Teaching Social Emotional Learning with Character Playbook

It’s easy to focus our energies purely on academics and learning standards, but we all know the value of a strong classroom culture built on teaching social-emotional learning skills. Brian Krause, an EVERFI certified teacher focusing on character education, shares how his students leveraged EVERFI’s Character Playbook – Healthy Relationships program to establish community guidelines within his classroom.

Soft Skills Made Strong

I began to use Character Playbook because we had a need for soft skills to be explicitly taught as part of creating a classroom community that is conducive to all people.

We are working to promote 21st-century learners, so using EVERFI’s Character Playbook allowed our students another way to integrate technology into their daily work. I used it in conjunction with some offline SEL skills work to highlight different lessons we feature in the Character Education program – our segments cover a wide range of skills, from teaching to serving others. These lessons allow students to work both jointly and individually, and they provide a common basis and vocabulary for classroom instruction and conversation. 

Following our work with Character Playbook, my students and I came to the conclusion that we wanted to hear each other and discuss what we could do to better the classroom for both the teacher and the students.

Crafting Classroom Agreements

We developed a classroom activity titled “Acuerdos,” which is Spanish for “agreements.” We used Acuerdos to set community guidelines based upon what we wanted as a class – creating a democratic process of listening to and hearing others to create a safer space for everyone.

Setting up the activity was tough. It required establishing norms for respectful speaking and listening before any student could contribute their ideas. From there, roles were given out from “the scribe” to “the facilitator.” I had to step in and referee often and early, but I was shocked at how this typically rowdy class was able to listen to one another.

Ultimately, the students created the idea themselves after using Character Playbook. I simply helped them bring it to life by referencing an activity I remembered using in my graduate program to connect it to the classroom.

Lessons Learned

I definitely learned a few lessons from this first experience using EVERFI’s Character Playbook. Students in our district are not used to self-guided work that requires them to persevere and to think critically about their own lives.

I learned that I needed to be a part of the process with my students rather than letting them complete these modules entirely on their own. Moving forward, I can say that being involved and helping them integrate the information they saw as “stuff I already know” will help guide them to emotional fruition. The next time I implement the Character Playbook lessons, I hope to create an offline task (whether group or individual) to tie together each of their newly learned concepts.

Student Reactions

The students responded in a variety of ways to the lessons. Some did not want to talk about their feelings due to vulnerability or trauma; some wanted to talk because of those aforementioned things. Many students said they already knew the content, but they didn’t integrate it regularly.

Being in a 1:1 technology district, it is important for me to use the investment that has been made for Chromebooks in each classroom. Furthermore, as a 21st-century educator, it is important for me to use technology tactfully, safely, and to my best advantage so my students have a model for success.

Try and Succeed

As a teacher of soft skills, it is great to use platforms that are palpable for each student, no matter their experience. I encourage teachers to try something new in their classroom – you’ll never know until you try, fail and reflect; but better yet, you’ll never know until you try and succeed.

Brian Krause is an EVERFI certified teacher. He teaches Character Education to 7th grade and ELA to 7th and 8th grades at Grant Middle School. He shares his experience with Character Playbook and his reflections on integrating the course with his existing SEL curriculum.

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