Social emotional activities for distance learning are a key element when students are not able to attend class. Digital learning at school or at home has increased in recent years. SEL has also grown in popularity over the last 5 years. It is through connections, belonging, and being able to regulate our emotions, that we grow the most both socially, emotionally, and academically. While there is a continued government focus on academics and testing, teachers and parents know that social emotional learning is the key to a child’s positive learning and development path.
The Growth of Distance Learning
There are important social and emotional aspects of learning that need to be addressed o matter what the learning setting. We all know that any true SEL is based on face-to-face contact. This helps children to build connections, play, and engage in cooperative learning. We won’t always be in this situation but it is important to acknowledge that there will always be a need for social emotional activities whether they are for distance learning or not. The digital world has been growing, but now it has exploded in popularity due to need.
SEL in the Classroom
According to Casel (The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) , there are 5 CORE SEL competencies:
Responsible Decision Making
There are a variety of ways to teach these competencies. These are perfect topics for morning meetings to help students adjust to the new day. Teach each concept one by one using a children’s book as a platform. You might soon notice that many of these concepts begin to overlap. This is a natural weaving of social and emotional competencies that demonstrate that the learning is becoming part of the students’ daily interactions.
Another way to teach these competencies is by embedding the learning into other curricular areas. For example, responsible decision making can take shape in social studies lessons on the government. Embed Self-management lessons into PE lessons.
Distance and Digital Learning
Let’s distinguish between distance learning and digital learning. Distance learning simply means that students are not in the classroom and might be at home learning. Activities and lessons are planned by the teacher but they are not in the classroom. These lessons/activities might be in the paper form of a learning packet or they may be online learning using such platforms as Google™ classroom, Zoom, or Teams with a follow up activity.
Digital learning is learning using a device such as an ipad or a laptop. The lessons might still come from a collaborative platform listed above or they might even come via email with a link to a digital lesson that students complete digitally on a device. Students can use digital activities during literacy centers in class.
You can well imagine that social emotional learning may be a bit trickier to teach when students are in distance learning or only using a digital tool. In this case, SEL is critical. Students should be actively building connections, feeling like they belong, and developing in all 5 aspects of SEL identified by CASEL. Thoughtfully crafted lessons are the key.
Social Emotional Activities For Distance Learning
Social emotional distance learning activities need to be able to do 3 things:
- Be easily accessed by all students. Equity in the digital world continues to be a big factor in distance learning.
- Address the 5 CORE SEL competencies
- Use kid -friendly language and be able to be used as independently as possible.
One key to really good social and emotional learning is the classroom teacher. The more teacher knows about SEL and practices him or herself, the more students will learn. While that is true with most things in the classroom, social and emotional activities need to be able to reach the student in such a way that they know that learning it will be beneficial to them. This can be tough for little ones. When children are doing distance learning, their well-being is more important that ever. (So is the teacher and parent’s well being.) The teacher is key to this learning.
How do I fit it all in?
Use a digital notebook for students to showcase the learning and reflection. Teach the SEL concepts in a step by step manner. It’s important not to go too quickly so that students have time to process and absorb the concepts that apply to them and then apply them in their daily life.
Ask students reflection questions each day. The questions can range from kindness to compassion and can be related to themselves, their family or their friends. The digital mindful journal might look like this one .
If you would like to focus more specifically on the 5 core SEL competencies, implement a paper or digital version of an interactive mindful notebook. Students work in a notebook or on a tablet as they learn each aspect of SEL step – by – step. I once had a teacher several years ago ask me, “Is the mindful notebook aligned to “XYZ” curriculum because if it’s not, I can’t use it.” (You can see the post that sparked that question here.)
Now most everyone knows that social emotional skills are the cornerstone to learning. These skills are the ones most looked for in the future when a student is going out into the workforce. Social emotional learning is aligned to every curriculum as it supports and enhances the academic learning. Hurray for that!