Incorporating social and emotional teaching strategies into your curriculum can strengthen your students’ academic and social skills. Early exposure to social emotional learning (SEL) skills can also have a lasting impact on students’ lives, including in the areas of mental health, education and employment.

Here are five effective SEL teaching strategies you can apply in your classroom:

Include Regular Face-to-Face Meetings

We can encourage thoughtfulness and responsible decision-making when we integrate regular class meetings into our curriculum. We can achieve this by meeting with our students face-to-face in a group on a regular basis to discuss any issues they may be experiencing and help them practice other skills, such as communication and turn-taking skills.

These meetings can be daily or weekly and may include talking about issues with getting along with classmates in a group or challenges with assignments. Meetings don’t have to be long, either. For example, you can hold short 10-minute meetings with first-grade students to discuss problems they may have experienced when working in a peer reading group. As the students get older, they can also lead longer meetings, such as holding a 45-minute group discussion on problem-solving techniques to resolve a conflict.

Provide Directions for Resolving Conflicts

It’s important to teach our students how to manage their emotions or handle conflict when disagreements arise. Provide a list of steps for managing an ongoing problem, such as having students write about the conflict and then identify possible resolutions in a weekly group assessment worksheet. Use acronyms to help younger students remember instructions. For example, you can have younger students use the acronym “ALF “to remember to ask about the reason for the problem, listen to each party, and find a resolution together.

Let Students Lead

Part of developing SEL skills involves fostering empowerment and focusing on the core principle of responsible decision-making. We can do this by creating opportunities for students to lead in the classroom. For example, have older students answer a question-of-the-day and take turns leading a classroom discussion. Another idea is to have students lead a virtual classroom session with another class, such as having students organize and lead a discussion about a museum exhibit that both classes attended.

Use Real-World Themes for Curriculum Design

By including real-world themes in the design of our classroom curriculum, we can help students connect to others by understanding their perspectives. Here are a ideas to foster a connection within your curriculum:

  • Create a project based on helping students build a community garden for elementary school students to build social awareness skills.
  • Have middle school students complete an environmentally-themed science fair project and discuss how their project impacts others’ lives.
  • Have high school students design and manage a food drive or toy collection for a local organization to learn empathy.

Include Journaling Activities

It’s important to teach students how to feel and show empathy as this emotional skill helps students understand others’ point-of-view. Have your students write about how they feel in a journal during and after they read a story. By journaling, students learn how to express their emotions from different perspectives. When we use journaling to express our feelings and emotions, we can make better sense of what they are.

Social & Emotional Learning

No matter what subject you teach, student emotion and behavior comes into play. Read the latest on compassion, empathy, habits of kindness, conflict resolution and more in our SEL series.