5 Key Questions about Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL)? It is a way in which children gain a better understanding of their emotions through explicit learning of strategies and intentional reflection. This, in turn, helps to massively improve their social skills as they become more understanding of their peers, and therefore better able to integrate with other students, friends, and even family members. As a result, students can both better manage their emotions and become more empathetic towards others on an interpersonal level and also within a community of learners. With more advanced emotional and social skills, a student’s ability to manage and cope in society will increase as well.
Who is SEL for and why? Social Emotional Learning is a useful tool, especially when working with younger children (elementary) and SPED (Special Education) learners. These learners may be getting to grips with their own emotions, as well as others’ emotions, not to mention how society works (don’t rule SEL out for adults also).
A great way for teachers to incorporate SEL is by creating smaller, mixed "social learning groups" (also known as: friendship groups and/or social skills groups) which allow students to learn from each other’s different backgrounds and experiences. In a friendship group setting, an explicit social skill can be discussed, reflected on and social strategies can be visualized and even collaboratively practiced. One of our students' favorite SEL application resource is doing a social comic strip to envision how they'd use a specific social strategy in the face of a common social challenge, like compromising, being flexible, fairness, letting others lead, dealing with worries, self-regulation, being situationally aware and more.
Oh, I don’t know, I’m a teacher and already have a lot on my plate. Do I have time for this? Social Emotional Learning curricula can work alongside numerous other curricula and can be used as the resource with which to reach learning goals in other subjects. For instance, SEL books are a great way to put aspects of the English curriculum into practice, such as reading, listening, and comprehension. Alternatively, through PHE (Physical Health Education) we hope to teach students acceptance of others and their beliefs and learning how to deal with winning and losing, among other things. These are all big aspects of Social Emotional Learning.
What are the benefits of SEL?
The earlier SEL is introduced and the greater the resources/materials used, the higher the impact will be on a young person’s views and acceptances. The benefits of SEL stretch beyond just their acceptance of others though; SEL also helps students learn to accept who they are as a person, which is greatly beneficial to their academic and adult lives. Therefore, the earlier the start, the higher the quality, the greater the consistency, surely the better the benefits of SEL will be.
What about me – I’m a parent/caregiver, can I use it?
SEL can also take place on a more one-to-one basis with parents and caregivers at home. There are some amazing SEL Resources out there including Social Emotional Books that can help you approach this (sometimes difficult) subject area with fun, colorful, and exciting storybooks. However, if you can think of a social story that is not in a book format, then have a go at role-playing and making your own stories. (Try our comic strip companion resource!)
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