Find simple social distancing tips for teaching social-emotional learning effectively in your K-3 classroom.
Social Distancing Tips for Teaching Social-Emotional Learning
Teaching social-emotional learning right now is essential to support kids during this trying time. This is true whether or not you are teaching in a school or continuing with remote learning. Teachers must address social-emotional strategies, so each kid feels safe, understood, and valued. As a result, students will grow, learn, and flourish.
Not being able to hang out with friends in the usual way is taking a toll on our kids. There are some great tools, tips, and strategies we teachers can incorporate in class (even remotely). In this way, we address these challenges we have never seen before. Even if you have never included social-emotional learning in your classroom, YOU CAN DO IT! Therefore, read along for TONS of resources for teaching SEL, most of which are helpful even today during social distancing.
Why Do We Need to Teach Social-Emotional Learning to our Kids?
In a recent study, students who participated in evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs (like the DESSA System) scored 13 points higher academically. They had a 6 percent higher high school graduation rate and they were 11 percent more likely to graduate from college.
SEL programs reliably lead to future academic success. Not only that, but they also lead to fewer problems, less emotional and mental health issues, and improved attitudes. SEL leads to positive social behavior in the classroom.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning highlights these categories for success: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Within this realm, we can address SEL by teaching kids:
- how to manage emotional responses to stress, the unknown, and frustrating circumstances.
- ways to take care of themselves with self-regulation, self-awareness, and self-management.
- how to have healthy relationships with others and social awareness.
- methods for making responsible decisions.
SEL Topics to Teach Right Now
You can do it even with social distancing measures in place. For example, create a Bitmoji classroom with games, activities, resources, books, and other links all in one place for your kids. Schedule time for the kids to access the resource and explore.
The Mind + Heart Digital Program includes 44 products for both Google and Seesaw platforms. Topics such as morning meetings, elements of the CASEL 5 competencies, growth mindset, and so much more help you focus your teaching. These resources include many activities to incorporate in your class. They work well whether you are teaching with social distancing or remotely.
How To Teach Social-Emotional Learning With Social Distancing
Wondering how to use materials and resources you already own? Need to use them in a socially distanced classroom or with remote learning?
Just a few general tips are listed below. You CAN start with what you have!
- Project it onto your whiteboard, screen, or smartboard.
- Screenshare with your online platform.
- Print out materials and place them in each kid’s binder or folder.
- Share portions of the materials (with respect to copyright, of course) via Google Classroom or whatever online platform your district uses.
Start with Morning Meetings
Morning meetings can be as important as a great breakfast! For example, you can establish the plans for the day, address any issues, tend to the kids and their concerns, and build community.
Here is a step-by-step itinerary on running a morning meeting (plus get a FREE week of plans!).
- Start your day with morning meetings! It takes 15 minutes and sets the tone for the entire day.
- Here is a fun idea: move your morning meetings outdoors to get some fresh air and spread out. Also, you can appreciate the natural beauty outside.
- Create a morning greeting poster for the kids’ arrival. Perhaps you’ve seen the videos with the kids giving high 5’s and fist bumps to their teachers before entering the class? With social distancing, we need to develop new ways to quickly interact with each child. This action makes them feel welcome and special.
- Try using a wave, jazz hands, foot bump, namaste hands, a wink, the floss, an elbow bump, spirit fingers, hip bump, tip of the hat, thumbs up, salute, etc.
- Make a feelings poster and have the kids point to how they are feeling today.
Activities such as this give you quick insight on how to best prepare for the day.
Themes such as Mindful Monday, Take-Charge Tuesday, Wise Wednesday, Thoughtful Thursday, and Friendly Friday will help. You can establish a caring, warm community in your classroom while allowing children to express themselves.
How do you use morning meetings with social distancing?
Project morning meeting greetings and topics onto your whiteboard, screen, or smartboard. Type in your daily morning message onto that slide, and the rest is ready to go! You could also pull it up on your tablet or use the included printable cards.
Social Distancing Tips for Teaching Self-Awareness
Self-awareness includes recognizing and identifying emotions, needs, strengths, and limitations. Here are some tips for how to teach it with social distancing.
- Start by introducing emotional vocabulary. Get some books at the library and incorporate this emotions book companion and this other emotions resource. Refer to this great list of social-emotional children’s books to add to your classroom. Use them in read-alouds in class. Discuss the characters’ feelings and situations, so the kids understand various points of view.
- Roleplay so the kids can see and react to different scenarios. Model the proper behavior and have the kids practice in different situations.
- Awareness of feelings is vital, so start journaling with your students.
- Add art into your day to let kids reflect, express emotion, provide coping skills, and help regulate stress. Try a silhouette portrait where kids can cut out images from magazines that reflect their personality.
- Have the kids brainstorm some words which describe them. Take these words and create a wordle for them (great keepsake item for the end of the year, too!).
- Pick one character trait to focus on each month.
- Create a gratitude jar for the kids to fill as you teach a lesson on gratitude.
Use self-awareness materials in your classroom that focus on identifying emotions, communicating emotions, personality traits and strengths, confidence and self-esteem, and role models. Try the digital emotional unit for K-2 for independent activities after a classroom lesson!
Social Distancing Strategies for Teaching Self-Management
Understanding how to manage your emotions, stress, anxiety, and excitement is a life skill with profound implications. We can start this with our students TODAY.
- Make an emotions wheel with feelings and solutions. If you are noticing self-restraint issues, these wheels can come in handy to quietly address the situation.
- Teach the kids some breathing strategies to calm down in stressful situations with mindfulness lessons. Grab this balloon breathing activity FREEBIE for your class.
- Incorporate a calm down kit, sensory box, sensory bottle, or stress ball (balloon partly filled with flour) for kids who need it. While socially distancing, perhaps kids can create their own at home and leave with their personal belongings at school.
- Add individual coloring kits for the kids to use to manage stress and anxiety.
- Since we are social distancing, we can’t find a quiet corner that everyone can use at their leisure. Instead, perhaps you can head outside with everyone, and they can find a calm space.
Social Distancing Tips for Teaching Social Awareness & Relationship Skills
Teaching the kids about how to interact with others builds essential life skills.
- Use a kindness calendar in class and at home, as well as offering other kindness activities.
- Hang kindness posters in your classroom.
- Do the wrinkled heart activity to encourage kids to THINK before they speak.
- Introduce bucket filler activities in your classroom to encourage kids to consider others throughout the day.
- Create a resolution poster (Respect, Express, Share, Openminded, Listen, Understand, Think, Imagine, Offer, Negotiate) and discuss it with the class.
- Have the kids interview someone else in the class. Not only will they get to learn about this person, but they will reinforce listening and conversation skills.
- Create an assignment where kids work together on a task, but digitally. Perhaps each kid could contribute to a story that they develop.
- Play a Would You Rather game to get to know the kids better. Also, check out these get to know you games.
Social Distancing Ideas for Teaching Responsible Decision Making
Our ultimate goal is to shape our kids into responsible, capable, lovable, understanding little humans. With nurturing, these kids will be the leaders of tomorrow.
- Since we are social distancing, rethink your classroom jobs and assign roles to give kids a sense of belonging and responsibility. Giving kids responsibility helps them become independent thinkers who can problem solve.
- Discuss the steps you go through when making a decision.
Add responsibility, goals, problem solving, bullying, and standing up for others as themes in your lessons.
Social Distancing Tips for Teaching Growth Mindset
“Growth mindset is a theory centered around the belief that intelligence and learning can be developed and improved. If someone has a growth mindset, they have a positive attitude towards learning and their ability to progress and achieve. Pupils who possess a growth mindset are said to rise to challenges and learn from the mistakes they make, rather than feeling distressed and defeated if they are unable to do or understand something.”
- Display mindset posters in your classroom or as part of your digital learning.
- Teach kids to use YET when they are claiming they can’t do something. “I can’t do this, YET …”
- Introduce goal setting with your kids. Show them how big goals have smaller tasks that lead up to the ultimate goals at the end. Checking off each task gets you closer to your goal. Rather than looking ahead and seeing where you are heading, look back and see what you have accomplished toward that goal instead.
- Make a classroom poster that highlights “In this classroom, we say …..” (instead of …..).
The growth mindset resources for grades K-2 and grades 3-5 (with options for digital learning) include lessons on the elastic brain, fixed versus growth mindset, mistakes & failures & challenges, perseverance and the power of YET, and having a growth mindset every day.
Incorporate the activities into your socially distanced classroom routine to develop positive thinkers. They can adapt, change, and grow.
How to use the mind+heart Social-Emotional Learning curriculum with social distancing?
- DIgital – Children can complete assignments digitally after a classroom, small group, or one-on-one lesson.
- DIgital – Children can complete assignments independently in the classroom, homeschool setting, or in counseling sessions.
- Printable – Use mind+heart digital in conjunction with the original (PRINTABLE version) mind+heart SEL K-2 curriculum to enhance learning.
- Printable – Teachers have comprehensive lesson plans, lesson layouts, printable materials, instructions, and a layout that is simple and easy to implement.
Introducing a social-emotional learning program in your socially distanced class is as easy as choosing a resource, previewing it, and printing or digitally assigning the components you wish to cover. Tackling the social-emotional issues at a young age will ultimately help your kiddos in the future.
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