SEL Strategies Every Teacher Should Implement
Did you know that social emotional competence is an important predictor of academic and lifelong success?
When I first started learning about social and emotional learning (SEL), I thought it only encompassed peer interactions and feelings. It’s actually more than that. SEL also empowers students to take control of the choices they make and develop their sense of self. Being intentional about SEL promotes empathy, teamwork, and positive interactions that can help students be successful in the present and future.
None of us have experienced a pandemic before, but we do know that times of uncertainty can bring about a range of emotions and reactions. As educators, we should continue to incorporate SEL in our interactions with students in ways that will prepare them for the realities they may later face in home, school, social, or work settings. Whether in school or through distance learning, here are six FREE and awesome strategies for supporting SEL.
1. Check in with students
You’ve undoubtedly seen this amazing Mental Health Check In Chart from Making a Statement in SPED, but did you know Erin also made a digital version? Throughout distance learning, I’ve asked my students to complete this digital form once a week as a sign-in activity, but they know it is there for them at any time. I’ve also added questions about how they’re feeling about their workload and assignments so I can understand what’s working and what’s not for my students.
2. Check in with families.
It is always helpful to know what is going on with students outside of school. I always appreciate when parents send me a little FYI telling me how hard their child worked on an assignment, that they stayed up later than usual because of an extracurricular, something they’ve been really excited about lately, or even just that Halloween is scary for them. I really did receive an email about that last one, and the parent wasn’t asking me to do anything about it, they just wanted me to be aware.
Adding a Family FYI Form to your class website or in weekly emails, gives families an opportunity to share what is going on beyond the classroom.
*I set the responses to be emailed to you, but please double check by clicking the three dots on the “Responses” page.
3. Make space for open dialogue
Push the tables and/or chairs aside and make space for things like Proactive Community Circles so students have opportunities to connect with one another while discussing big and small emotions alike. You don’t always have to talk about student feelings and reaction, but can always provide scenarios (via picture books) that can help them to discuss feelings and choices with less at stake.
4. Build SEL into your curriculum
I often hear (and have even said myself) that I don’t have time to do something else in the short amount of time I see my students. I’ve learned that SEL can go hand in hand with what you’re already working on in class. Whether through math problems, historical figures, scientific experiments, or characters in a novel, you can always ask about the reactions of people involved and why. With project work, you can include student reflections that require students to share their emotions and decisions throughout, how they responded to it, and what strategies helped them to know what actions to take.
You can use a SEL Integration Template to help you brainstorm key things you teach, and ways you can incorporate SEL. Try to set a goal for yourself on how often you will incorporate SEL–one new activity this school year, one per grading period, or one per unit?
5. Lead by example
Model it! Just like you might in a content-filled lesson, it’s important to show students what a skill looks like. Talk your students through your experiences, emotions, and strategies in real time!
A few years back while planning my wedding, I was drained and facing some setbacks with vendors. I went to school the next day sleep deprived and discouraged. I was used to putting on a happy face for my students, but I also needed them to know how I felt in that moment. I briefly shared what I was feeling and asked for their patience with me. It wasn’t until a couple months later that a student’s parent told me how important that moment was for their child. The parent told me that when I shared how I was feeling with my students, it was eye-opening for the student to realize that even adults experience challenges, and that it is ok to talk about these feelings. Being able to show students what self-awareness looks like is an important part of their learning!
These SEL Classroom Posters can help you and your students keep it real.
6. Team up with families
I saved the best for last. Does your school host workshops for parents? How about send out weekly or monthly newsletters with events and resources? Remember that SEL shouldn’t stop at the end of the school day. In addition to the work we do at school, providing families with tools that will help them help their teen is a winning combination. That’s why WeAreTeachers and The Allstate Foundation have teamed up on this free ‘Happy, Successful Teens’ SEL Parent Guide!
The guide includes everything from working on mindset to practicing the decision making process with low-stakes opportunities. This thorough guide is full of conversation starters and easy to implement strategies! It will help to equip families with the tools they need to support their teens in practicing skills they’ll use throughout their entire lives!
Though the guide is meant to support families, it is also a great resource for teachers and staff, with reminders such as listen more than you talk and praising the positives.
This post was written as part of The Allstate Foundation and We Are Teachers SEL Parent Guide campaign, and sponsored by The Allstate Foundation. All opinions are mine. The Allstate Foundation empowers young people—and those that guide and teach them—with social and emotional skills to build character and transform lives. Learn more at www.allstatefoundation.org