In recent years, educators have discovered the importance of incorporating social and emotional learning activities in the classroom. This falls under the same guise of teaching to the whole child.
Students learn in unique ways. There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to the teaching process. Emotions play a large role in a student’s academic success.
Here we’ll uncover eight social-emotional learning activities to help support student development and success.
1. Host a Morning Meeting
When students start their day on a positive note, it sets the tone for what’s to come. Begin each morning with a personal check-in. Take a few moments to help students connect with their mood and headspace.
A warm greeting is a perfect introduction. Acknowledge each student individually.
Pair your greeting with a question that tells you about their emotional state. Pay attention not only to what they say but how they say it.
You can also help students better identify their emotions by using a mood chart.
Try a traffic light where each color represents a different feeling. Red could mean “sad, angry, or confused”, yellow can represent “okay, unsure”, and green means “happy, ready for the day”!
2. Partner Up
Some of the best social-emotional learning in a classroom takes place when students work together. Peer interactions are an opportunity for students to learn about themselves and others. It also teaches problem-solving and promotes communication.
Pair students up to complete a small project or prepare a mini-presentation. Let them choose a topic that interests them or encourage them to teach the class something.
Alternate between assigning partners and letting them choose on their own.
3. Share Something Special
Similar to Show and Tell, arrange the students in a circle and allow them to share something special. This doesn’t have to be an object, but instead a story or memory that sticks out in their minds.
Young learners love nothing more than talking about the fun experiences they’ve had. Allow classmates to ask questions. This encourages active listening and allows the storyteller to elaborate and share key details.
When students share something they’re emotionally connected with, to a captive audience, it offers positive reinforcement. They’re the star of the show, which boosts confidence and reminds them that they’re important.
4. Nurture Kindness
Kindness goes a long way when incorporating social-emotional learning activities into your daily routine. Creating a culture of kindness in the classroom means students have mutual respect for one another, themselves, and their teacher.
A popular way to support this concept is by reading the book “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” which focuses on the power of kindness.
Create a small bucket for your classroom that kids can fill with notes of love, kindness, and appreciation. It can be about themselves (self-love), a classmate, family members, or the world around them.
Throughout the week, pull cards from the bucket and share them with the entire class. This teaches students the personal benefits of being kind to others as well as tolerance.
5. Create a Quiet Corner
Many classrooms have designated interest areas for specific uses. These include art, dramatic play, math, and science. You should also create a quiet, comfortable space where children can reflect or retreat to when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
This is especially important for children who suffer from overstimulation. Overstimulation occurs when a child has difficulty handling or processing the sensations, experiences, noises, or activity level of what’s happening around them.
Overstimulation causes some children to withdraw while others act out. A quiet corner is an escape for those students who need help controlling their emotions and responses to external stimulants.
Make this space as comfortable and relaxing as possible by adding pillows, oversized cushions, soft music or noise-canceling headphones, materials for journaling, or a fish tank.
6. Anchor Charts
Anchor charts are visual tools to help students better understand the current lesson. The anchor chart outlines the most relevant points of what you’re learning.
These charts help students make tangible goals, plan ahead, and strengthen their decision-making skills. Let the student get involved by making their own anchor chart using their favorite colors, themes, or pictures.
The more connected the student feels to the chart, the more likely they are to complete classroom lessons without difficulty. This puts them in the driver seat of their learning path.
You can also title the chart depending on what goals the student has. Things like “Respect”, “Own My Learning”, and “Be a Problem-Solver” are specific and motivating.
7. Build Their Vocabulary
One of the biggest struggles young learners face is properly and accurately expressing themselves. This is usually caused by a combination of not being able to identify their feelings and not having the right words to explain them.
This can be very frustrating for both the student and teachers.
Give your students the tools they need to express themselves socially and emotionally by building their vocabulary. Tie these words and phrases to specific actions or feelings.
This helps boost student confidence and teaches them to overcome obstacles. Display beneficial vocabulary words around the classroom. Add photos or pictures to help remind students of what the words mean and how to use them.
Often times once a child can identify the difficult emotion they’re having (and what may have triggered it) they can take steps to let go and move on.
8. Reflective Writing
Journaling is a great tool when it comes to social-emotional development. It’s therapeutic for students to write down their feelings, thoughts, accomplishments, and struggles. These notations can also be used for reflection later on.
It’s also a safe outlet for students who don’t know how to accurately express themselves. Let students free-write or give them prompts to help get their creative juices flowing and keep them on track.
Ask questions like, “How would you describe yourself as a friend?” and statements like, “I was proud of myself today because…” to help boost their confidence.
On not-so-good days, students can journal with prompts like, “I felt anxious or stressed today because…” or “When was I at my best and worst today?” These prompts are all about self-reflection.
The more a student understands their own social-emotional needs and behaviors, the more open they are to intervention.
These Social-Emotional Learning Activities Promote Student Growth
Incorporating social-emotional learning activities into the classroom is an important part of the learning process. It helps students learn and identify not only how they feel but why they feel a certain way about things.
When students are emotionally stable they’re more open to learning. Social skills and communication are needed for success in the classroom and beyond.
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