3 Ways to Incorporate SEL Content into Your Lessons
It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic created new and more intensified challenges in education. The whole human race experienced a shared infectious disease that put both mental and physical strain on all of us. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has always been important in education, but it has never been more essential than it is today. SEL instruction allows us all, teachers and students, to think about how we take care of ourselves and our emotions while also maintaining positive relationships with the people around us and developing skills for everyday life in the world.
What’s going on in our school and how we’re approaching it
At our school, I reached out to our counselor as well as classroom teachers to see what behavioral issues are at the top of the list this year. While there are many, the most common topics are anger management, conflict resolution, and maintaining positive relationships with friends. Our teachers hold daily morning meetings which offer a time to build community in the classroom through greetings, community-building games, and sharing about selves to make connections between one another. Our school also uses a program called Second Step (which we love!) to teach weekly culturally relevant lessons on communication, cooperation, and decision making through videos, activities, and real-world scenarios. In addition, the school counselor pulls groups of students for social skills groups and restorative circles.
When I asked teachers if all of these tools were enough for their students, the answer was “they are a good start, but we need more”. For some students, a weekly lesson or a brief daily meeting is enough to gather some tools and think about how to implement them in day to day interactions with friends. However, many students need more time, more opportunities for real scenarios, more resources, and more direct instruction. Time is a big challenge in education because our curriculum is wide and requires a fast pace. I looked at what I might offer in the library to support what teachers are already doing in the classroom.
How Capstone can supplement what you’re already doing
Capstone offers several ebooks in their interactive library as well as articles in PebbleGo that focus on SEL topics. I focused my efforts on looking for books and articles related to friendship and conflicts. A few of the interactive ebooks:
- Hammock for Two by Shoshana Stopek, which features a koala who has to work on his empathy when an annoying neighbor keeps intruding.
- Lacey Walker, Nonstop Talker by Christianne C. Jones, which features a very talkative owl who has to understand the importance of listening.
- The Little Bully by Beth Bracken, which features a beaver who loves school until he has to deal with a bully named Fred.
I offered a lesson in the library using the book Too Many Carrots by Katy Hudson. Novel Effect also offers a soundscape for this book if you want to add some music and sound effects to your read aloud. This book features a rabbit who hoards carrots until they take up his entire house. He goes out looking for somewhere else to stay, but each home he visits ends up being destroyed as he tries to stuff himself, his friends, and his carrots inside. In the end, Rabbit has to figure out how to make things right with his friends.
Students react positively to conflict in Too Many Carrots
Since many of our students are wrestling with anger management and conflict resolution, I read just the beginning of Too Many Carrots up to the point where Tortoise agrees to let rabbit stay at his house and Rabbit destroys his home by rolling Tortoise down a hill and breaking it. Before turning the page, students talked about how Tortoise might be feeling. They named feelings such as angry, disappointed, hurt, and sad. I asked them to think about ways that Tortoise might react to Rabbit destroying his house. The interesting thing was that the majority of students did not react with anger or violence in the scenario. They suggested that Tortoise might ask Rabbit for help to fix the damage. Some thought Tortoise should just tell Rabbit it was ok and move on. Others thought Rabbit might take Tortoise to the doctor. On a rare occasion, a student or two brought up that Tortoise should kick Rabbit or not be his friend. Using puppets, I got volunteers to pick out a resolution that was offered and act it out. Students always chose a positive way to resolve the conflict. We finished the entire book and noted how forgiving each animal was to Rabbit and how he tried to resolve the conflict in the end by offering his house and carrots. We talked even further about what next steps Rabbit might take, and many students noted that he should help each animal rebuild a house.
In older classes, I pulled together a collection of informational ebooks and PebbleGo articles about friendship and put them in a Wakelet. Students scanned a QR code and chose one book or article to read to see what they might learn about friendship that could be shared with the whole class.
My favorite of the ebooks is the Making New Friends series by Megan Borgert-Spaniol and includes:
- Friends Listen
- Friends Accept You
- Friends Share
- Friends Take Turns
- Friends Tell the Truth
- Friends Accept You
These books provide information and real-world examples related to the topic of the book. At the end of the book, there is a section for practicing which gives step by step ways to practice the skill in the book. Since my teachers pointed out the importance of role-playing in developing friendship and conflict resolution skills, these practice sections of each book could be a great resource for future lessons or connections to fiction stories in the library.
It is comforting to know that companies like Capstone are committed to developing even more books and articles that can be used to support our students and classrooms. Very soon, Capstone is adding additional SEL topics to PebbleGo Next in addition to the ones already available in PebbleGo. These articles include topics such as conflict resolution, empathy, friendships, advocating for yourself, feelings and emotions, and growth mindset just to name a few. This will ensure that we have grade level resources to support our students throughout elementary school.
While there is no quick fix or easy solution to the behavioral issues we see in schools, it is good to know that many people can come together to use the resources available to keep the conversation and learning moving. In our library, I’m a firm believer in the power of student voice, so my next step is to get input from students on what we might do to support kindness in our school and develop conflict resolution skills. I want to take their ideas and help them put them into practice in our school. Already, students have identified a need for more encouragement from one another, so I plan to weave this into library lessons to create encouraging messages on student-made bookmarks, PSA announcements on our morning broadcast, as well as other student-generated ideas on the topic. If you have additional ideas of what you are doing in your classroom or library, I invite you to share on social media. It takes a global community to support one another as we strive to support our students and families.
See below for more information on SEL-related resources from Capstone.