What is Social Emotional Learning?
Social emotional learning, or SEL, is a framework to help kids and young adults learn critical skills, such as managing emotions, understanding healthy relationships, improving social skills, and making responsible choices. These skills are the foundations for success in all areas of our lives. Whether students are working in a small group to complete a math assignment, playing with peers on a soccer team, or starting homework for the night, social emotional skills are needed throughout every moment of a student’s life.
What skills does SEL target?
The five domains of SEL include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and decision-making. Each of these areas includes a number of skills that contribute to the whole child. For example, self-management helps learners develop skills for organization, planning, and self-control. Social-awareness helps kids understand expected behaviors, perspective-taking, and empathy. All of these skills play a huge role in a child or young adult’s everyday success.
- Self-awareness is having a clear and accurate understanding of ourselves. That includes understanding strengths, working through challenges, recognizing emotions, and considering future aspirations.
- Self-management means taking responsibility for our own choices to work towards goals. It includes using self-control, developing positive study habits, managing emotions, and persevering through challenges.
- Social awareness is having an understanding of the social world. That means understanding the social expectations, reading social cues, perspective-taking, developing empathy, and celebrating our differences.
- Relationships are the positive connections we have with others. It involves understanding healthy relationships, effectively communicating, working with others, developing friendships, and using conflict resolution to solve problems.
- Decision-making is using strategic methods to make positive choices. It includes developing responsibility, problem-solving, navigating through peer influence, owning choices, and choosing healthy habits for the future.
Why is it important to teach SEL?
Simply put, social-emotional skills are life skills! Kids and young adults require these skills to be successful socially, emotionally, and academically. No matter where students’ skills are, they can be improved and strengthened with practice.
Most importantly, the research supports teaching social emotional learning in the classroom. Implementing SEL strategies and programs has shown to improve academic performance, reduce behavioral problems, and promote positive social behaviors. By integrating social and emotional skills into every day, we can build stronger, healthier, and more successful learners.
How can I start teaching SEL?
You don’t need to be an expert in social emotional learning to teach and practice these skills! The most important thing is just to choose one way to get started. There are many different strategies for teaching social emotional skills. Here are just a few you can start off with:
Using literature. By using literature, you can read texts and short stories that highlight critical SEL skills, like empathy, friendships, and decision-making. You can select a text specifically for a skill you want to target, or just integrate SEL discussions into your curriculum and what you are currently reading.
Morning meeting. Starting the day with a morning meeting gives kids and young adults a space to share what is on their minds, talk through challenges, and learn social skills that matter. Have your students sit in a circle, do a greeting, and talk about important topics. Lead the discussion by asking questions. Having a morning meeting every day builds relationships and sets the stage for success.
Journaling. Be intentional about integrating SEL and writing by journaling about SEL skills. Start each morning having learners write about a specific skill. For example, you might ask students to list ways that they calm down when they are upset or have students write a story that demonstrates respect.
Play games. Using games can be a proactive and fun way to teach social emotional learning skills. Many games can be used as tool to teach these skills. For example, you can use Jenga and Blurt to teach self-control, while using Pictionary or any review game to target teamwork.
Explicitly teach lessons. While integrating skills into the curriculum is helpful, being explicit with your instruction is even more powerful. Spend 10 minutes a day targeting one social emotional learning skill. Talk about what it means, why it matters, and give practice to help learners generalize those skills. Use a complete SEL curriculum or grab the free introduction to SEL workbook below to get started.
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Where can I find more information?
Learn all about social emotional skills with some of following blog posts: