Emotional guidance and character education have always played a part in the school day, but now more than ever, students (and teachers) need enhanced support. Luckily, there are many social-emotional learning activities that will help you focus on building students’ skills and creating a peaceful classroom environment.
Keep reading to find eight SEL ideas you can easily incorporate throughout the day, week, or year.
1. Unplug after work
Social-emotional activities aren’t just for students. If you’re going to bring your best self to school every day, you need to make sure you’re taking care of you.
There’s always a never-ending to-do list, but it’s important to take off your “mental backpack” at the end of the day, says Mental Health Professional Lisa Dunham. Relax, take a walk, spend time with family, and recharge for what’s next.
For more reminders and easy ways to de-stress, download this list of 5- to 10-minute stress reduction tips for teachers.
2. Motivate and reward good behavior
Do you struggle with getting kids to listen or respect others? Then you probably know that negative consequences don’t always work.
Many educators are finding that classroom management tools such as the Responsible Decision-Making Desk Pet Kit can be a powerful motivator for getting students to make good choices.
After students sign a contract and commit to making responsible decisions, they get to choose a desk pet, or small toy animal, they can personalize. As they earn points for good behavior, they gain individual and class rewards and build their sense of responsibility.
3. Focus on one character trait at a time
Just like with any new concept, students need to practice character traits after you introduce them. And it often entails a personal journey to master them.
Tools such as the Nasco Passports Kits give students that opportunity by guiding them through practice exercises in leadership and resilience — traits that will help them in the classroom and beyond.
Each Passport Kit includes 30 passports plus a teacher’s guide that lets you adapt the unit to fit your time frames.
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4. Take time to check in
Homelessness, hunger, anxiety — your students face many different stressors at school and home that impede their learning. But conducting simple check-ins, weekly or even daily, can make a huge difference for your students.
There are various ways you can find out what your students need, and you’ll figure out what works best in your classroom. Try these ideas:
- Provide each student with a personal desk tracker where they can mark how they feel or let you know they need a break. It could be as simple as placing a colored marker on their desks when they need a break in your calming corner.
- Send out an online survey at the end of the week to gauge what your students are struggling with, academically and socially. Be sure to ask if they would like to talk privately with an adult.
- Involve students in designing your check-in procedure by holding a class brainstorm about check-in questions to ask. They’ll feel safer and more invested in the process, and it will help normalize talking about mental health.
- Gamify your check-ins and get students interacting with each other with tools such as the Curiosity Cubes Conversation Starter Kit, which includes questions about self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship skills.
5. Show students how much they’ve grown
At parent conferences, it’s fun to share a portfolio of student work from throughout the year so you can highlight their academic growth. And it’s exciting to be able to showcase their character growth as well.
With the Grow Your Character Classroom Kit, you can focus on nurturing nine traits throughout the year. Not only will students get a record of their personal progress as they track their activities, but they’ll get to watch as your classroom garden blooms from all their hard work.
6. Provide mental first aid kits
Life can get overwhelming for everyone. But when students have tools in their “emotional first aid kit,” they’re better able to cope with stressors.
You can give each student a personal survival kit with the Student Mental Health First Aid Classroom Kit, which includes calming activities and sensory objects to help students manage their emotions in any situation.
7. Include reflections in your lessons
Almost any project your students work on could benefit from reflection. Encourage self-awareness and resilience by taking a few minutes to have students talk or write about their work.
Sample questions include the following:
- What went right with the project?
- What went wrong with the project?
- What would you do differently next time?
- What’s one thing you think you did really well?
- What’s one thing you think you could improve on?
- What did you contribute to the group?
- What’s one thing you learned that you didn’t know before you started?
- What problems did you face during this project? How did you overcome them?
- How are you better at doing this type of project than you were before?
- What do you want people to notice when they look at your work?
8. Reflect on your lessons
As you work through different activities with students, you’ll find things that resonate with your class and your individual students. Take a few minutes to jot down what worked so you can leverage those ideas in future lessons.
Where did your students struggle? Where did you struggle delivering the lesson? Are there ways you can adapt the activity to better fit your schedule? Were there students who seemed particularly engaged or disengaged in the lesson?
Questions like these can help you create more effective lessons and maximize the important work you do to support social, emotional, and academic growth.