Integrating Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom for Student Success

Integrating Social Emotional Learning

How are your students doing? Beyond their academic success, how have they learned to manage their emotions? In what ways have they learned to regulate their individual choices? As the teacher in the classroom, what are you doing to build their social and emotional skills? How do you prepare students for their personal goals, build new skills, and well-being? One thing we learned this past year after transitioning from in-person to virtual to hybrid learning is that students need emotional support. This is true for many educators as they started to implement SEL programs for many students. Whether they were younger students or older students, SEL implementation helps students learn strategies through teachable moments.

It is so important for students to have social-emotional skills supported in the classroom to work toward student success!

Social and emotional learning (SEL) focuses on the soft skills for students. These are personal qualities and behaviors that support peer-to-peer interaction and creates a safe and inclusive space to learn. Ultimately having some SEL structures in the classroom translates into higher academic achievement, positive behaviors, and overall school culture. The educational process of learning in early childhood or with older students builds character and healthy relationships through academic learning.

In order to best serve students and create spaces that are conducive to learning and growth, school leaders must focus on social and emotional learning. Administrators must support social-emotional learning by using data to inform practice and providing students with clear guides for SEL implementation. Social and emotional learning addresses personal behavior, self-esteem, and relationship building within the classroom and in the school community.

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What is social-emotional learning in the classroom?

SEL is a critical part of education and student development. This process involves students and adults and helps them to acquire the skills and attitudes to develop their identities, manage emotions and behaviors, and helps them work toward goals. SEL is important in advancing the relationships between teachers, staff, and other students.  

In the classroom SEL has 5 main components that benefit students:

 Relationship skills

 This speaks to the ability to establish and maintain relationships between multiple groups (students, staff, and teachers, etc.). This addresses the student’s ability to communicate, engage, and negotiate conflict or even ask for help when needed.

 Self Awareness

Self-awareness is about the student being able to recognize their own emotions, ideas, and values in a way that informs their behaviors. The ability to assess and be keenly aware of their strengths and challenges will encourage student’s growth mindset.

 Social Awareness

Social awareness is concerned with the relationships between students and teachers. It is related to how students understand social and ethical norms and behaviors from different backgrounds. This component focuses on concepts of empathy and perspectives, which ultimately leads to how students respect and engage with others.

 Responsible Decision Making

For students, the learning experience is about choice. The choices around personal behaviors, how to engage with others, and other social interactions are guided by their own SEL implementation practices. Giving students a choice in their behavior empowers them. When being responsible for decision-making, students are able to identify, analyze, and solve problems and can evaluate and reflect on the choices they make. Social and emotional learning is a way to teach students about life through choice.

 Self Management 

 Regulating one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors for students is very important. It helps to manage impulse control, manages their stressors, and creates some agency in their self-motivation. Self-management in the academic setting supports students in setting goals and working toward those goals with strategic plans.

 These 5 components can be integrated into school learning in-person or virtually. With all of the different components of SEL, it is important that is integrated throughout the school’s culture, academics, and in schoolwide policies and practices. These efforts across the school ecosystem help students with their voice and agency. Effective SEL practices and reward systems are foundational to the student’s experience. SEL in the classroom has changed the way teachers and students work together during and after class. It sets up the learning space to have positive outcomes in emotional learning and social-emotional skill development by providing young people with a great tool to practice.

Why is social-emotional learning important in the classroom?

SEL is important in the classroom because it helps children develop self-esteem, manage their emotions, and really work toward their goals. Providing children with the support to develop their skills may help to reduce their stress and promotes positive behaviors.  By introducing students to positive actions, the teacher promotes healthy classroom behaviors. This builds relationships between teachers and other students and incorporates the language for students to engage with each other. If students are communicating effectively, they can also navigate their feelings and other emotions. Feelings for students are a good way to identify their needs but that can be accompanied by learning to manage other parts of their school experience. For example, learning these management skills helps with time and energy, and choices during the day.

What is so powerful about SEL implementation in the classroom is that it also impacts student culture. As administrators lead efforts to implement SEL they will also be addressing the school climate. Check out the 5 Tips For Creating a Positive School Culture.

Schools use multiple ways to approach integrating SEL into the classroom. The research from the CASEL program provides key competencies and SEL lessons. Teachers can also use classroom curricula that have SEL components, for example, using character narratives in the literature to explain SEL concepts to students. During storytime or through literary examples, teachers give real-life examples of integrating SEL into daily activities. Students learn to identify those components and apply them to their day-to-day. Through SEL-guided teacher instruction and modeling, teachers can promote SEL practices in their classrooms. Additionally, there can be SEL policies and instructions that focus on discipline policies and rewards systems for all students. When implementing SEL, there has to be some measurement and monitoring. The data collected will inform the interventions and determine who and where students need the most support. The outcomes of using SEL in the classroom leads to greater academic success, fewer distractions in the classroom and healthy relationship within the school.

How can we use social and emotional learning in the classroom?

Many teachers and administrators know that SEL in the classroom is a critical part of a student’s academic progress. Students learn by modeling the soft skills and seeing responsible decisions being made. This is true for school leaders especially those who are focused on students being successful. SEL can be structured or integrated minutes during the school day. Teachers can implement the use of SEL strategies like daily check-ins which address self-awareness and self-management. Teachers can also be intentional about peer interaction, group activities, or sharing with the group. This encourages the development of learning social awareness and relationship skills. Examples of SEL strategies that can be used in the classroom are below:

  • Define goals schoolwide for behavioral expectations that can be translated to the classroom. This creates some consistency in student expectations. Be clear about those goals and what they look like in all parts of the school day. For instance, thinking about the classroom and the playground, or even on their school buses. When aligning the SEL program to school goals, it can help with long-term assessments and evaluations. The schoolwide data only informs the way leadership can implement other programs like PBIS to advance this work.
  • Provide opportunities for students to practice SEL skills in the classroom. Use classroom activities like morning check-ins, cooperative learning, or community circles to encourage student voice and participation. Establishing this connection also helps students build relationships with adults and students in their classroom.
  • Establish a regular check-in to assess students’ feelings and mental health, etc. Individual student greetings or listening circles will give students time to communicate their feelings, emotions, and ideas. It is also helpful for teachers to hear from students what they are thinking, feeling, or experiencing.
  • Encourage peer mediation and interactions. The use of engagement norms in the classroom promotes collaboration and connection but is a critical opportunity for students to work to connect with each other. Students can then practice self-regulation and being more self-aware.
  • Learn problem-solving skills. Problem-solving involves social awareness and promotes responsible decision-making. This is critical for students through play and shared collaboration.

How do you model social-emotional learning for students?

 One thing teachers, parents, and adults in the school building can do to support the SEL work is to promote SEL by modeling through their own behaviors. There are many opportunities to be open and honest and with emotions and be explicit on the tools they use to cope with their own feelings. This helps students feel safe to share and they can see first-hand how to practice for themselves.

  • Build student’s self-awareness by creating a space for them to share their mental health, emotions feelings, or experiences. Leverage 1:1 time with the students, group shares, or in writing.
  • Introduce positive actions for physical and intellectual health, i.e., problem-solving and critical thinking through play and activities. Structured times in the day that allow students to identify a challenge and work with others to solve those challenges is a great start.
  • Teach self-management of time, energy, etc. Using classroom structures like scheduling boards or creating learning schedules allows students to manage their academic goals and associated behaviors during classroom transitions.
  • Working with others in a group setting helps students with building relationships. As they consider different perspectives and ways to work with their classmates, students can really enjoy their group time.
  • Focus on a growth mindset and ways students can learn the SEL components to identify goals and be successful socially, mentally, and academically. One way to helps students is to also build their vocabulary. By presenting anchor charts and language charts with questions and statements that help students communicate, a teacher can encourage the conversation between students.

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SEL really helps students be successful. This work builds their individual skills toward resiliency, leadership, and self-advocacy. There are also opportunities for teachers to support these efforts by implementing PBIS initiatives in addition to SEL learning. With a reward system in place and expectations for behaviors and skills to communicate this makes the classroom space even more ready for learning. This means less time is being spent on negative discipline and more time on student growth. If we want to teach students we have to integrate social-emotional learning throughout the school.

SEL is helpful to students even beyond the classroom. It builds character and skills that will support students in their communities, their lives, and their personal goals. Social-emotional learning is in the classroom and being implemented across school districts. With more students focusing on their SEL behaviors, the impact is so great for schools, and at the same time, helps with their future.

Kickboard can help you collect, aggregate, and analyze SEL behavior in your school. Additionally, Kickboard Student SEL Climate Surveys can help you collect student feedback on the culture and climate within your classroom or school and has students self-reflect on their own SEL skills.