Learn 6 ways to infuse SEL into your classroom management plan with activities your students will love!

6 ways to infuse SEL into your classroom management plan

An effective classroom management plan is essential in keeping things running smoothly in your classroom. As things get busy, it can be challenging to work topics like social-emotional learning into your daily routine, but that’s where a solid plan can help.

The six tips below can help you infuse SEL into your classroom management plan with engaging activities students can use to build these important skills. 

1. Create class rules together

Many students are overwhelmed at the start of a new school year, so giving them ownership in their environment can make them feel valued and empowered. As part of your classroom management plan, have your students help you create a set of class rules during the first week of school. According to ThoughtCo., by involving your students in this process it often leads to better understanding and long-term success.

Here’s a fun activity from Education World on how to create a set of rules using a classroom behavior contract:

  • Present your students with questions like, “How do you want me to treat you?”
  • Ask them to share their thoughts about the questions in small groups. 
  • After talking in groups, ask your students to share their thoughts with the entire class and write them on a large piece of paper.
  • If a comment begins to be repeated, make a checkmark next to it.
  • Discuss the repeated comments further and ask your students how these thoughts might be formulated into rules. 

Though this process could take place over several days, at the end, you should have a final list of classroom rules on your sheet. Then you can have each student sign the sheet and keep it displayed in your class.

As part of your classroom management plan, have your students help you create a set of class rules during the first week of school.

2. Set expectations with positive social-emotional vocabulary

If one of your goals for next year is to nurture a growth mindset, set this expectation in your classroom management plan, and then show students how to use positive social-emotional vocabulary as a method of self-encouragement. During the first week of school, ask them to share phrases they might use when they become frustrated and then show them how to replace negative phrases with positive ones, like the following examples: 

  • “I’m not good at this” can be replaced with “how can I improve?”
  • “I give up” can be replaced with “I can try this a different way.”
  • “This is too hard” can be replaced with “learning takes time.”

Just like you did with your set of classroom rules, create a visual display of these positive expectations to remind students of their resilience and growth throughout the year. 

3. Make relationship-building part of your classroom management plan 

Learning how to build strong relationships is one of the most valuable SEL skills your students can develop at school. By adding student interviews and other relationship-building activities to your classroom management plan, you can help kids create stronger connections with each other as well as enhance their listening and conversational skills.

To get started with student interviews, try the following activity:

  • Pair students off into groups of two.
  • Have each student ask their partner questions about their family, cultural background, or even opinions about current events. 
  • When they finish interviewing, have students come back to their desks and write a few short paragraphs or draw a picture about what they’ve learned about their partner. 

For an even deeper approach to this activity, try using the Nasco Winning at Relationships SEL Sewing Kit. Once students have finished their peer interviews, they’ll reflect on what makes that person unique and choose a stand-out trait. Then, using the supplies included in the kit, they will design and sew a medal that represents their partner and write a letter to read when they present their partner with the medal during a class ceremony.

For a deeper approach to relationship building, try the Nasco Winning at Relationships SEL Sewing Kit.

For students who might have a harder time opening up, you can also try an activity like the Nasco Curiosity Cubes Conversation Starter Kit. This kit can help students overcome social anxiety by using large cubes they can roll that feature questions for students to answer as icebreakers during interviews, class discussions, and more.

4. Encourage resilience and mindfulness 

Resilience is an important foundational skill in SEL that focuses on your students’ sense of competency. It’s important to work this into your classroom management plan to encourage optimism and hope, as well as enhance mindfulness and problem-solving skills.

Working resilience principles into your daily activities can be as simple as using breathing techniques such as “star” or “finger breathing” exercises, centering techniques like those used in yoga, or reflective activities such as journaling. To engage your students in these activities, try the Yoga Spinner Game®, which allows your students to perform mindful physical activity in a fun way, or the Nasco SEL Reflections Journal Kit, which offers 30 days of journaling prompts built around CASEL’s core competencies. 

It’s important to work mindfulness and resilience into your classroom management plan to encourage optimism and hope.

For a deeper dive into resilience, the Resilience: A Nasco SEL Journal and Passport Kit takes students on a journey of self-reflection and skill-building by walking them through six exercises that align with CASEL’s core competencies. Each exercise centers around an example from the world of insects that helps them understand that resilient behaviors are not just in the classroom, but everywhere around them.

5. Include rewards in your classroom management plan

Once you’ve set your classroom rules and made your expectations clear, don’t forget to add rewards for positive behavior into your plan. Though there are countless ways to reward students with stickers, small treats, or trinkets, one of the newest and most popular methods of praise is using desk pets.

Desk pets are one of the newest and most popular methods of classroom praise.

Desk pets are fun for students, but they can also be powerful classroom management and SEL tools. The Nasco Responsible Decision-Making Desk Pet Kit incorporates the pets into a lesson that promotes responsible decision-making and self-management. Plus, it includes fun activities and accessories, such as an adoption certificate, pet homes, erasers, mini awards, and much more.  

Even though your students will love using desk pets, don’t forget that when it comes to rewards, simple verbal praise can also be extremely effective and empowering. By making your students’ efforts known and seen, you can boost their confidence and help them succeed in activities inside and outside the classroom. 

6. Create a culture of kindness 

If you incorporate any of the preceding tips in your classroom management plan, you’ll already be well on your way to creating a culture of kindness in your classroom, but there are also little things you can do every day to show your students just how much you care. If you haven’t already, consider incorporating the following kind gestures into your normal routine.

  • Start each day with a check in – This doesn’t need to be elaborate; it could be as simple as making it a priority to stand at the classroom door each morning to offer students a warm greeting and ask them how they’re feeling.
  • Allow talk time – The school day can be hectic, and kids can get a bit squirrely from time to time. Allow short breaks to check in with each other, discuss ideas, or simply expel some excess energy so students can hit the reset button and better focus on learning.
  • Make time for sensory breaks – If you have a calming corner in your classroom, allow students to take occasional sensory breaks to relax and refocus using sensory objects or tools that help them recenter.
  • End each day intentionally – Much like the beginning of your day, take a few minutes to connect with your students at the end of every day to reflect on what they’ve learned or to see if they need extra help with anything.
Create a culture of kindness in your classroom with simple gestures.

And, if you’re looking for a kindness activity that students can engage in, try this one from 

Miss Education that focuses on the power of kind words.

  • Read the story Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carol McCloud with your class.
  • Place a bucket in an easily accessible area of the classroom. 
  • Ask students to write messages of kindness, love, or appreciation on small pieces of card stock and put them in the bucket.
  • At the end of the week, spend a few minutes sharing these “kindness notes” with the entire class.

No matter how you choose to structure your classroom management plan, don’t forget, sometimes even the smallest additions or gestures of kindness can make a huge difference in developing a calm and balanced environment where SEL is a part of everyday learning.

How to infuse SEL into your classroom management plan

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