The research is crystal clear. Social-emotional learning matters. SEL has been shown to help students learn to understand and manage their emotions, maintain positive relationships with peers and adults, set and achieve goals, show empathy, and more! It’s critical both in the home and the school environment.
SEL skills are a key indicator in school and workplace success, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever before. Christina Cipriano, Director of Research at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence says, “It’s a daunting reality, no question, but the worst thing we can do for our teachers, students, and families is to deprioritize SEL during the pandemic. It is next to impossible to expect teaching and learning to occur in a crisis without attending to our emotions.”
The pandemic has exacerbated a problem that our youth was already facing as a result of the digital age they are growing up in. Time spent on devices is linked to lower self-control, more distractibility, less emotional stability, and more difficulty making friends. Their social-emotional skills were already suffering before COVID-19.
Adding to that, the pandemic has worsened feelings of isolation, stress, and anxiety among children and teens. Throughout this pandemic and the transitions to and from remote learning, students and teachers have faced many challenges and stressors. If we are to have a serious conversation about healing and moving forward from this experience, SEL must be part of that conversation.
Katie Rosanbalm, PhD, is a Senior Research Scientist with the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. She says, “Social and emotional development was in peril prior to the pandemic. After this time apart, it will take systematic, intentional, and intensive efforts to get social and emotional learning back on track.”
In her paper Social and Emotional Learning During COVID-19 and Beyond in February 2021, Rosanbalm explains the importance of social-emotional learning. “A meta-analysis of 213 school-based universal SEL programs in K-12 found that introduction of these programs produced an average achievement gain of 11 percentile points on standardized tests, equivalent to the average effects of intensive academic interventions (Durlak et al., 2011). By addressing social and emotional skills rather than purely academics, however, SEL programs have a much broader scope of impact in addition to achievement gains. On average, school-wide SEL programs are associated with significant improvements in self-esteem, attitudes about school, and positive social behavior. Likewise, these programs are associated with a reduction in conduct problems, bullying, delinquency, depression, and anxiety (Durlak et al., 2011; Smith & Low 2013).”
“SEL instruction has been proven beneficial during normal times; it is now an urgent need,” Rosanbalm points out.
At Generation Mindful, we recognize that need. That’s why we’ve created (SEL) tools that take a positive, relationship-based approach to nurture emotional intelligence in the classroom and at home. Our child-centered tools wire both children and adult brains for connection in daily, playful ways, and teach vital social-emotional skills for a lifetime of success and wellbeing. Our classroom SEL bundles include everything you need for the classroom, while the At-Home Social-Emotional Learning Activities Book includes 12 activities designed to build social-emotional learning at home.
5 Easy SEL Activities for The Classroom
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) highlights five core competencies for academic and relationship success. They are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Here are some simple ways to incorporate these activities.
- Art is a fantastic way to express emotions in a positive, healthy way. Incorporate music or stories and ask your students to react artistically. Consider using prompts such as “How do you feel when you read this story” and “Do you think this music is happy or sad?”
- Create emotion identifiers by providing students with paper plates and popsicle sticks for an easy craft. Invite them to draw faces on the paper plates such as sad, happy, and confused. Attach the masks to the popsicle sticks and use them during read-alouds.
- Take a brain break and utilize mindful movements. Do a few yoga poses and balancing exercises. Try our MoveMindfully Early Childhood Card Deck.
- Create a chart of practical tasks to promote responsible decision-making. Tasks might include watering plants, erasing the chalkboard, keeping books organized, or timing activities.
- Start a kindness bucket. Read Carol McCloud’s book Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? Then invite students to write down appreciations and kind notes about others to fill the bucket. Read them at the end of the week.
5 Easy SEL Activities for The Home
- Create a Calming Corner with the Time-In ToolKit. This is a space where children can go to get some quiet time, either alone or with the help of a parent if needed. The space can include stuffed animals such as a SnuggleBuddies, calming tools like coloring books and glitter jars, and comforting items such as a favorite blanket.
- Start a gratitude journal. This helps increase self-awareness over time as children learn to reflect on their experiences. Make it part of your daily routine to sit down with your child and ask them what they’re grateful for until they can do this independently to help build the habit.
- Set goals together. Your child will build self-management skills by setting goals and going after them. Start small with young children and celebrate when they make their goal! This also teaches a growth mindset, which is important in social-emotional learning.
- Empathy in action. The next time you’re watching a show or movie together with your child, pause it occasionally to discuss emotions, consequences, and the reasons someone may be behaving the way they’re behaving.
- Write a letter or draw a picture for someone special. Ask your child prompts such as “Who would love to hear from you” or “Who do you think needs cheering up with a card?” This builds relationship skills and helps children, who are generally egocentric, think about and help others.
Social-emotional skills have always been important, but as we are finding our way out of this years-long pandemic, it is more important than ever that we listen and support our children and each other.