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Words from SEL Heroes | Best Practices to Implement Social-emotional Learning In The Classroom.


Last Friday, on World SEL Day, we asked our community to share their best practices to implement social-emotional learning. Looking at the answers, we are truly inspired by the professionality, resourcefulness, and passion of the educators of this community. To all SEL heroes out there: we cannot express enough how wonderful it is to know so many students get to learn with and from you. Here are our top picks from your comments:  

  • Don't think of SEL as yet another block or area you need to integrate into your already overflowing curriculum of yours. Social-emotional skills overlap with everything we do, encounter, and experience.
  • Start a class by shortly presenting one social-emotional skill. Go through the characteristics and benefits of the skill and give an example of how to practice it in real life. Ask your students to pay extra attention to the skill today. During the day, point out situations where the skill is needed. Give recognition for students displaying the skill in their actions.
  • After finishing a test, project, or task, ask your students how they felt completing it. Acknowledging the feelings, positive and negative, helps students to deal with them in a constructive way and manage themselves. When the inner storms and ghosts are not handled with enough care, the nervosity, anxiety, and fears over them grow. It is necessary for the students to learn that negative feelings are not dangerous and that they can be overcome. This can be a private or a group discussion, a short template to fill out, or a more detailed self-reflection.
  • Even if the hurdles of the classroom are demanding, try to see them as a chance to enhance social-emotional learning. Keep a finger on the pulse of your class' current needs. If your class is unfocused or agitated, take the opportunity to talk about self-management and offer tips to try out when the students feel overwhelmed. It is not only easier to teach when the class is calm – learning too becomes more efficient.
  • Even if many social-emotional skills seem obvious to adults, let's not forget the younger ones around us are only learning them. Keep on encouraging and praising the students for practicing these skills. Besides, age is not a guarantee for flawless social-emotional capabilities – we can often learn from our students, too. Showing that they can be examples themselves gives them a sense of responsibility and belonging.
  • Storytime! Have your students prepare short presentations about the topic "How I became me". By hearing about each other's backgrounds and key experiences they will learn to look at the world from different perspectives, about their peers, as well as gain courage to open up and trust each other.
  • While different activities and exercises are great tools to promote and strengthen SEL in class, never underestimate the importance of good talk. Sitting down together and expressing interest in the thoughts and experiences of others, as well as receiving it, teaches both listening skills, the ability to reflect on oneself and connect with others. No props needed – just give some simple discussion starters and see how it takes off. (Find a School Day -curated list for discussion topics at the end of the post.)

Here's a helpful list of topics for in-class discussions. Nothing fancywhen there is space for everyone to participate, the seemingly obvious themes will lead to fruitful conversations.

  • If others could see you as you are, what three words would they describe you with?
  • Name a situation, where you felt you didn't belong. What made you feel isolated and how did you react? Remind your students that everyone feels like an outsider sometimes. Encourage them to observe this in others, too.
  • If you could acquire one new positive skill or quality for yourself, what would it be? What could you do to make this true?

Henriikka Heinonen

Guest Writer
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