The Impact of Classroom Management on Social-Emotional Learning
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The Impact of Classroom Management on Social-Emotional Learning

It’s impossible to deny the effects of students’ emotions, relationships, and decision-making skills on their learning skills. While nobody – no matter their age – can live their life by their emotions, there are ways to tailor lesson plans in an effort to make everyone a success.

Classroom management ties inextricably into social-emotional learning (SEL) because they’re both moving parts that change with the passage of time. Where one student may have needed academic intervention at the start of the school year, they may be sailing along nicely come the middle of the year.

Thus, classroom management and social-emotional learning are adaptable and able to meet everyone’s needs as social and emotional growth takes place. Below, we’re going to break apart the ins and outs of SEL and demonstrate the impact classroom management has on this manner of learning. In the end, you’ll have the framework for a behavioral management plan that can be implemented, tracked, and highly successful.

Social-Emotional Learning

Before we begin, let’s take a moment to examine the fine print of SEL. SEL can only be achieved when teachers acquire an in-depth look at students’ history because this form of learning targets how students manage their emotions, achieve goals, maintain healthy relationships, and make good decisions.

Knowing where a student is “coming from,” so to speak, allows a teacher to manage their course material with this in mind. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) created a popular framework that addresses five core competencies for SEL. These will help teachers tailor their lesson plans according to each student’s needs:

  1. Self-Awareness – CASEL defines this as the ability to recognizes students’ emotions to see how they impact personal behavior. A firm grasp on students’ self-awareness allows the teacher to set realistic expectations regarding strengths and limitations.
  2. Self-Management – This element includes the ability to self-regulate emotions. With a strong grasp on self-management, teachers can help students manage their stress levels and impulse control.
  3. Social Awareness – Social awareness allows both students and teachers to empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures. This can help teachers encourage students to recognize behavioral norms and adjust accordingly.
  4. Relationship Skills – Healthy relationship skills revolve around the ability to communicate clearly, listen well, resist peer pressure, and offer help to others.
  5. Responsible Decision-Making – Perhaps as a culmination, this element involves the ability to make respectful choices in social situations, based on norms, and the ability to evaluate the consequences of actions.

With these five elements in mind, teachers can go on to create an impartial environment for students. SEL addresses each individual’s social and emotional progress as they advance through their classes. The goal is to see an improvement in all-around behavior and, thus, an improvement in academic success.

Classroom Management

If you’re here, you already know what classroom management looks like. In includes planning, preparation, nurtured relationships, and ongoing observation. As such, it’s easy to see why SEL pairs well with classroom management. Here are five elements of classroom management that positively impact SEL:

1. Steady Routine

In order to tailor your lesson plans according to each student’s needs, it’s necessary to have a complete understanding of each student’s social and emotional capabilities. If you develop a steady classroom routine, then students may not have to tackle a surge of stress that comes from not knowing what to expect.

2. Clear, Concise Instructions

If instructions are provided in such a way that they’re clear, concise, and easily understood, this, too, will lessen the emotional burden placed upon students. This can include written down instructions and even visual instructions on your SmartBoard.

3. Designated Course of Action

Clearly establish where students are to sit when they’re completing their work and where students are to turn in their work. What happens upon the completion of their assignment?

Are they allowed to take a book from the library? Can they get started on another assignment? A clear course of action ties in neatly to a steady routine, clear instructions, and understood expectations.

4. Personal Conferences

What better way to manage students’ shifts in social and emotional behaviors than 1-on-1 conferences? Spend time meeting individually with students to see how they’re feeling about their assignments and social interactions with peers.

This will enable them to express themselves to you more fully and enable you to see where their comprehension is with regard to various classroom activities.

5.  Recorded Observations

As you take note of students who are excelling in one area and falling behind in another, this will help you tailor your assignments for each individual need. Perhaps one student requires more time to complete assignments.

Meanwhile, what if another needs to have a secondary assignment lined up because he or she will inevitably finish fast and still need to be challenged? Either way, ongoing data collection will always prove critical when individualizing students’ behavioral management plans and helping them succeed.

The Impact of Classroom Management on SEL

A steady routine, clear instructions, and personal attention will establish a safe classroom environment for all learners, no matter what philosophy you’re focusing on. But, they work especially well when intently focused upon the social and emotional aspects of a student’s capabilities.

Here are added ways in which classroom management positively impacts SEL. No matter your position within the school system, you can implement any (or all) of these tactics today.

A Growth Mindset

It’s possible to create a growth mindset for all your students because, no matter where they are today, they can be somewhere better tomorrow. From the start of the school year, make it clear to students that everyone will make mistakes and some will excel in one area while others will excel in another.

Push students to persevere through the hard times so that they can return their focus to more pleasurable activities. Help them advance through their tricky multiplication problems so they can return to their work in geometry, for example. When all is said and done, praise their perseverance as they move into a more comfortable activity (which can also be lauded since they’re doing well there, too).

Emotional Acknowledgement

One of the most crippling things a teacher can do is diminish a student’s sense of self-worth. This is often unintentionally done when students don’t feel heard. By acknowledging students’ emotions – in the good times and the bad – you’re setting them up for success.

Of course, this is not to say that they can be led by their emotions. Whether a student likes it or not, he or she will still be required to complete their tricky multiplication worksheet. However, their voice will be heard and, thus, their self-esteem won’t be berated.

This is, of course, something to annotate in your notes. Determining which topic areas are a struggle and which ones are a breeze allows educators to anticipate how a student will respond to certain situations.

Celebrated Successes

Let’s stay with the notion of making a student feel heard. Students need to receive as much praise as they receive correction. Consider creating a “Weekly Spotlight” section in the classroom where each student is showcased for something they did exceedingly well.

In this instance, no one is called out publicly (and possibly embarrassed). However, they can be made aware of (and celebrated for) their strengths. This is, of course, something to also be addressed in your personal conferences.

Relational Skills

One of CASEL’s five pillars of SEL is relationship skills. These are best fostered in small groups or pairs. The skills learned within the safety and comfort of a small group or pair can then be translated into larger groups.

As the teacher, you can select alternating partners for each student. This teaches students how to cooperate with others to achieve a common goal and build community in the classroom. Within these small groups, whether they realize it or not, students will be forced to negotiate with others and come to understand their strengths.

Coping Skills

If you have a student (or students) who tend to struggle more with otherwise-commonplace activities, they may be more prone to frustration or disappointment. In these moments, you can provide them with a quiet space to regroup.

This can even be the place where you gather for those one-on-one conferences to affirm students’ progress in the classroom. Once it’s established as a safe space, it can always be returned to in times of need. Maybe you’ll place a few pillows on the floor, a soothing lamp, and journaling materials.

Increased Reflection

On a regular basis, set aside time for freewriting or journaling. SEL isn’t just for the benefit of the teacher. While teachers are understanding the manner in which emotions tie into a student’s academic success, students can always learn more about themselves, too.

Turn the entire classroom into a “quiet corner” during this time. Dim the lights; play soft music. In the hubbub of what’s sure to be occasionally overwhelming, you can turn portions of the school day into a time for quiet reflection. This may also be a nice time to conduct those individual conferences.

Community Building

Another regular expectation to rotate into the mix is classroom jobs. This will give students a sense of ownership over their classroom and (in some instances) give them something to look forward to. Classroom jobs also cultivate a sense of community among students.

Students can each take turns leading the line, passing out papers, cleaning the whiteboard, and more. You can also decide if this will be another opportunity for team building or individual success.

New Perspectives

Whenever possible, encourage students to take on their own perspectives and opinions. Use the reading time to ask students to voice their opinions on various characters and their actions.

Use journaling time to ask students to record their thoughts on various subject matters. All this allows them to foster a sense of ownership over their feelings and confidence in their self-expression.

What’s the Overall Impact?

The overall impact of classroom management on SEL extends well beyond the happy days in the classroom. Empowering students to ascertain their personal strengths while making them feel valued and strengthened is something that will serve them well them throughout the entire course of their academic and professional careers.

By encouraging small group work, students are learning how to function on a team. By encouraging them to push through their difficult assignments to get to the ones they excel in, students are learning how to problem-solve. All this has the potential to promote a stronger character, temperance, and follow-through.

Although life is rife with emotional distress, you can foster an environment where students feel safe. And, even when the going gets tough, they’ll have coping skills taken from SEL. They can journal, retreat to a quiet space, start their classroom job, or request a personal conference.

Classroom Management for Success

Classroom management is inextricably tied to social-emotional learning. The two pair perfectly well, but that’s not to say it doesn’t require diligence to sew these moving parts together.

Creating a behavior intervention plan requires insight into your current students and follow-through. As you know, it doesn’t just start and stop with the creation of a classroom management plan. Regular updates and adjustments are also required.

This is where we come in. Here at Insights to Behavior, not only do we help you create, update, track, and report on behavior management plans, we also help you go beyond chronicling behaviors to determine underlying causes.

If you’re a school counselor, special education director, school psychologist, or behavior interventionist, feel free to sign up for our free monthly series on managing student behavior.

If you’re a Director of Special Education, schedule a 30-minute online personal demo of our software application.

Together, we can help you create a legally-defensible behavior intervention plans in under an hour. The improvements that will be felt in your classroom will be tangible, real, and – most of all – greatly beneficial to all your learners.

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