Learn 5 simple, yet effective strategies to help you make time to teach social-emotional learning in the K-5 classroom daily even with a busy schedule!
5 Manageable Ways to Teach SEL Daily
It’s no secret that teachers have a lot of responsibilities. There is an enormous amount of curriculum content that needs to be covered in the core subjects, like math, reading, and science. But the responsibilities don’t end there. There are classrooms to organize and run, and children to manage. This doesn’t leave us with much time for anything else. Or does it?
Social-emotional learning involves teaching the whole child. It focuses on developing the social skills and emotional awareness of a child. While we may not have a lot of time to devote to teaching SEL exclusively, it is still important that we put on our creative thinking caps and find the time and space for this vital content in our classrooms.
This post will inspire you to take action in important ways in the limited time you have. By using these tips, you will no longer struggle with being “too busy” or having “not enough time” to teach social-emotional learning every day.
So let’s get creative together and learn simple ways to teach social-emotional learning. You will learn how effective planning and rethinking “classroom management” can help you be more intentional with SEL. Similarly, you will learn ways to integrate SEL into your morning meeting, core content, and create student engagement opportunities, making these strategies not only possible but simple.
Why is it important to teach social-emotional learning each day?
Before we get into the strategies that make teaching daily SEL simple, it’s important to first recognize the importance of teaching social-emotional learning on our classroom communities and the students we teach.
Before children can be successful in school, they need to have their basic needs met. They need to be fed, warm, clothed, and feel cared for and accepted. If a child lacks their basic needs, they won’t be able to perform at their best in academic areas. Likewise, if a child lacks the ability to express their emotions in healthy ways or participate in activities with peers, they will struggle at school.
Making time to teach the 5 core areas of SEL is essential if we want our students to succeed. We can accomplish this in how we shape our classroom climate and in the lessons we teach.
Yet, when it comes to teaching social-emotional learning, we are often left with no clear outline of what to teach and when. Below you will find five simple strategies that are clearly outlined so that you can make a big impact in the time you set for SEL each day. Follow the steps outlined and get started today!
#1 – Plan and Schedule Time to Teach Social-Emotional Learning
This may seem obvious, but it is so important. If we don’t write down when and how we will teach SEL into our timetables and planners, it likely won’t happen. We will get distracted with other classroom events, caught up in core content review and instruction, or just run out of time.
It doesn’t have to be a large block of time, but you do need to dedicate time. A short 15-20 minutes will make a huge difference in the climate of your classroom and will help you support your students and their social-emotional needs. With this regular block of time in your schedule, it will start to become a welcomed routine that you and your students look forward to each day.
- Sit with your planner or timetable. Decide on a time to teach social-emotional learning exclusively or when you will integrate into your core instruction.
- Physically write it down. If you photocopy your timetable, make sure to have a dedicated block labeled ‘SEL’ that you can write down the topic and details of your lesson.
- Commit to it. This may sound simple, but trust me, when you get busy, you may think that it is an area that can be pushed to another day, or forgotten altogether. Once you commit to it and make it part of your routine, you will find it easier to stick with it.
- Reflect and make necessary changes. After you teach social-emotional learning a few times during dedicated blocks of time, ask yourself how it’s going and if any changes are needed. Maybe students could benefit from the lesson earlier in the day, or after a transition. Perhaps they could really use a lesson each day, rather than once or twice a week.
#2 – Reimagine Your Classroom Management
Classroom management is not about making kids behave properly. It also shouldn’t be about making kids conform to a rigid set of rules or unreasonable demands that takes away their creativity and individuality.
Classroom management should be about running a classroom built on mutual respect, cooperation, and responsibility. It’s about encouraging students to take part in the classroom in order to build a community where everyone has a voice and feels important. This is where social-emotional learning and classroom management intersect.
We need to reimagine what classroom management is. This mindset shift is where we start to understand that by focusing instead on the social and emotional development of our students, we build routines and procedures together that help our classrooms run effectively.
- Establish rules, procedures, and expectations together with your students. This will set the tone for the rest of your year together and make everyone feel heard.
- Teach and practice healthy ways of communicating. Roleplay taking turns, asking questions, sharing, and listening.
- Catch students being responsible or making good choices and reward them with a compliment or a kind note. Verbal recognition is powerful and intrinsically motivating. Encourage students to do the same with peers.
- When a difficult situation occurs, let it be an opportunity to practice the strategies you have taught or a chance to teach a new social-emotional concept explicitly. Share mindfulness tools, vocabulary, and strategy posters to help kids self-regulate and solve problems.
#3 – Have a Daily Morning Meeting
It’s very likely that you are already spending time first thing in the day working closely with your students. But are you also building their social and emotional skills?
By putting a social-emotional learning spin on a morning meeting, you can effectively connect with students, set a positive tone for the day, and transition into learning.
Morning meetings are fun! Kids love to spend time together, so anything that feels less like schoolwork and more like play makes school more enjoyable. Greeting, sharing, and performing activities with peers builds community and helps kids get to know one another better.
- Dedicate the first 15 minutes of your day to having a morning meeting. Write it down and schedule it into your day.
- Begin by modeling the steps of a morning meeting to your students. Clearly explain and set the expectations for a meeting.
- Practice greeting one another in different ways. Talk about which are your students prefered ways to greet one another and why.
- Spend a few minutes asking questions that encourage kids to share about themselves with the group. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about each other and build connections!
- Put on your thinking cap and create short activities that build a specific social or emotional skills. For example, introduce a new breathing strategy they can use to help themselves calm down, set a specific goal they will work on that week, or write a kind note and give it to someone.
- Then, wrap up your meeting by transitioning into your next lesson or finish off by reading a children’s story that connects to the SEL concept of the day.
#4 – Integrate SEL with Core Content
Social-emotional learning instruction does not need to occur separately from ELA and math instruction. In fact, there are many ways to integrate them together so that you are saving time and making a huge impact with your lessons!
You are likely already reading books to your class each day. By selecting, reading, and discussing books that focus on social or emotional topics, you are weaving ELA and SEL together. Books where children can see characters having and solving problems, practicing self-management, and building relationships will help them make connections and learn strategies and solutions to their own problems. Books help us teach hard topics and illustrate them in creative, helpful ways.
In math, children need effective ways of communicating their thinking, working through problems, and persevering through difficult tasks. Math provides all of these opportunities! When we structure our math block to include partner work, independent practice, and whole-group activities, we offer many opportunities for children to develop social-emotional skills in order to perform math tasks successfully.
- Design a book study based on a social-emotional learning book. Have students complete a character analysis, describe the problem and solution, and make connections. Try role playing the actions of a character!
- Journal writing is an excellent way for children to reflect and think about their experiences. Guide them to write about specific SEL topics as they relate to their own lives. It’s also a great idea to have children write about a story you have read, by following a provided prompt or writing their opinion after a story.
- Like math, science provides opportunities for students to face and overcome challenges, try new things, and work with peers. Science may bring feelings of excitement, surprise, or frustration, which is valuable for kids as they need to learn to work through different feelings in school!
- Kids need math tools to learn new math concepts effectively. Learning to share tools and use them to display learning takes practice and patience. Presenting math problems for students to work through, allows children to think critically, try new things, and make mistakes. All are valuable ways of building social and emotional skills!
#5 – Use Student-Centered Strategies
To increase engagement and build social-emotional skills, you need to have student-centered practices in your classroom. For example, student engagement strategies give ownership and responsibility to students for their learning. These take time to develop but are effective at increasing student motivation to learn. When kids feel like they have an impact in the classroom and enjoy being there, their focus, effort, and output will likely increase.
- Get kids involved in their learning in active ways. Provide opportunities for active participation. For example, coming up to write on the board, act out stories, and use hands-on ways of practicing concepts. Further, students can design activities for the class to complete, or help teach the class what they have learned.
- Encourage cooperative learning with peers throughout the day. Students should have opportunities to work with others on projects and assignments. Also, provide ways for kids to work towards common goals together. For example, working well together and demonstrating teamwork to earn a whole group reward.
- Add elements of gamification to your routines. By adding bits of fun and games into your teaching, students will be hooked into learning and participating. There are great ways to combine games into social-emotional learning, such as earning points for showing responsibility or participating in challenges that build a growth mindset.
- Provide opportunities for students to have choice in their learning. For example, brainstorm topics for a project together, and allow students to select their own topic and partner to work with.
Teach Social-Emotional Learning with this Resource
The mind+heart Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum will help you build a productive and peaceful classroom filled with respectful, confident, and kind children! This SEL curriculum includes SEL lessons and hundreds of activities covering important social-emotional topics all young children need to learn and practice.
Free Social-Emotional Learning Ebook
Learn 9 ways to transform your classroom with social-emotional learning in the FREE Guide for teachers! It is filled with actionable tips and strategies, insightful ideas to get you started, and free printable templates and activities you can use in your classroom right away!
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