Social-Emotional Learning for Young Learners
How to develop well-rounded learners.
There are so many approaches to teaching, it can feel overwhelming.
Which methodology do you use? Do you go with present, practice, produce, or task-based learning? But once you’ve decided on how to teach, and develop proficiency, you start to wonder if there’s more to learning and teaching.
For the first few years I taught, I only focused on the basics - classroom and behaviour management and making sure learners met the ‘can do’ statements.
As I developed more tools for teaching, it allowed me to spend more time focusing on individuals in the classroom, build rapport, and allow to differentiate my teaching to personalise support.
Finally, I reached a point where I started asking questions about how I could help my students develop, not just linguistically, but holistically.
This is where socio-emotional learning comes in.
What is Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)?
SEL focuses on five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Acquiring these skills can help your students develop as people, not just as learners. A 2017 meta-analysis by CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) showed SEL led to better classroom behaviour, improved stress management, and thirteen percent gains in learner outcomes.
Why is SEL Important in a TEFL Classroom?
Integrating SEL into a TEFL classroom allows for developing well-rounded language learners, and well-rounded characters. By promoting these competencies, you’re setting up students not just for success in their language acquisition journey, but for life.
Panorama research on from over 100,000 students around 200 schools showed correlations between SEL and attendance, behaviour, and coursework (the ‘ABCs’). Children with high SEL are twice as likely to have above-average grades, sixty per cent less likely to have behaviour incidents and half as likely to be absent.
SEL does this by teaching these principles.
Self-awareness: By understanding their emotions, students can more effectively navigate learning a new language, which often involves frustration and challenges.
Self-management: As students become more capable of managing their emotions and behaviours, they're more likely to stay motivated and disciplined in their language learning journey.
Social awareness: The language classroom is a microcosm of the larger, multicultural world. Developing social awareness fosters understanding and appreciation of different cultures and perspectives.
Relationship skills: Language learning is not a solitary task. Students must work together, in pairs or groups, to practice their skills. Good relationship skills facilitate effective communication and collaboration.
Responsible decision-making: Making choices about learning methods, practising ethical behaviour during group activities, and understanding the consequences of actions are integral parts of language learning.
SEL also has some other concepts embedded in it. For example, other social-emotional skills and competencies include:
Growth Mindset: Student perceptions of whether they have the potential to change those factors that are central to their performance in school.
Self-Efficacy: How much students believe they can succeed in achieving academic outcomes.
Social Perspective-Taking: The extent to which students consider the perspectives of their teachers.
Emotion Regulation: How well students regulate their emotions.
Sense of Belonging: How much students feel that they are valued members of the school community.
Perseverance: How well students can persevere through setbacks to achieve important long-term goals (not limited to academics), considering their experiences and identities.
SEL for Young Learners: Strategies and Techniques
The methods for integrating SEL in a TEFL classroom vary based on the students' age and developmental stage. Teachers need to adopt specific strategies When teaching young learners in their formative years of emotional and social development.
Storytelling and Role-play: Children love stories; they're a fantastic tool for teaching SEL. Teachers can guide children to understand complex emotions and social dynamics by creating narratives around different emotions or social situations. Role-plays help children to experiment with different social situations, understand different perspectives, and learn appropriate responses.
Games and Interactive Activities: Games are a natural way for children to learn. Teachers can design games that promote understanding and recognition of different emotions, or games that require collaboration and teamwork. Interactive activities can engage children in an enjoyable and meaningful way, promoting positive relationships and shared learning.
Mindfulness and Reflection: Simple techniques like deep breathing exercises can help children become more aware of their emotions and reactions. Regular reflection periods can further enhance self-awareness.
Artistic Expression: Art can be a powerful medium for expressing emotions. Activities such as drawing, painting, crafting, or even dancing can allow children to communicate their feelings, even when they can't express them verbally.
Modelling Behavior: Teachers can exemplify the behaviours they wish their students to develop. This includes showing empathy, managing emotions effectively, making ethical decisions, and treating all students fairly and respectfully.
Clear and Simple Language: It's important to use language appropriate for the students' age and language level. The teacher should ensure the students understand the words used to describe emotions, social situations, and decision-making processes.
Teachable Moments: Real-life situations in the classroom can become opportunities for teaching SEL. If a conflict arises among students, the teacher can guide them through the situation and point out the emotions involved, how to empathize with others, and how to resolve conflicts fairly.
Incorporation into Routine: Integrating it into the daily routine is the best way to ensure consistent SEL. This could include sharing feelings at the start of the day or reflecting on the day's activities at the end.
SEL is not just an individual endeavour; it is a collective one.
The consistent practice of SEL behaviours in the classroom, the intentional integration of SEL into school policies, and the active participation of the community can create a supportive environment where children can develop their social and emotional competencies.
Through this integrated approach, we can educate successful students and responsible, empathetic, and socially skilled individuals.
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