Integrating social-emotional learning into the day can seem like a monumental task. That’s because social emotional learning isn’t just one thing; it’s really a huge set of skills covering five core areas from self-awareness to decision-making and everything in between. The good news is that there are several simple, low-prep, and effective strategies to add SEL to your everyday.
Before getting started, I have combined these nine critical SEL approaches into a 24-page Social Emotional Learning Strategies Toolkit that you can get for free by being a member here at Pathway 2 Success. Joining is free and you will get a few e-mails each week with more social-emotional strategies, free resources, and more. Read here to learn more about joining or sign up at the bottom of the page. Once you sign up, confirm your membership and wait for the first email with all the details. If you’re already a member, just head to the free resource library and grab your copy!
Above all else, it’s important for all educators to have strategies, supports, and actionable ideas to use in their classrooms to integrate social emotional learning. Many of the ideas below are techniques you can try right away. Instead of attempting them all, consider just a few that resonate with you and give them a try with your learners. Here are 9 simple and effective techniques for integrating social emotional learning into the day:
Literature always lends itself to teaching social-emotional skills. Whether you are using story stories, picture books, or longer novels, many SEL themes are embedded into a number of texts. Just a few of these topics include building confidence, understanding emotions, self-control, empathy, kindness, friendships, responsibility, and making good choices. To get started, choose a favorite book (or one you are planning on reading anyway) and highlight the SEL skills found within the story as you read. Use this list of 100 stories for social emotional learning to give using literature a try. Here are just a few favorites:
- Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae (self-awareness)
- Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman (confidence)
- Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall (emotions)
- Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan (perseverance)
- The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey (responsibility)
An emotions check-in helps teach children and teens to build self-awareness, consider how they feel, and identify what they might need before moving on for the rest of the day. This simple SEL strategy often takes just a few minutes but can have big impacts on student mental health and performance.
Journaling is an excellent way to integrate social-emotional skills since writing is a necessary component to the day anyway. Use simple targeted social-emotional prompts to help learners think, discuss, and write about critical SEL skills. For example, you might ask students to list and describe five of their biggest strengths. Another option is to give a quote with a SEL focus and have students respond. These are perfect do-now activities that maximize academic time and learning about social-emotional skills in one. Learn more about SEL journaling and how you can get started.
Research shows that daily morning greetings help improve student behavior and academic performance. It is truly one of the simplest and most effective ways to build relationships and a positive classroom climate. Use this free printable and digital daily greetings poster to give them a try.
Morning meeting is a semi-structured time to greet each other, do a group activity, and have meaningful conversations before moving on with the rest of the day. This is really one of the most ideal times to integrate social-emotional skills. Some examples of how to integrate SEL into your morning meeting include:
- Have partners/groups act out what respect looks like in different situations (social awareness: respect)
- Allow students to find someone else around the room who has a different favorite hobby than them to learn about it (self-awareness: hobbies and interests)
- Give students 10 minutes of guided organization time to tidy binders (self-management: organization)
- Have partners come up with problem situations to have others discuss what decisions they might make (decision-making: choices)
Read more about some steps to design your own 5-step morning meeting, or use this complete SEL morning meeting set filled with meaningful activities and practice.
SEL Chats are meaningful group discussions focused on social-emotional topics. Educators can bring up questions as a morning discussion, during a break between academics, or at the end of the day with just a few minutes left of class. These social emotional learning task cards are perfect to put on a ring or discuss at centers. They include over 200 SEL discussion starters so you have enough to discuss for the entire year. Here are a few of the questions to try:
- What are five positive qualities about you?
- What are some ways you show responsibility?
- What are the most important good character traits to have?
- Explain the quote: “We’re all different. That’s what makes us great.”
- What does it look like when you are really listening to someone?
- Imagine your desk is messy. What can you do to tidy it up?
- What are some dreams you have for the future?
- What does it mean to take responsibility for your choices?
If you need something quick, try this free list of 100+ questions to build relationships.
Individual conferencing is meeting one-on-one with students on a regular basis. This is a great time to talk about how students are doing academically, emotionally, socially, and personally. It really opens the door for more in-depth and targeted conversations for individual support.
To give individual conferencing a try, have one binder per student. Each time you conference with that learner, talk about how they are doing, what they are doing well, and one way they could improve moving forward. During this time you could talk about SMART goals, how to improve study habits, strategies for self-control, or any other individualized support that student needs.
Brain breaks are a quick pause between academics and other challenging work throughout the day. Providing brain breaks gives time to integrate skills for self-regulation, mindfulness, and self-awareness. Use these mindful brain breaks with a nature theme to get started.
Question of the Day
Use one targeted SEL question of the day to discuss and learn about social-emotional skills. This can be an easy-to-use strategy by posting one question on the board each morning. Have students respond to the question in journals or directly on the white board. Come up with your own SEL questions or use this yearlong Social Emotional Learning Question of the Day set.
Sign Up for Your SEL Toolkit!
If you love these strategies and could use a bit more support, consider joining Pathway 2 Success to get your own Social Emotional Toolkit. It includes each of these 9 strategies explained in detail with actionable activities and tips you can use in your classroom today.
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