is one of the best things you can do for a child’s holistic development. From an SEL perspective, you could give your class access to libraries with books meant for their age. You could also choose some books to read out to them or encourage using reading apps with read-aloud features. Once they have read what’s been instructed, you could then question them with some pre-prepared questions to elicit meaningful conversation and ensure optimal outcomes. 

As a teacher, your support in a child’s formative years could go a long way in shaping them into successful and happy individuals. By choosing to make SEL a part of your teaching agenda, you can inspire the minds and hearts of future generations and make a lasting and positive impact!

Writing is one of the best and most comfortable ways for anyone to feel safe while sharing opinions, feelings, and reactions

Wish to empower your students with educational equity using SEL in a structured yet effortless manner?

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The web and app-based application provides users with unlimited access to an extensive library of books, audios, videos, educational games and quizzes. Each of these resources is curated by Arabic language experts and provides students the opportunity to track their own self-development, add reflections, and enhance their brainpower and empathy levels. The result is superlative learning, coupled with social and emotional intelligence needed to succeed in the real world.

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