While an academic curriculum is important, the best teachers will combine that with a holistic program that teaches children a number of crucial life skills. One of those skills is the ability to understand emotions, which is key to success in school and out of it.
In fact, a recent study found that students who actively engaged in social emotional learning scored 13 points higher academically, had a 6% higher high school graduation rate, and were 11% more likely to graduate from college than those who didn’t.
Clearly, teaching beyond the traditional curriculum really pays off!
What is social emotional learning?
Social emotional learning, or SEL, refers to the process by which children learn to understand emotions. SEL teaches kids how to set positive goals, how to show empathy for others, how to make responsible decisions, and how to maintain positive relationships.
Essentially, social emotional learning is what every child needs to undertake in order to have the interpersonal skills needed for day-to-day life.
Although SEL skills are not taught in the classroom alone, it’s really important that teachers (and homeschoolers) have an awareness of how to incorporate social emotional learning into their lesson plans.
To help you achieve just that, let’s break down the core SEL skills that every child should be encouraged to build…
The 5 SEL skills all teachers need to know about
As they grow, children should develop the following skills:
- Self-awareness: the ability to understand our emotions, and the impact they have on ourselves and others. Someone with self-awareness will understand their own strengths and limitations and will have a good sense of who they are as a person.
- Self-management: this, in contrast, is about being able to control our emotions, and taking practical actions to manage them. For example, managing stress requires us to take actions that’ll make the situation easier and less stressful to handle. Similarly, managing anger is important to prevent escalation to total meltdowns.
- Social awareness: thisrefers to understanding the different social norms for different scenarios, and knowing how to appropriately communicate and behave with others. It’s also about understanding what’s right and what’s wrong in a social context.
- Relationship skills: the ability to maintain positive relationships with others by understanding how to listen, how to communicate, and how to fairly negotiate a friendship, partnership or professional relationship. Learning empathy, and how to show it, is a core part of this.
- Responsible decision making: the knowledge, sensibility, and confidence to make sound decisions based on what the consequences of our actions might be. This is about making positive decisions that are both right for you and those around you.
Each of these SEL skills are well developed in an educational environment where children have to navigate various circumstances, people, and challenges from day to day.
If your child is being homeschooled, the social and academic education you provide them will be their primary example of social emotional learning — so watch what you say and do!
That said, while a lot of SEL development can take a relatively passive form, it’s definitely worth having an awareness of what you can do, as a teacher or homeschooler, to help encourage social emotional learning more actively.
How to actively teach kids SEL skills at school (or on a homeschool basis)
Here are five easy ways to incorporate social emotional learning in your next lesson:
#1. Allocate some time for journal writing
To encourage your students to build self-awareness, you could dedicate ten or so minutes every Monday to ‘journal time’. Here your class can reflect on their weekends, and share what they got up to. This offers a great opportunity for your students to think about their emotions, what they enjoy, and who they spend time with — all of which is key to SEL development.
#2. Use characters in books to teach empathy
When reading books, ask students to ‘become’ different characters and encourage them to consider how that character might be feeling in light of a particular event. Switch characters around each time, and your students will quickly begin to understand what empathy looks like in real-time.
#3. Talk openly about managing emotions
Books can also be used to help students understand how they think a character handled their emotions. If, for example, one character is sad, ask your class to think about how they could make their situation better. This is a great way to teach both self-control and decision making.
#4. Let your students work in groups
Group work can be tricky to manage as a teacher, but it offers a great opportunity for students to engage with their peers in a more structured, goal-driven way. This is key to boosting self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship skills. It’ll also prepare them for the future, too, where they’ll have to work in teams more often.
#5. Hold class meetings to make decisions
By holding class meetings to decide on things like what film to watch or what game to play, you’ll be effectively encouraging your students to listen to other opinions, to make decisions, and to respectfully accept the outcome of a majority result. This will help students understand empathy, decision making, social awareness, and self-management skills.
1, 2, 3… Social emotional learning
Yes, SEL really should be just as commonplace in your classroom as mathematics. It’s what grows students into the best versions of themselves, and gives them the confidence to not only excel academically (which is great) but personally, too.
So the next time you’re thinking of what and how to teach your students, pay extra attention to the ways in which you can develop them beyond just the curriculum. You can also try our Senses and Feelings worksheet pack to make learning about emotions fun and interesting.
And for more advice and top tips on how to be the best teacher you can, head over to our blog section for more articles and ideas that’ll boost your lessons instantly.
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