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Social-Emotional Learning In the Classroom & Why It’s Important

As a teacher, you teach to see that “aha” moment on your students’ faces. What happens if you don’t get that, or your students simply “don’t get” what you’re teaching?

Teaching truly is a living, breathing organism and I think it has taken over my life. I love learning how to teach my students better. Learning is the best part of teaching for me and I want my students to benefit from my learning. Social-Emotional Learning, or SEL, is extremely important in the classroom.

It may not be a traditional subject or be something we can easily test or assess, but it is just as important as math or reading. 

Kids running together- Social-Emotional Learning In the Classroom and Why It's Important

What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Social-Emotional Learning, or SEL, helps our students understand and deal with their emotions, positive and negative. Our students may or may not be equipped to deal with their emotions, relationships, and life goals. No matter what your students’ background has been in developing SEL in the past, we can help them create a solid foundation for the future. 

SEL can be broken down into five core competencies

  • Self-Awareness: Students are focused inwardly to recognize emotions and how those emotions affect their view of themselves and others
  • Self-Management: By understanding emotions and how they affect themselves and others, students can make their own goals to work towards. 
  • Social Awareness: The ability to show empathy and to understand ideas and emotions from another person’s perspective, especially those of another culture or background. 
  • Relationship Skills: Using emotional awareness of themselves and others, as well as empathy for other people’s situations, students can build relationships with others based on open communication. Ideally, these skills also help with conflict resolution and knowing when to ask for help. 
  • Making Responsible Decisions: Students can use past experiences and what they know about emotional responses and to make responsible decisions affecting themselves and others. 

Why should I teach SEL?

It is important to teach Social Emotional Learning in your classroom because SEL provides a safe environment to learn about emotions. It also may be the only place available in your students’ lives to be open about their emotions and building relationships with others.

Depending on the home environment for your students, the ability to build a solid foundation in SEL may not be available. Chances are, your student’s home life is not as diverse as your classroom, either. Your classroom is a great place to all work on social-emotional learning together to build up these essential skills in understanding emotions, setting goals, and building relationships. 

How do I teach SEL?

SEL skills should be taught from an early age so that your students have the opportunity to build a solid foundation to carry them through the rest of their lives.

The first approach in teaching SEL is to introduce a particular concept through pictures, videos, examples, and reading. Once students understand the basics of the concept being taught, practice helps the concept take root.

SEL concepts need to be revisited and students need to be reminded of what they’ve learned in order for the concepts to fit into their lives as habits. Practice can be working with partners, reading or writing assignments, or even homework meant to be done with parents at home to remind the whole family how important SEL is to life. 

If you are looking for some ready-made ideas for teaching Social-Emotional Learning in your classroom, check out the Wife Teacher Mommy 36 Weeks of SEL. This product has 36 weeks of SEL practice for your learners where each of the 5 competencies of SEL is reviewed every week. Your students will become old pros at SEL before you know it. 

What are the best picture books for teaching SEL?

In addition to the activities in our 36 Weeks of SEL, I love to include picture books to teach SEL. These are some of my favorite picture books to use. I’ve linked all of them, plus more, here in my Amazon storefront.

Disclaimer: these are affiliate links see our full disclosure here.

This book shows the power of being kind to someone. When we think about how others are feeling and are kind to them, it makes a huge difference in their lives. 

Loving yourself for who you are, accepting others as they are and respecting yourself and others with kindness are hugely important. 

Understanding emotions and self-regulation are the skills this book works on to help your students understand the messages their body is sending. 

Sometimes we need reminders that even though things are hard, we can still do them. Kids are the same, the affirmations in this book will come to their minds as they set out to do hard things. 

This book is all about overcoming fear and being brave, a staple for any class. 

Sometimes we come up with great ideas and they seem easy in our heads, but they are difficult to execute. This book is all about creativity and perseverance. 

This book explores the different ways we act and how we should act in 13 different situations. 

Based on a girl who looks a little different and acts a little different, this book reinforces the importance of being kind and not letting anyone make you feel less because you may be different. Differences should be celebrated and accepted. 

Interrupting is a hard habit to break, and the boy in this story has lots of important things to say whether or not someone else is already talking. Listening and respecting what others have to say is more important, though. 

This book explores the emotions that can make or break a day and how they can change a day in the blink of an eye. 

Teaching SEL to students is important, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’re looking for a place to start, check out one of these books from your local library, in our Amazon storefront, or take a look at the Wife Teacher Mommy 36 Weeks of SEL which covers all 5 competencies of SEL with one activity each day of the school year.

There are so many great options out there for teaching about SEL you can’t go wrong! The better prepared our students are in social-emotional learning, the better adjusted (hopefully!) they will be as adults! 

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kelsey sorenson

Hey there, new teacher bestie! I’m Kelsey, and I created Wife Teacher Mommy just for YOU! I blog about teaching and create elementary school and homeschooling resources to make your life easier. Be sure to sign up for my FREE email newsletter!

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