This blog series focuses on social and emotional learning (SEL) and its benefits for helping students manage emotions and build healthy relationships. Each blog post provides ideas and strategies for implementing the five areas of SEL in a variety of grade levels.

During the pandemic, nursing home workers coordinated parties and FaceTime calls to make their residents feel safe and loved. Individuals sewed masks for frontline workers. Teens delivered groceries to the elderly. So, while masks, isolation, and missed opportunities are elements that have been a huge part of our world during COVID-19, empathy for others, a sense of community, and personal strength have flourished as well.

When people have the opportunity to acquire and use social and emotional skills, they develop confidence in their ability to cope with difficult circumstances. Perhaps, that is why social and emotional learning is especially important in classrooms today. These skills better equip students to face challenges in school—and in life.

What is social and emotional learning (SEL)?

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL occurs when students:

  • understand and manage emotions
  • set goals
  • show empathy for others
  • establish positive relationships
  • make responsible decisions

Why is SEL important?

SEL is the foundation of learning that enhances student well-being. Students are more successful when they feel connected and safe in the classroom. Studies show that as social and emotional skills increase, academic performance, attitudes, and behaviors also improve. The ability to manage themselves and to work well with others is crucial as students progress from school to the workforce.

How is SEL integrated into the classroom?

The good news is that you do not need to make a choice between growing academic skills and strengthening SEL in your classroom. Beginning with the academic content, identify the social and emotional skills that can be integrated with it. For example, when studying a historical character, have students list the strengths and weaknesses of that character. Guide students to compare the character’s strengths and weaknesses to their own. Allow additional activities to stem from those learnings.

While the future blog posts in this series will include ideas for specific grade-levels, the following is a list of general ideas for incorporating SEL into all learning environments.

Use literature to discuss characters, their thoughts and feelings, and their perspectives.

Navigate the THINK process (T-Is it true? H-Is it helpful? I-Is it inspiring? N-Is it necessary? K-Is it kind?)

Make time to talk and play games that focus on communication and problem-solving.

Allow students to work in teams to complete tasks and build community.

Suggest journal writing for students to reflect on their efforts and ideas.

Keep affirmation cards and gratitude jars available for students to build esteem and compassion.

“Unmask” SEL in your classroom and watch as students grow academically, socially, and emotionally.

Interested in additional SEL activities? Read the the next blog post in this series, “Uncovering Lit Ideas for SEL.”