Social emotional learning is a crucial component not just in the classroom, but in life in general. CASEL, or the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, defines SEL learning in a way that drives home just how important it is.
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
I love this definition because it targets all that social and emotional learning encompasses. For starters, this is a process for children AND adults. Knowing this allows me to understand that this is an ONGOING process and even adults haven’t mastered it completely. Having this understanding can help us give our students patience AND ourselves grace when they are learning these skills, because trust me we need it.
Our goal as educators is to really help kids hone into the “acquiring and effectively applying” all that social emotional learning entails. Our littles experience TONS of situations, feelings, people, and emotions throughout their school week and sometimes it’s tough to deal with it. Add on any home life struggles and it can be a whirlwind for anyone.
Why It Benefits You
Educators- this is where we come in! We are able to explicitly teach, model, and provide opportunities for practice on all the SEL knowledge, attitudes, and skills. If you don’t have a dedicated time to teach it, that’s okay! There are ways to fit in it and I will touch on that soon. But let me tell you why NOT to skip it if you don’t have a designated block. Let’s go back to the end of that definition we had and notice all the amazing things social and emotional learning can teach us:
-to understand and manage emotions
-set and achieve positive goals
-feel and show empathy for others
-establish and maintain positive relationships
-make responsible decisions
As you can see, there are many benefits to teaching these skills in the classroom! Close your eyes for a second and just imagine a room full of children that understood how they feel and had strategies to make them feel better. They’re all capable of setting and achieving positive personal goals, as well as class goals. Everyone is empathic and kind to one another because we’ve all built great relationships. The classroom is completely managed with children who make responsible decisions. Sounds like a paradise classroom doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want that??
Now we are realists over here and we know there is no such thing as a perfect classroom, BUT you can have that paradise classroom with a bit of work. It may not be that all of your students will exhibit all of those things at the same time every single day. However, if you reach for the moon and miss, you’re still hanging out with the stars. I think that’s a pretty positive goal to set and achieve.
Where Does This Fit?
I teach in Colorado and social emotional learning is extremely valued here. Therefore, some schools have dedicated time to help students master these skills. It is my hope that all schools across the country can adopt these programs, as I believe it would greatly benefit our students and future generations. However, I do know that the reality is most teachers don’t have a designated time and even though we know how important it is, it can be really tough sometimes to fit it in. I have had the experience of having a SEL block time, as well as not having one. I can relate to the struggle and also offer insight with great resources that can and ideas that take up very little time. I want to share with you some tips on fitting it in if you don’t because it is very important that you do.
Make it A Priority: This is key. You make time for what you deem a top priority and this should be one. These skills take time and require consistency and patience.
Create a Calm Down Space: designate an area in your room (or theirs if you’re virtual) for students to utilize strategies to manage their emotions to come back ready to learn.
Participate in Team Building: Take time to establish a good team environment at the beginning of the year, when you come back from breaks, or after any rough patch your classroom might have gone through. This helps establish and maintain positive relationships with each other because they understand the power of teamwork.
Use the Power of Books: There are so many amazing books that help reinforce the knowledge and skills of social and emotional learning. Pull books out for read aloud times, allow students access to them in your classroom library, or let students create their own books on management strategies. If you’re looking for some books to start with, check out this list of SEL read alouds!
You can get many more tips, tricks, strategies and ideas such as team building activities, restorative circles, and having a growth mindset in my post about SEL Education HERE.
Like with anything you’re teaching primary students, you have to EXPLICITLY teach it. They need you to model what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it doesn’t look like, etc. The skills you cover are going to be what your students need. Do they need help with being better friends to each other? Do some students simply need their own space and self-managing strategies to help deal with their emotions? Maybe they have no idea how to manage conflicts. Some of them might not know how to deliver a genuine apology. It’s quite possible that the entire class could use a lesson on growth mindset and making good choices. Or maybe they learned about something that triggered empathy and they wanted to explore that more. There are so many skills that will need to be taught, but there are so many strategies that can be used to tackle them. With great resources you can set your students up for success. Check out these gems to help student’s practice in your classroom:
I really hope you enjoyed learning more about social emotional learning and how to make it fun and enjoyable not only for the students, but for you as well! You can check out ALL of my social and emotional resources HERE! Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list! Not only will you get the most up to date tips, tricks, and classroom projects… and of course more fun FREEBIES including The Emotions Board Game FREEBIE! But you will also have exclusive access to tons of digital how to videos! If you would like to learn about this and other things happening in my classroom follow me @sweetnsauerfirsties on Instagram.
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