What is Social Emotional Learning?
Social-emotional learning is the process through which we gain the necessary skills to properly understand, process, and manage emotions. The self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills learned through this process are invaluable at all stages of life, preparing one to better cope with the challenges presented in academic, professional and personal situations.
In a world that grows more diverse every day, these skills are extremely important, especially for young people, to allow us to better understand people of diverse backgrounds. Empathy is an essential skill for building better relationships, and social-emotional learning improves our ability to effectively apply it.
The framework laid out by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) lists 5 core competencies that can help students further their understanding of social-emotional learning.
The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts.
2. Social Awareness
The abilities to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, & contexts.
3. Responsible Decision-Making
The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations.
The abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations.
5. Relationship Skills
The abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups.
While these skills can be learned at any stage of life, it is best to learn them at an early age, with schools playing a big role in the learning process. The days of students focusing only on academic achievement are gone, with schools now also paying attention to ensuring students develop crucial life skills, which will serve them well beyond their academic careers.
But how exactly should teachers go about teaching these skills? It’s not quite as simple as just following a set curriculum or textbook. Social-emotional learning can often require great amounts of individual attention, and it is impossible to develop a standardized method.
The social-emotional requirements of each student are as diverse as their individual personalities. But not to worry, this task may be difficult, but it is not impossible.
Here are a few ways to improve social-emotional learning in the classroom.
Start the Day Right
It is important to establish a personal connection with your students at the very start of the day. Start the day off right, with a personal, warm greeting to each and every student, to create a friendly and welcoming environment. Remember, it all starts with you.
Let the children work in groups. This will allow them to communicate, collaborate, and develop interpersonal skills. It will also allow them to develop closer bonds among themselves, encouraging friendship and sharing feelings.
For developing more specific skills, encourage students to allot tasks when working in a group, or pair up students with different personalities to encourage them to learn to work with different types of people.
Games can be a very social activity and, if used correctly, can help foster strong social-emotional skills. Teachers often overlook the importance of games, focusing single-mindedly on trying to finish the curriculum.
However, working in groups can lead to kids developing strong teamwork skills, and it also strengthens friendships and communication skills, especially if the game involves playing in groups.
Children can struggle with feelings. If they struggle with their own feelings, it can also be difficult for them to understand the feelings of others. The best way to change this, is to have an open and honest conversation about empathy.
Teach them what it means, why it is important to understand other peoples’ feelings, and how it will benefit them later on in life. Encourage the children to share things that upset them, and encourage them to listen to each other’s’ complaints.
This will allow for easy mediation of disputes, and also help them develop the interpersonal skills necessary, to discuss their problems in a civil manner.
Hold class meetings where everyone is encouraged to use their voice, and is able to suggest any changes they would like to see in the classroom environment.
Artistic expression can be a great way to express your feelings, when you can’t quite find the right words. With their vocabularies being so limited, it can often be a mighty struggle for children to properly express how they are feeling.
Encourage children to explore art, and discover what types of art truly speak to them. Who knows, maybe along the way they’ll discover something about their own selves.
Social-emotional learning has become a very important part of young children’s education, and for good reason. These skills are essential in allowing them to live a happier, more fulfilling life, and we hope this tips make it easier for teachers seeking to develop these skills in their students.