Educating with empathy in the classroom

If social-emotional learning (SEL) seems like it’s everywhere these days, that’s because it is. And for good reason: SEL has been thoroughly studied and the benefits to students are clear.

So what is SEL? According to CASEL, one of the preeminent organizations promoting SEL education, the concept can be defined as the process through which young people:

  • Acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities
  • Manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals
  • Feel and show empathy for others
  • Establish and maintain supportive relationships
  • Make responsible and caring decision

As students and teachers navigate remote and hybrid learning environments, it’s more important than ever to effectively incorporate SEL into daily instruction. By doing this, it can help to provide an equitable and thriving educational environment. Here are a few things you can do today to apply social and emotional learning in your classroom:

Hold morning meetings 

Many learners continue to attend school remotely, so it’s important to provide a place for personal interactions. Regularly bring class together through virtual meetings where students can grow their social skills by sharing experiences and creating relationships during school. You can even use IXL certificates to give shout-outs to students for their participation and achievements!

Keeps lines of communication open

Feedback from teacher to student—and between students themselves—is a huge part of building community. Learners derive motivation from their peers to stay on top of assignments, and from teachers to feel secure that educators are invested in their success. An educational environment that lacks constructive feedback and positive engagement can leave learners wondering if you really care about them, so make sure you keep in touch no matter where you’re teaching from.

Use IXL’s Live Classroom and Live Message feature to provide instant feedback while students are learning. Letting students know that they are supported and that their hard work is recognized will help them to develop a growth mindset and prosper in the classroom.

Spread positivity

During times of hardship, sharing positive news and celebrating small victories can go a long way. Several programs provide resources focusing on educational news for K-12 students that you can adapt for co-curricular ELA or social studies instruction. 

Teachers can also highlight positive student behaviors that are sometimes overlooked, such as a high attendance rate or behaving well as a class. Here are a few concrete steps your class can take to meet these goals:

  • PBS provides videos and interactive lessons for PreK-5 students that tackle important SEL issues, such as managing self-expression and inner feelings.
  • Utilize SEL-specific programs by organizations, such as CASEL or Second Step, which offer many free resources to help teachers become more effective at implementing SEL instruction.
  • “Caught You Being Good” programs are a fantastic way to celebrate the things your class is doing right and incentivize positive behavior. Teachers give students Caught You Being Good slips for doing good deeds. Each week a student is chosen as the Caught You Being Good Student of the Week and can receive a special lunch, treats, or extra recess time on Friday. 

Encourage student journaling

Whether it’s in class or at home, asking students to write about their feelings and experiences can be a wonderful way to foster social connections through reflection and optional sharing. It also helps students release stress and emotions that they may be holding in. Try out apps like Padlet, Lino, or Flipgrid that facilitate sharing and collaboration between classmates.

SEL instruction has positive effects on learning outcomes and increases student buy-in. Start small with these ideas and then explore school-wide opportunities with your leadership team to implement moving forward.