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5 Ways to Integrate SEL Into Your Classroom This Fall

The Reading, Writing, and Math Intervention Specialist
Updated on
Modified on June 2, 2023
  • SEL

As we’ve seen in the past two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, millions of students lost the structure and socialization they were accustomed to. Their worlds were rocked, and they no longer had access to usual daily interactions with other students, extracurricular activities, social events, after-school programs, summer camps, and other activities.

As a result, parents and educators began finding that the pandemic had an adverse effect on the social and emotional well-being of their children and students. Social-emotional learning is crucial to helping students overcome these enormous challenges they continue to face and to learn important life skills they will use through adulthood.

What is Social-Emotional Learning?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills vital for school, work, and life success.

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), an organization devoted to students and educators to help achieve positive outcomes for preK–12 students, SEL includes five core social and emotional competencies:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills
  • Making responsible decisions

According to a study commissioned by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), teaching kindergarten students basic social and emotional skills can “have long-term academic benefits on students’ reading and vocabulary, including in high-poverty schools, suggesting that SEL may assist in closing achievement gaps.”

Are You Wondering About Bringing Social-Emotional Learning Into Your Classroom or School?

We know weaving SEL into your academic curriculum may seem overwhelming, but we’ve compiled a list of simple activities you can begin implementing this fall to get you started.

Regardless of what grade your students are in, these activities can be adapted to help teach the core social and emotional competencies.

Five SEL Activities for Your Classroom

1. Reading books

Yes…reading books! Educators can tackle both reading comprehension and social-emotional learning with books that are designed to teach key social-emotional learning skills. Stop to discuss what’s happening in the book at the appropriate moments, and use the opportunity for a class discussion. 

For younger students, a combination of skill-appropriate reading and read-alouds can be used to model what emotions look like. Students can role play with their own feelings and emotions in response as a follow-up activity.

2. Group Work

Working in groups not only builds communication skills and collaboration skills, but it also teaches students how to manage conflict and hear others’ perspectives about a particular topic. It gives them the experience of working with people who have different ways of thinking and solving problems. Group work also provides the unique opportunity for students to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and to have an appreciation for their classmates’ skill sets.

3. Promote a Growth Mindset

This is less about what you teach, and more about HOW you teach in your classroom. Promoting a growth mindset helps children and young adults learn they can accomplish the goals they set with hard work and resilience. Let your students know they are not defined by their mistakes or struggles, and to use the word “yet.” They may not know something today, but that just means they don’t know it yet, not that they’ll never be able to learn it. 

Positive language will allow your students to steadily gain confidence and realize their full potential in the classroom.

4. Set Goals & Reflect on Successes and Failures

Piggybacking off promoting a growth mindset, teachers should incorporate goal-setting activities where they make sense in lesson plans. Learning how to set goals is an important life skill for children that can increase their confidence and perseverance. It can be difficult for students to openly discuss their successes and failures, but creating an environment where they feel comfortable to be self-reflective is key.

5. Meet With Your Students One on One

With younger students, this can look something like pulling each student to the side for a few minutes and asking them fun questions to get them thinking. You’re opening the door for communication, and sometimes taking the time to have that one-on-one conversation is all it takes to boost a student’s confidence and feel more comfortable in a learning environment.

With older students, a quick, simple check-in can allow them to feel seen, heard, and supported. For some, this meaningful interaction will be formative as they learn how to interact with authority figures.

Other Social-Emotional Learning Resources

Marilyn Sprick recently presented on the EDVIEW360 webinar series, Integrate Literacy, Behavior, and Social-Emotional Learning: Strategies for Educators. Watch to learn what you can do to combine scientifically based literacy strategies, research-based behavioral strategies, and social-emotional learning to lift a child’s spirit, give them an environment in which they feel safe to learn, and enhance learning, achievement, and future opportunities.