Whether you’re trying to improve student’s academic achievement or teach them important social skills, more and more schools are slowly recognizing the value that a social emotional learning curriculum contributes to the whole education system.
However, choosing the right social emotional learning (SEL) program can be quite challenging. Which programs are backed up by research? Do any SEL program provide training and support? Which program can help transform classroom and school culture?
Why Should Social Emotional Learning Curriculum Be Part of Our Schools?
Social and emotional learning includes skills students need so that they can learn to manage their emotions, work with others, and set goals for themselves. An effective SEL program is said to support the development of these five important skills:
- Responsible decision-making
- Social awareness
- Relationship skills
According to research, SEL provides major benefits in schools. A study done on 213 students revealed that social emotional learning curriculum helped increase student’s test scores by 11 percentile points, but it also helped decrease aggression and emotional distress among students. It also helped increase helpful behaviors in school and encouraged positive attitudes towards self and others.
How Social Emotional Learning Curriculum Builds Academic Success
With all the high-stakes testing and examinations in most schools nowadays, not to mention the resulting judgments and consequences for both students and teachers, it’s no surprise that schools spend more time on academics instead of encouraging arts, sports, music, and even recess.
But, based on what we have seen in schools so far, we feel that we should be moving in a different direction. Schools need to take time out of academics in the early elementary years and focus more on building students’ security, safety and confidence in the classroom. In other words, schools should be preparing the students for learning.
But how do schools do this?
Conducting Morning Meetings
One of the most effective ways in which schools can “prepare” students for learning is to focus on social emotional earning (SEL). Incorporating social emotional learning curriculum in the school’s system can significantly benefit educators and students alike. With SEL, students are taught to regulate their emotions so that they become more focused on the things that matter and become less impulsive.
Conducting regular “morning meetings” where students and teachers sit in a circle and check in with each other and share how they are feeling on that particular day. This kind of activity helps build a culture of trust and respect, which eventually will lead to students sharing their most profound thoughts and feelings.
Students Focus Better By Improving Transitions
It’s also important to implement a program where students focus on transitions from one class activity to the other. Why is this necessary? It’s because when focus is lost throughout transitions, you end up wasting valuable learning time getting kids back on track.
Getting students to engage in “Brain Gym” activities such as Hook Ups as they move from one class to another. You could also prepare your students for writing class by having them participate in classroom yoga first. You may also give students wiggle seats or let have exercise balls to help them focus on the lesson better.
All the aforementioned activities are meant to help students control or regulate their energy levels and also teach them to control their behaviors and emotions. These focused transitions usually result to better quality academic work from students. Now teachers can get down to work in less time instead of spending the first 10 minutes of writing class to re-focus their students.
Incorporating social emotional learning curriculum takes a lot of patience, trust, and time. So, how do schools get the courage to take a break from focusing on academics and attend to social emotional learning (SEL) activities? The answer is in the mindset of teachers and education leaders.
We need to consider activities like morning meetings and mindful transitions as part of the lesson plan. We need to see them as normal, expected, and necessary rather than an addendum. As educators, we need to trust in the idea that spending time developing children’s social and emotional learning because they will actually pay dividends with regards to academic success.
We need to understand that less can be best, and better and more supportive for children. As educators, we need to take the risk and embrace social emotional learning curriculums. Once we take the risk, we will be able to see how it can transform our students and create sustainable academic success.
Implementing Social Emotional Learning Curriculum in Classrooms
Implementing social emotional learning in classrooms take different forms. In some school systems, it’s:
- A complete curriculum with materials and lesson plans.
- A set of standalone SEL standards and indicators, just like science and English standards with schools given the freedom to decide on how they teach and measure the standards.
- Through a mix of both approaches, with schools deciding on a particular curriculum and build their own method of teaching SEL skills in line with their district’s expectations of SEL.
The implementation of social emotional learning curriculum is reflected not only in classroom instruction, but in practices and policies on school culture, school climate, and partnership with families.
If you have plans to impalement social emotional learning curriculum within your school district, it is important that you identify the problems you are trying to solve first. Afterwards think of how SEL can help in providing the solution.
Verbalizing what you want to accomplish (and what you expect out of) SEL will drive necessary policy decisions on discipline, family engagement, and school environment. This also affects decisions on choice of curriculum, implementation of district measures, and how SEL is integrated into other district priorities.
Social emotional learning curriculums should be systematic. It should touch base with leadership, school culture, student-teacher relationships, family engagement, communications and operations, and professional development. School districts should decide how social emotional learning curriculum affects policies and practices and develop an instructional approach based on that.