Social and emotional learning strategies to benefit mental health needs

If there’s one lesson to take from 2020, it’s that the job of a teacher extends beyond just teaching. That mental health can affect student learning is well-known, but this year it’s that much greater. 

Fortunately for the ATT, in collaboration with Walder Education, Angela Searcy, Ed.D recently presented to ATT teachers how to implement social and emotional learning strategies to help students thrive in learning despite the extraordinary challenges of learning in a pandemic. 

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.

Helping students thrive 

For some teachers, being mindful of social and emotional learning may come naturally. If that’s not yet a strength, there are many tools and strategies teachers can implement to ensure students’ emotions aren’t standing in the way of learning.

A systemic approach to social and emotional learning intentionally cultivates caring, participatory, and evidence-based practices to actively involve all students in their social, emotional and academic growth.

In her book Push Past It! A Positive Approach to Challenging Classroom Behaviors, Dr. Searcy shares examples and explains where SEL fits within the mental health continuum. In her presentation, Dr. Searcy reviewed steps that support good behavior planning, outlined tools to help educators MATCH a strategy to their unique students and program, and shared what to expect at different phases of implementation.

Implementing SEL techniques 

It takes time to master any new teaching strategy, so a great starting point is a visit to the National Center for Pyramid Models Innovation  (NCPMI)’s  Practical Strategies for Implementing the Pyramid Model for social and emotional learning idea inspiration. 

Following are strategies to easily and effectively implement SEL into lesson plans. 

  1. Book Nook 

There are many popular books that can be read to children to support social emotional development and teach them about various emotions and responses to life’s daily events. 

book nook

Each book has a lesson or activity that is relayed in a positive and engaging manner with hands-on ways to embed social emotional skill building activities into everyday routines.

Check out this comprehensive children’s book list to teach about cultivating relationships and enhance positive behavior. 

  1. Keep in touch with student emotions 

There are countless visual tools to monitor or express how one is feeling emotionally. From feeling wheels or faces to charts, to greeting boards, to bulletin board mood meters samples, teachers can be in touch with the mood of their students. More importantly, this helps the students gain the awareness to be in touch with their own feelings. These concepts are effective from toddlers to teens and help build community in the classroom.

  1. Resolve conflict creatively 

Once students understand their emotions, they can progress to conflict resolution.

There are additional videos to help teachers guide their students in conflict resolution.

Coping and calming strategies with sentence starters are also effective ways to help children practice expressing empathy and feelings in daily situations. In the classroom, creating creative, peaceful and calming corners works for some students. 

By modeling these strategies for students, teachers can help inspire social emotional learning and help students thrive in learning whether it’s in the classroom or remote. 

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