Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Credit – https://casel.org/
I look back at my accomplishments thus far in my life – academic, professional, personal relationships/family – and a common thread underlying all these achievements are the attitudes, traits and values that guided me through it all. Some of these include –
|• Optimism • Tenacity or perseverance • A strong work ethic • Dedication • The ability to delay gratification • Open-mindedness||• Empathy • Flexibility • A sense of humour • Cooperation and collaboration • Willingness to negotiate differences|
In my primary role today as a teacher I now wonder – In what areas do my students demonstrate their strengths or a deficit? What does this imply for their academic and non-academic success later on in life? Can I help them reflect on how these attributes are critical in becoming balanced, open-minded and empathetic individuals? The answer to the above is a resounding yes. These attributes can be taught, can be role modelled and are equally as important as teaching literacy and numeracy skills.
The Answer to “What is SEL?”
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) provides students with the emotional and social wherewithal to demonstrate the personal attributes, attitudes, and values identified above. Emotional learning involves helping students develop self-understanding, self-regulation, impulse control, the ability to delay gratification, anger management, stress reduction, etc. Social learning helps students develop an ability to adopt a different perspective, identify emotions in others, feel empathy, listen, communicate effectively, and simply get along with others.
The Answer to “Why SEL?”
Our students’ ability to succeed academically, professionally, and personally is strongly correlated with their emotional and social intelligence. Social-emotional learning is not happening as consistently in the home (or elsewhere in society) as it did in the past. The reasons for this phenomenon are too varied and complex to discuss fully here. Nonetheless, we are left with a fundamental question: do we take on the task of teaching SEL or accept the status quo?
SEL is an integral part of the curriculum at our school. In addition to the dedicated classes for the same, I wanted to equip my students with some strategies to cope with their emotions and feelings – especially negative ones like frustration, stress – we did some of these activities inspired from the Youtube channel –
First activity – Connect the dots
Students placed 10 dots on the whiteboard and breathed in and out while connecting one dot to the next.
Students reflected that they were able to focus only on their breathing with no unwanted thoughts coming to mind. I have suggested they do this when experiencing any strong emotions – frustration, anger etc.
Second activity – Clapping and cups rhythm
Students watched a video to play a rhythm using a cup and then tried to do the same. The focus was on dealing with the frustration of not being able to do the rhythm initially, and strategies to deal with this frustration.
Post the activity we reflected on our frustrations in other areas of our lives especially when trying to learn something new. Case in point – some students were definitely struggling with the concept of adding and subtracting unlike fractions – I could sense their confusion and frustration (yes, even across that virtual screen!). I referenced this clap and cup activity while suggesting that focusing on each step at a time (each clap and rhythm), and just persisting (trying the rhythm again and again) would definitely help them.
A couple more links from the same channel that I plan to do in the coming weeks –
(a feely bag with objects of different shapes and textures to help the mind focus on only one thing, thus helping to calm your breathing and lessen your thoughts.
(Gratitude name – use the letters of your name to list things you are grateful for)
(Using 3 senses to notice 3 things. Focussing on your outer world helps to calm your inner world.)
Activity 3 – role modelling
Role modelling – Children will do as they see you do, they may not necessarily do what they hear you say. They need to see us as human beings with the same emotions and we need to role model how we deal with our negative emotions.
I remember one class – where just everything seemed to go wrong – my computer froze, I couldn’t share my screen with students, I couldn’t even see them – luckily though they could hear me. I could sense my frustration building as time passed and my plan for the class went to pieces. Not wanting to waste any more time trying to get my computer to behave, I changed my track on the spot – got them to start doing math in their journals – the good old pencil and paper way (failsafe).
I then used this as a teachable moment – talked to the students about my frustration and how I took a deep breath to not let it overcome me and then moved on in the best way possible in the circumstances.
Do leave a comment with feedback if you try any of these activities in your class 🙂