Social-emotional learning is an essential part of the educational process which is why teachers need to pay closer attention to it. However, doing so becomes more challenging when teaching in a virtual environment.
Indeed, teachers and other educators need to make sure that they are using the right SEL techniques during online learning. Hence, here’s everything you need to know about social-emotional learning activities for the virtual classroom.
What Is Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)?
To put it simply, social-emotional learning or SEL is the process by which humans learn to be self-aware and develop self-control and interpersonal skills essential for socializing and communication. SEL is important for helping students learn information easier and then apply it in the real world.
It’s crucial to remember that social-emotional learning will be different in the physical classroom than it is in the virtual one. There is a bigger barrier between the teacher and the student during online learning which is why using SEL should be applied differently and with more nuance.
#1 Gamify the Learning Process
First and foremost, consider gamifying the learning process. When it comes to social-emotional learning, there are many things that can be presented in a fun, entertaining, lighthearted manner instead of being all business about them. This is particularly true for teachers working with younger students who are prone to getting distracted. You want to keep their attention which is especially difficult in a virtual setting, but still manageable if you make the lesson a fun time for them.
But while younger students definitely need to have more games during their lessons, you can still apply the gamification technique when teaching adults. Information can be processed and remembered easier when it is associated with positive emotions and playing games will definitely lead to more pleasant experiences with students of all ages. Gamified learning will help students with patience, communication, problem-solving, and self-management among other things. Here are some examples of the gamification techniques you can use:
- For Younger Students: Scavenger hunts around the house, comedy hour when anyone who wants can tell a joke, using emojis in the chat to guess vocabulary.
- For Students of All Ages: Charades based on learned vocabulary, Kahoot, show and tell, inviting a guest instructor.
You can think of other ways to gamify the process depending on the material you are currently studying and the way you want to deliver it to your students. Experiment and see what works before settling for a particular technique.
#2 Read Aloud with The Students
The next social-emotional learning technique you can use is reading aloud with students in class. Reading aloud teaches your students valuable social-emotional skills such as empathy, problem-solving, and decision-making. Reading aloud also means students will be perfecting their reading comprehension skills, pronunciation, and others. Those listening, on the other hand, will be able to improve their listening comprehension skills. It’s a great situation for every student to be involved and engaged in the process.
The best thing about reading aloud is that it starts discussions where students can express their opinions and perspectives while also actively engaging with the opinions of others. It teaches them to be polite even when they disagree with someone while also arguing their point and countering their opponent’s. Older students will be able to improve their debating skills which is yet another reason to engage in such discussions. Read-aloud sessions are some of the best way for encouraging diversity in views.
These discussions prompted by the read-aloud sessions are probably the most instrumental to the SEL approach. Students of all ages will be able to engage with the text more actively by appealing to their emotions while also engaging and interacting with one another, a very social aspect of the learning process.
#3 Check in On Students Regularly
Though this is not exactly just a social-emotional learning technique, checking in on students regularly is a fundamental element of building their learning path. In other words, by checking in on your students’ well-being on a daily or weekly basis, you will be making sure that their life outside of the classroom doesn’t interfere with the learning process. As experts on education from the custom writing reviews site Best Writers Online note, “This is particularly important in relation to virtual learning when everyone is not physically next to each other and it’s easier to think about things besides learning.”
Checking in doesn’t need to be too invasive, but you should still do it right whether you are working with younger students or older ones. Here are some things to try:
- Watch the way students behave. Their body language and facial expressions can show the way they are feeling in a particular situation or even throughout the lessons.
- Use small talk to set the mood. Before a lesson begins, ask everybody about their day and how they are feeling to make everyone more comfortable and to see if anyone is feeling down.
- Send out Google Forms to gather feedback from students. This is more applicable to older students, but it can be very useful for many purposes. It’s easy to set up a form and include questions to get student opinions on lessons, learning materials, their personal progress, etc.
#4 Teach Students to Be Grateful
Speaking of student well-being, it’s a good idea to start teaching students to be grateful. Though this may sound like a social-emotional technique more appropriate for younger students, you can actually do this with adults too. The only thing is that the approaches will vary depending on student age and personalities. Remember that this gratefulness should be directly related to the lesson at hand rather than about students’ lives in general. It’s all about learning and how they perceive this learning.
For younger students, try to start with simpler questions. What are three things that made you happy today during the lesson? What is your favorite thing you learned today? Which book did you like reading the most for this lesson? These questions will allow younger students to reflect on their learning progress and realize how much they enjoy learning even if they tend to be distracted or uninterested in the subject.
For older students, you can either include the gratefulness aspect during feedback moments (e.g. ask questions related to it in the Google Forms) or you can directly talk to students about their learning paths. Which book did you enjoy the most? What was your favorite topic, and which one are you looking forward to? Which topic do you think you need to work on more?
#5 Consider Using Mindfulness Techniques
Last but not least, you can consider using the mindfulness technique in addition to teaching students to be grateful. As mentioned earlier, positive emotions can improve the learning capabilities of different students. So, all of these gratitude and mindfulness techniques can be very helpful in teaching the students subtle social-emotional learning techniques that will be activated through their reflection on their learning process. Here are some mindfulness techniques to try with students of all ages:
- Breathing: Different breathing techniques such as belly breathing, bubble breathing, and shoulder roll breathing among others can be a way to relax before or after a difficult test or during a break during a lengthy lesson. Alternatively, you can have small breaks for physical exercise to prevent students from getting tired from sitting for long periods.
- Meditation: Meditation sessions can become a favorite among students if they are done right. Ask students to close their eyes and then guide them by telling them to think about their favorite part of that day’s lesson, what they were looking forward to learning, and so on.
All in all, there are certain social-emotional learning activities you can engage in when teaching in a virtual classroom. Use the techniques described in this article to get you started and help you use SEL more effectively.