This post was written by the Eduporium team, Andy Larmand and Laura Kennedy. Opinions/products mentioned are from Eduporium. This is not sponsored content.
As many teachers know, the upcoming school year is going to be challenging from an academic, mental, and emotional standpoint. Thankfully, there is a reliable form of pedagogy that can benefit both teachers and students as they return to school whether it’s in person, through remote learning, or as part of a hybrid model. For school leaders who see creating new relationships with students and making them feel comfortable after their worlds were flipped upside down in the spring as a top priority, social-emotional learning is going to be crucial.
While a teacher, I was introduced to social and emotional learning, which is more commonly known as SEL. This pedagogy is one that I found to be extremely important while educating diverse sets of students – even in the pre-pandemic days. In the classroom, students learn different intellectual skills, but much of that learning is affected by their social and emotional characteristics.
As leaders plan a safe return to school, many of them have already considered the mental states their students and teachers might be in and the fact that some of them may have been through trauma while in isolation. In order for them to return to the regular academic experiences they had before schools closed, their mental states will first need to be addressed.
SEL helps students focus on acquiring and effectively applying the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. As unfortunate as it is, many students may need to start developing these characteristics from at or near the beginning when they return to school.
To that end, the five main categories of social and emotional learning are:
- Social Awareness
- Relationship Skills
- Responsible Decision Making
Realist educators know it will be tough for students to simply slide back into their classroom routines. There is a unique complexity to every student and just being in the same classroom does not mean they’re all in the same place emotionally. It may even be one of the first times some of them have been outside their home. It’s impossible for teachers to generalize them since each student is going to come back to school having gone through something different.
To help my students grow and learn, I truly needed to understand them and I feel this is going to be huge once the year begins. Setting aside some time blocks in the first couple weeks can be instrumental in understanding each student’s state of mind and how both SEL and academic instruction should be presented to them. The actions we see on the surface are not always indicative of the whole story.
Was one student not participating in remote learning because he or she had no desire to do so, or was it because of an accessibility issue we didn’t know about? Was another saying they couldn’t do something because they didn’t feel like it or because they lacked a clear understanding without in-person guidance? Many students likely had different distance learning experiences and teachers can, upon returning to school, make SEL a focus to ensure nobody feels like they’re behind.
So, how can teachers leverage the potential of SEL in instruction and these five areas while getting back to teaching core subjects? Maker education is a technological and creative learning revolution that utilizes SEL and helps students strengthen skills like responsibility, decision making, teamwork, creative thinking, problem solving, and relationship building as they use their heads, hearts, and hands to learn.
Combining MakerEd and SEL can prompt a shift in classroom atmosphere and enable students to reconnect with the learning they knew before schools closed since it emphasizes active learning rather than passive consumption. Students are free to be creative, collaborate, and learn from both mistakes and successes. They’re also able to discover how the emotions they’re feeling – good or bad – can be expressed creatively through MakerEd projects and experiences.
MakerEd experiences help students improve their cognition, engagement, and emotional connections to projects at the same time. In the eyes of the Eduporium team, there are three main components to social and emotional learning (the 3 H’s): Head, heart, and hands and, if educators can connect the actions of all of these body parts upon returning to school, they’ll be able to create more meaningful experiences for students.
In order to learn, students’ heads need to be engaged in the content and their brains need to be picking up on key concepts. They also benefit from having their hands involved, which is often done through the incorporation of maker tools. When their hands are working like their heads are, the relationship between the two body parts is established and engagement and creativity spike through doing and inventing.
When their hearts are involved too – when students truly care about what it is they’re building, making, or discovering and an authentic connection is built – they’ll be able to realize the importance in the values they’re learning and rebuild relationships with peers at the same time, ultimately completing the connection between their heads, hands, and hearts as they return to the classroom, creating hands-on experiences they’ve missed for the last few months.
To learn more about how the Eduporium team can help teachers incorporate SEL, MakerEd, and STEM in the classroom, visit their website.
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