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Social and emotional learning (commonly referred to as SEL) is vital to a young person’s development.

SEL helps a child build the requisite skills and behaviors to effectively deal with everyday challenges and tasks related to ethics, social interaction, and self-management. Indeed, according to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL can be boiled down to five key competencies related to:

  • Decision-making
  • Building relationships
  • Managing one’s impulses and emotions.

If you teach young children in their first years of school, SEL should be high up on your teaching agenda. As well as helping students with basic numeracy and literacy, you play an invaluable role in nurturing their social and emotional well-being, which could affect their adult lives.

If you need help with introducing social and emotional learning into your classroom, we’ve put together some great tips below to get you started:

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1. Start every day by checking in with your students

Begin your mornings by finding out how every student is feeling. As well as helping you gauge the overall well-being of the class, it will encourage young students to reflect on their mood and understand that they may act differently depending on their feelings. Awareness of this fact may help them better to control certain feelings, such as anger or excitement.

2. Provide opportunities for kids to work together

Allowing kids to work with partners or larger groups helps develop their cooperation skills and boost their confidence when interacting with others. Mix things up by assigning partners during one lesson and permitting them to choose partners in the next.

3. Teach the benefits of kindness

Building kindness in young children is vital if you want them to grow into thoughtful and empathetic adults. Start by creating a kindness scheme where students can note complimentary and appreciative messages about their peers. Collect them in a box throughout the week and read them on Friday afternoons. This is a great way to boost kids’ confidence and nurture a culture of giving within the classroom. For more ideas on teaching kindness, take a look at this article.

4. Provide a space for kids to calm down

Occasionally, students will find themselves worked up and desperate to get out of the hustle and bustle of the classroom. Offering a peaceful space to calm down will help them learn to deal with overwhelming emotions.

5. Set up opportunities for role play

Role-playing is a great way to build empathy (as well as develop acting skills!). Try tricky role-playing situations that your students may encounter in real life.

6. Expose students to younger or older classes

Connecting with kids in different grades is a fantastic way to build community within your school. It will also encourage older kids to pass on valuable wisdom that even teachers may be unable to provide.

7. Teach them to set personal goals

Monitoring one’s academic and social success is an important part of SEL. Help strengthen kids’ self-management skills by encouraging them to set personal goals and assessing their progress regularly.

8. Encourage students to express themselves creatively

Sometimes, students struggle to articulate their feelings with simple words and phrases. Artistic practices are a great way to overcome this. Encourage your students to pick up a pencil, sketch their thoughts and feelings, or come up with some music or poetry.

9. Encourage kids to find out about each others’ backgrounds

An important part of SEL is learning to empathize with people from different backgrounds. Set up classroom sessions or show-and-tells where they can talk about their cultural differences openly and without judgment.

10. Build community spirit with fun games

Games are a great way to teach kids how to cooperate and work together. Learning to be diplomatic and fair during games will set them up well for the future.