SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING IN THE CLASSROOM

social emotional learning in the classroom

As a former teacher, I understand that there is simply not enough time in the school day to fit in everything we want to teach our students. In my experience, reading and math take priority, social studies and science we fit in when we can, and social emotional learning tends to get put on the back burner simply because there is not enough time in the day. However, I believe that social emotional learning SHOULD be our top priority in the classroom. 

Educating children on their emotions, how to regulate their feelings, and handle social situations appropriately equips them for their future. True learning cannot happen unless students are emotionally healthy. It is important to discuss this with our students and provide them with the tools they need in order to be successful. I know our time in the classroom is jam packed, but there are simple ways to integrate social emotional learning into your daily routine! 

MORNING MEETINGS

Morning Meeting was always my favorite time of the day in my Kindergarten classroom. Students knew that every single morning we were going to sit down together, talk about our day, have a little fun, and build community. Our morning meetings were short and sweet, but full of so many valuable lessons. Students learned how to greet each other in different ways, they learned how to listen to each other respectfully when it was “share time”, encourage one another, and so much more! Establishing a morning meeting is a wonderful way to build a positive classroom community and bring students together. 

CALM DOWN SPOT

Students in lower elementary school often need help learning to regulate their emotions. There are so many feelings they experience each day and sometimes this can be overwhelming for them. They could be feeling these big feelings because of something that happened at home before they even arrived at school, or maybe they’re dealing with disappointment, frustration, etc. When students are feeling their feelings really strongly and seem overwhelmed, it is important to teach them how to regulate their emotions in order to move on with their day. We all need a little break from time to time. A “Calm Down Spot” is a way to provide students with a designated spot to go to when they feel overwhelmed with feelings. In the calm down spot, provide strategies and silent activities students can do to calm themselves and return to their normal activity when they are feeling better. 

PRO TIP: A calm down spot can be very beneficial, but there are also times that students may want to go sit in the calm down spot just for fun. Setting a timer if needed can help students to take the break they need without missing too much class work. 

BUILD COMMUNITY 

In addition to Morning Meeting, there are many other ways to build community in your classroom! Have students work together in teams during lessons. Encourage teamwork to help students to learn how to share, take turns, and handle any frustrations that naturally come with working in a group. 

BRAIN BREAKS 

Students are taking in a lot each day. It is important to provide them with small breaks to regroup and re-energize throughout the day. Fluency and Fitness+ has TONS of educational brain breaks to choose from to get students out of their seats, moving, and having a little fun in-between lessons. When you notice your students getting a little antsy, yawning, or acting up…try giving them a little brain break before re-focusing!

students moving to fluency and fitness game

CHECK-IN 

One way to help students become more aware of their social emotional health is to simply check in with them throughout the day. As your students arrive in the morning, ask them to tell or show you how they are feeling that day. This will help them to practice thinking about their emotions and will help you as a teacher to know how to best support them. 

PRO TIP: Fluency and Fitness+ provides Morning Meeting Task Cards that students can complete daily. In these task cards students are able to choose a positive affirmation for themselves to build confidence and learn positive self-talk.  

PROVIDE COPING STRATEGIES 

We cannot expect students to know how to cope with their emotions and handle social situations appropriately without teaching them how to do so. They need our guidance. Talk with your students and provide them with simple coping strategies that will help them in a moment of stress. 

PRACTICE REAL LIFE SCENARIOS

In addition to providing simple coping strategies, practice real-life situations with your students before they happen. This way, students understand what is expected before they are frustrated. Before going out to recess, role play taking turns or handling an argument with a friend. Before lunch, role play how to throw away their trash and give each other a respectful amount of space. Practicing real-life scenarios before they actually encounter them will help them to handle the stress of the moment when they actually encounter the situation. 

PRO TIP: Just because you have practiced real-life situations with students does not mean they will not need reminders of how to handle emotions and social situations appropriately in the moment. Remember to take a breath, remain calm, and remind students what you have discussed as you walk them through these social and emotional skills. 

ALLOW SELF REFLECTION 

It is important for students to be able to build awareness of their thoughts. Allow time in your classroom for students to reflect. Ask them insightful, open-ended questions that will require them to think about their feelings and use their social skills to communicate with others. This can be incorporated into your morning meeting time or even into your writing time each week. Students can share what they would like to with a partner to build trust and community as well. 

student reflecting and writing in journal

There is no ONE way to integrate social emotional learning in your classroom. Take advantage of the small, teachable moments with your students. Provide students with coping strategies, and keep conversations open with them. These small changes will help to build character and give students the tools they will need for the future. 

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