Promoting SEL in our classrooms

As we prepare our students for the future, we also need to make sure that we are focusing on the mental health and wellness of our students. To do this, we must be intentional about creating opportunities for students to build their social-emotional learning (SEL) skills in our classrooms. If you are interested in learning more about SEL, I would start with CASEL. CASEL provides a wealth of resources and it is where I started when I realized that I was not providing enough opportunities for the development of SEL in my classes.

I realized that although I had been creating opportunities for students to build their self-awareness, social awareness, and develop relationships, I needed to do more and be intentional about the choices that I was making. I had taken a course “Creative Expression and Social-Emotional Learning” with Buncee that is available through the Microsoft Educator Center. It is a one-hour course on using Buncee for SEL, that was co-created by Francesca Arturi and Laura Steinbrink.

Regardless of whether we are in-person, fully remote, or hybrid, there are ways to do this that don’t require a lot of time to get started. The benefit of having so many different technology tools available is that we can leverage them to create spaces where our students can feel more connected to us and to each other. We can help them to build academic skills as well as essential SEL skills. There are multiple ways to promote communication and collaboration while fostering a sense of community for students and for ourselves.

The new school year presents a great time to try new ideas or tools, especially as we look to build relationships and also boost student engagement in learning. Creating a variety of activities where students can interact with one another, engage in some purposeful learning, and have fun in the process while building essential SEL skills, will be highly beneficial.

Here are six ideas that can help with creating opportunities for students to collaborate, become self and socially aware, and stay engaged in learning. In my classroom, I quickly noticed that students were engaging more with the content, felt connected to one another even if not in the same physical or virtual classroom space. And for self-awareness, they are better able to track their growth in the language or specific content area.

1. Blooket has been a favorite every year. Students stay engaged because of the different modes to choose from. Gold Quest is their favorite because they can swap gold, and at varying points of the game, their items are reduced by a percentage. While students get a bit annoyed at this sometimes, it serves to keep them all in the game because they don’t have any idea who will end up being on the leaderboard. It promotes conversation between them and it’s fun for them to learn together.

2. Classkick.  A versatile digital tool for teachers to create lessons, assessments, or for doing a quick check-in with students. Each slide in the lesson can include images, text, and uploaded documents for students to interact with. Using the tools, students can respond in audio, text, video, or share links. Classkick enables teachers to see student work and provide individual feedback in real-time. Students can also ask peers for help anonymously.

3. Google Jamboard. Using breakout rooms through Google Meet or Microsoft Teams with Google Jamboard offers a quick way to promote collaboration and conversations. With a Jamboard,  students can work together in a collaborative space while communicating in a breakout room. Leveraging these together helps to create a greater sense of community especially if students are split between home and the classroom. In the classroom, it is still a great way to have students brainstorm and collaborate in one space!

4. Pear Deck. An interactive presentation tool that takes your Google Slides or Powerpoint online and enables you to add in activities to further engage students in the lesson. To launch PearDeck, you open your slides and choose the Pear Deck add-on, to begin adding activities to each slide. Students can respond in text, draw on the slide,  select from a list, and more depending on your account. Lessons can be instructor-led or student-paced. For SEL, Pear Deck is a good way to check in with students and through the student-paced lessons, it promotes self-awareness and self-management as students track their learning.

5. Quizizz Another favorite has been Quizizz which offers many options for creating interactive lessons. Playing in “Team mode” promotes collaborative skills and individual play helps students to better understand their learning, further developing self-awareness. Quizizz is also great for doing a quick check-in using the poll or open-ended questions with students to find out how they are doing.

6. Spaces A digital portfolio platform where teachers can better understand students and their interests helps with building those vital teacher-student relationships. A key part of digital portfolios is that they help students to develop social-emotional learning (SEL) skills. As students build their self-awareness and self-management skills by reflecting on their growth through the work that they’ve done and setting new goals for their continued learning journey. Students also develop greater social awareness through their interactions and working collaboratively with others.

Finding ways to bring SEL into the classroom does not have to be something extra added on to what we are doing. With these options, we can weave in activities that engage students in learning the content while developing these essential SEL skills.

About the Author

Rachelle Dené Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Educator at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant, and Speaker. Rachelle is the author of seven books about education and edtech and a blogger. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Rdene915

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