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How Can SEL Be Taught Through Remote Learning?

Given that Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is a relatively new social and academic debate, it’s fair to say that the timing of an increasing trend toward remote learning is not great for promoting SEL.

The purpose of SEL is for the students to understand their thoughts and emotions, those of their peers, and to create effective social connections. It is challenging for students that attend school virtually because it adds additional layers of complexities. These difficulties come during times when the level of stress and anxiety in younger students is already at its peak, with some students falling behind up to 12 months of learning (Dorn et al., 2020).

How SEL can be taught effectively through remote learning:

You may choose to begin your day or lesson by walking students through an emotional check-in —a simple and effective exercise. Ask each student how they feel currently, or perhaps about a recent situation, incidence, or occasion. Be mindful to keep the focus of this activity on how the students feel to gauge whether they need support or reassurance. In a literacy class, you may ask the students to envision and explain how they might feel if they were characters in the story they just read. You can convert this exercise into a group activity where two or more students share their thoughts with one another.

Since remote learning requires that students learn independently, one way they can be assisted in articulating their thoughts and emotions is to keep a reflective journal. This could be a formative activity. However, because of the benefits, there is an increasing trend to use reflective writing as a summative assessment. Again, there is room to convert this into a group activity where the teacher can help the student select a portion of their reflective journal to read to the class and have a follow-up discussion.

A critique of remote learning is how it can make the students feel lonely and isolated and lead to boredom. To engage students emotionally and intellectually, you need to be full of excitement and adventure. Avoid talking for lengthy periods and allow your students to take regular breaks.

Embedding constructive games into the curriculum can evoke excitement among students. Adventures Aboard the SS Grin is an engaging story-based SEL game where Grade 3-5 children learn by helping animated characters resolve various interpersonal issues, just as they would in their own lives. The game helps the students practice all five social-emotional competency skills identified by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL): self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. The game is straightforward and only requires a 30-minute session of play (Lee et al., 2021). As a teacher, you might be aware of other SEL tools, such as Everday Speech. Feel free to use the ones that suit your curriculum and students better.

Smaller steps can always complement the overall endeavour to promote SEL. For example, ask students to write gratitude or kindness notes about their peers. Students will provide the letters to their teacher, who forwards them to the receiver, keeping the sender’s identity anonymous. This will help the teacher maintain a healthy and respectful learning environment where SEL will deliver the best results.


About the author:

Iqbal Ahmad (SFHEA), Founder & CEO of Britannia Awards -, holds various teaching qualifications including, but not limited to, Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training and Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching. He has been involved in training teaching professionals for over fifteen years and mentored various educational leaders both within his organisation and in the capacity of a corporate trainer. Iqbal Ahmad is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA).

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