4 Ways to Help Students Develop SEL Skills

Throughout the past couple of years, it has become increasingly important to focus on the mental health and wellness of our students and ourselves. As educators, it can be a challenge to find balance in our days and it is important that we do so and model this for our students. Learning can be a challenge and designing the right experiences that will support students on their journey and help them to develop SEL skills in our classrooms is critical. Why do these skills matter?

Because there is a direct correlation between SEL and the skills that employers look for, we need activities and tools to help students develop these skills in our classrooms. Essential skills for the future like communication, decision-making, problem-solving, and teamwork, to name a few of those listed by the World Economic Forum. When we consistently address the five SEL competencies, research has shown that it leads to increased student achievement and positively impacts student wellbeing. With these benefits for students, it is important to explore the options available to us and then leverage different methods and digital tools to create spaces for students to build academic skills and SEL skills. 


Finding the Right Resources

First, I recommend that educators explore all of the resources from CASEL. There are materials for educators and parents and additional materials that can be helpful when starting with SEL. Also, a few months ago, Buncee, a multimedia presentation tool created a SEL toolkit that provides educators with everything they need to get started including ready-to-use template activities for grades K-6 and 7-12


The Five Competencies

Self-awareness: Students understand where they are in the learning process and are becoming more aware of their skills and interests as they learn. 

Self-management: Students develop the skills to deal with any emotions or stress experienced during the learning process. 

Social awareness: Students develop an understanding of others’ perspectives and different cultures. The development of empathy is important for students. 

Relationship skills. Developing supportive relationships to feel confident asking for help and working as part of a team will prepare students for future workplace success. 

Decision making: Students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, learn to process information, and find solutions.


Four Ways to Focus on SEL

We can promote the development of SEL through teaching methods and activities which do not require technology. For example, using methods like project based-learning provides many benefits for students and is a good way to also help students to develop SEL skills. Finding ways to connect students with other classrooms or to learn about different places around the world, solve problems, and communicate, can be done with a variety of digital tools. Here are four options to help students develop self and social awareness in addition to digital citizenship skills. 

  1. Book Creator has added new features that promote student choice and voice in learning. Because it is collaborative, we can connect students with global peers to develop social awareness and in particular, empathy as they learn. We can have students create a book to use as a journal or portfolio to use for reflection as they develop self-awareness. It is also a good option for students to create an artifact for their PBL experiences.
  2. Pear Deck is an interactive presentation tool that takes your Google Slides or Powerpoint online and enables you to add activities to further engage students in the lesson. For SEL, Pear Deck is a good way to check in with students and through the student-paced lessons, it promotes self-awareness and self-management as students track their learning. 
  3. Tract is a peer-to-peer program for students ages 8 and up in which students can work through on-demand classes or become creators of their own content. With Tract, educators support SEL and self-efficacy through student-directed, project-based learning through the enrichment clubs and on-demand classes available.
  4. Wakelet was a very beneficial tool for my students to share their PBL artifacts with classmates during our remote and hybrid learning. Students can create their own Wakelet collection to add artifacts of work, collaborate with their peers, and even record short Flipgrid videos to explain their learning.  For PBL, creating a class Wakelet collection enables students to learn from one another and explore new ideas and perspectives, promoting the development of social awareness and empathy.

In addition to these options, we can also use game-based learning tools to promote collaboration and boost student engagement. Students can collaborate on teams and build teamwork skills, use the games to track their own growth and set new goals or learn about different places around the world. Explore some tools such as Blooket, Gimkit, Kahoot!, or Quizizz, to find ready-made games or to quickly create one for students to learn about one another.

Finding ways to bring SEL into our classrooms is not meant to be something extra or time-consuming. We have many ways to weave activities into what we are already doing that will promote student engagement in learning and help students to develop the essential SEL skills to best prepare them for the future. 

About the Author

Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network.  She is the author of six books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU,” “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World," and most recent book “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us” is now available. Coming in September is a book for World Language Educators with Routledge.

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU available at https://anchor.fm/rdene915.


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