What Is Social-Emotional Learning and How Can You Integrate It Into Your Classroom?

As an education professional, it’s your job to provide the best classroom learning experience to the students in your care. Many people forget that some of the skills that they’re responsible for teaching don’t come from textbooks.

It’s important to engage students in social-emotional learning (SEL).

But what is social-emotional learning, and what strategies can you use to teach it and better integrate it into the classroom?

We’re here to offer you some advice. Keep reading to learn all about the importance of teaching social-emotional learning and how to do it the right way.

What Is Social-Emotional Learning?

Social-emotional learning is the process of developing the required skills for students to engage with other people as they grow. These skills are crucial for forming interpersonal relationships. It helps students manage social challenges that come along with work, school, and day-to-day life.

When you teach with social-emotional learning in mind, you’re helping children develop important skills. These include empathy, emotional control, impulse control, and communication skills.

More emotional intelligence leads to children growing into more successful adults. This creates a stronger society. In short, more schools should place equal focus on social-emotional learning as they do on pure academics.

There are a few ways that any teacher can incorporate social-emotional learning into their classroom.

Greet Students Individually

For students to make connections, it’s important that they recognize that they’re being valued as individuals. In other words, they need to feel “seen.”

Research suggests that greeting students individually at the door reduces poor behavior in the classroom and encourages better academic performance.

Consider creating individual greetings for each student, or using another sensory element alongside your verbal greeting. You can also allow students to greet each other at the door. Choose one student every day to be the “greeter” so children are able to connect with each other from the time they enter the classroom.

Foster and Maintain Relationships Within the Classroom

This initial greeting is the first step towards creating and maintaining the communication and relationships between students, as well as between yourself and your students.

Many teachers make the mistake of trying to foster relationships by allowing students to pick their seats. This may be effective on the first day of class when students don’t yet have pre-existing relationships. It can, however, lead to them closing off socially later on in the year.

Instead, establish a seating chart that rotates on a regular schedule. This helps students build new relationships throughout the year.

Establish Expectations Early On

Children benefit from clear expectations and boundaries. Limits like this create a framework for the child and help them understand how they’re meant to move through the world.

These expectations should be set as soon as possible. A student cannot know that they’re breaking a rule or not meeting expectations if those expectations weren’t made clear in the first place.

Write rules and expectations down and leave them up where students are able to see them.

Show Consistency

Part of setting expectations and making this a successful part of your classroom practice is being consistent with them. This applies to classroom management in several ways.

If you don’t re-establish expectations when you change them, students will be confused. They’re basing their behavior on the expectations that you’d set in the past. If you want to make a change, start over.

It’s also important that your reactions to misbehavior are consistent. If two students fail to follow a rule or meet expectations and one is praised while the other is not, both will be confused. Whether you’re intending on showing favoritism or not, children don’t understand the difference.

Each day, make sure that you’ve also set your own expectations for yourself. You will react the same way to reactions to initial expectations and rules.

Give Specific Praise

When you want to reward a student’s good behavior, be careful of how you go about it. Rather than give them general praise, make sure that it’s clear exactly what the student did to earn it.

This gives them a greater level of understanding as well as more drive to achieve the same thing again later. Other students will also be able to model their actions off of the praised student.

On the topic of praise, you should always be using positive reinforcement as often as possible over punishment. Children respond well to praise and small prizes, as these things give them the incentive to achieve.

Punishment, however, is ineffective in classroom behavior management. It fixes the bad behavior at the moment but doesn’t decrease the behavior over time or teach the child why it’s unacceptable.

Model Empathy

One of your jobs as an educator is to teach empathy. Empathy isn’t innate, and children develop it over time just like any other skill. One of the best ways for them to learn it is through model behavior.

But how do you do this?

Remember that these children are people, not just students. They’re navigating a confusing world and it’s part of your job to make their paths easier.

Try to connect with students who are having behavioral difficulties so you can understand them. Let them know that you’re sympathetic to their struggles and exercise flexibility when you’re responding to them.

Make Social-Emotional Learning a Part of Your Teaching Style

Your students are growing and changing every day. They’re learning how to interact with people and what to expect from the world and each other. It’s your job to facilitate that learning to your best ability.

If you’re an educator, a school counselor, a behavioral interventionist, or a school psychologist, we have further education on managing student behavior the right way.

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