Whoa. What a return to school it has been since we shut down in March 2020. So many things have changed. When you think about it, we have all been through a collective trauma. Our students may still be dealing with the repercussions of that trauma and so much more. Social emotional learning was always an important aspect of teaching, but now even more so. Social emotional learning (SEL) is all about learning how to cope with relationships and emotions. Let’s dive into some social emotional learning activities and grab some ideas to use right away!
What is Social Emotional Learning?
Social emotional learning is a mixing bowl of different feelings, strategies, and when really mixed together can help human relationships. What I mean is, social emotional learning (SEL) is all about relationships, understanding and managing emotions, goal setting, making responsible decisions, and showing empathy to others. Literally how to be a good human! We want to see our students thrive in their relationships, build friendships, and handle emotions when they pop up. Intertwining social emotional learning into our classrooms is how we accomplish all of those goals!
Social Emotional Learning Activities
Before you can even jump into social emotional learning activities, we really need to talk about a positive classroom. SEL is all about positive relationships and managing your classroom to handle big conversations. Fostering respect and honesty and also trust is of utmost importance to building a place for social emotional learning to happen. I have some great tips on building a positive classroom environment here. Once you feel like you have a solid foundation, then real learning can happen!
Your morning meeting is a great time to instill some social emotional awareness or social emotional activities. Sharing circles or show and tell during these times is a great way to build a positive learning environment. Morning meetings are also a great time to build empathy for our classmates. One child may share that their fish died, and the other students reacting are understanding how to feel sympathy. Another child may have won a soccer tournament and feeling pride for a classmate is also building empathy Looking for some ideas for morning meetings? Check this blog out for more information.
Next up: Kindness
Our youngest learners are very aware of what kindness is and why it is important; so capitalize on that for sure! One of the simplest tenets of social emotional awareness and empathy is showing kindness. It takes self awareness as well as a desire to be kind. Luckily, I have a few ways to encourage acts of kindness ready for you here! It includes some social emotional development kindness activities as well as a Spider Craftivity from my TpT store to encourage all things kind!
Friendship is also a keystone of social emotional learning.
Having friends to lean on, trust, share ideas with, and play together makes children happier, more excited to learn and helps run a positive classroom. Building friendships could just be pairing students with similar interests near each other to open an opportunity for communication. Friendship can also be fostered through read alouds. I have a great list of friendships read-alouds here. Looking for some more social emotional learning lesson plans? I have some super cute, easy to use ideas on this blog, all about building friendships. Take a look!
Emotions and Behavior Tracker Reflections
Once in a while, one of our lovelies makes a mistake, a bad decision or acts on impulse. Another aspect of social emotional learning is giving that child an opportunity to reflect on their actions. How did they feel at the moment? How about after? This is an excellent social emotional lesson plan idea. Asking students to reflect upon a time when they felt guilty, or felt upset and then examine what happened and why is huge!
For our youngest students, just asking them to use emojis to recognize how they are feeling when they are overwhelmed, anxious, angry, or sad can help them label their emotions for the future. The next time they feel angry, maybe go do something calming or go to the calming corner. If they are feeling sad, find a person to talk to about their sadness.
Social emotional learning activities and lessons are all about recognizing and identifying emotions, reactions, and building positive relationships. The lessons can be simple for younger learners, but very powerful. Simple kindness activities go a long way. Don’t forget how powerful morning meetings and read-alouds are when identifying emotions and how characters react when problems arise! Social emotional learning activities are only going to make your classroom run more smoothly, so try them out today!