In a recent professional learning session, we asked participants to describe in 1-2 words how they would measure the success of a child they know– a student, their own child, a niece or nephew, a neighbor or friend’s child– at age 25. The responses came back “loving,” “happy,” “kind,” “compassionate,” “resilient,” “emotionally connected,” and so on.
Almost every educator listed a social-emotional skill, rather than an academic one as their measure of that child’s success. And yet, all too often, our focus in the classroom is solely on content standards and measurable academic outcomes.
We also know that many educators can’t imagine adding another thing to teach on their plate–let alone a “soft skill” like social-emotional learning (SEL).
But what if we looked at SEL as an essential part of academic learning– as something that can easily be infused into the everyday curriculum? What if SEL was the plate (the foundation for academic learning) rather than another thing on the plate? We can turn SEL into SEAL– social, emotional, and academic learning by viewing SEL as a crucial part of academic learning.
You can easily infuse SEL into your teaching rather than trying to implement a separate social-emotional learning curriculum or stand-alone lessons. You may already be supporting SEAL in your classroom. Today, we are sharing three instructional practices to turn SEL to SEAL.
Instructional Practices that Support SEAL
We know most students (and adults) groan when assigned a group project; however, when teachers provide assignments that ask students to work together and utilize content in a meaningful way, they provide their students with an excellent opportunity to hone their SEAL skills. At its core, cooperative learning creates great opportunities for students to hone their interpersonal skills, promote positive interdependence, and learn group and individual accountability. Teachers must include elements that allow all students in the group to participate in the learning task.
By creating an environment for open discussion, teachers can provide students the opportunity to expand on their own and their classmates’ thoughts and ideas. Asking open-ended questions and allowing most of the dialogue to be student-driven helps students develop their verbal communication skills and fine-tune their ability to listen attentively.
Self-Reflection and Self-Assessment
When teachers ask students to think actively about their work, they learn how to assess their performance against the standards provided by the teacher. If utilized throughout all of the steps of a project or assignment, students learn how to plan, monitor, and reflect on their progress. Self-reflection allows students to pause and see where they may need to develop skills or may have gotten off-track. This gives students room to change course and assess the overall effectiveness of their approach throughout the project.
Every Day SEAL
Social-emotional learning in the classroom doesn’t have to be a stand-alone activity or lesson. It can be the foundation on which academic learning is built and a daily part of your content– without adding extra work to your schedule.
The three instructional practices we’ve explored illustrate how SEL can seamlessly integrate into daily teaching. By embracing SEAL, we equip our students with the knowledge and skills to excel academically and thrive as compassionate, resilient, and emotionally intelligent individuals, fostering a brighter and more balanced future for them.
Want to take an even deeper dive into SEAL? Sign up for our online course: Strengthening SEAL to Boost ABCs (Academics, Behavior, & Culture) for Elementary or Strengthening SEAL to Boost ABCs for Secondary Ed. In this self-paced, 12-module, engaging and interactive online course, educators will learn the foundations of Social, Emotional, and Academic Teaching and Learning. Each module incorporates video lecture sessions, supplemental reading, and links to outside resources.