4 Weeks of SEL Lessons and Activities for Distance Learning

Teaching Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is extremely important right now. Everyone is under tremendous pressure and the future feels more unpredictable than ever. This is the time when we need to cultivate healthy relationships and coping strategies. More than ever, now is the time to help our youngest learners develop and demonstrate empathy, compassion, and resilience. This is a ripe opportunity to guide our children toward developing strong lifelong social and emotional skills that can shape future generations. We have created four weeks of daily discussion questions and activities that students can do at home, no technology required. Read on to learn how to use them with your class. 

The 5 Competencies of SEL

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a research and advocacy organization defines SEL through five core competencies. These competencies build children’s capacity to deal with life’s challenges effectively and ethically. When planning and delivering SEL lessons, it’s a good idea to think about which competency the lesson targets. For long term planning, you’ll want to make sure that you are working on all five throughout the year. We have created a four-week lesson plan that covers all five competencies each week.

  1. Self-Awareness

The ability to become aware of your own thoughts and emotions and how they impact your behavior. This competency also includes an awareness of one’s strengths, challenges and sense of self.

  1. Self-Management

This competency deals with teaching children how to regulate their thoughts and emotions in different situations so that they can choose the most beneficial responses and behaviors from moment to moment. This includes impulse control, goal setting and motivation, as well as coping with stress. 

  1. Social Awareness

This is the ability to cultivate empathy and compassion through perspective taking. Children learn how to show respect for others and appreciate diversity.

  1. Relationship Skills

This competency requires building strong communication, listening, conflict resolution and collaboration skills. These help children grow and maintain healthy relationships with peers, family and members of their communities.

  1. Responsible Decision-Making 

This is the ability to recognize the consequences of different choices and behaviors and make decisions that will have beneficial outcomes for oneself and others.

SEL in a Virtual Classroom

With so much uncertainty in the world right now, SEL is a vital topic to address. Being thoughtful about these lessons will not just benefit students in the long term, but can also help them develop skills to cope with the heightened stress and fear that we are all facing right now. Regardless of the way you are structuring distance learning, it’s a great idea to include weekly or even daily activities which allow students to focus on developing the five competencies and give kids an opportunity to talk about their feelings. Daily discussions like these let students know that it’s okay to be upset and that you are there to support them. 

We have put together a calendar of activities that you can do with students. Each day includes a discussion question or topic and an independent activity. Depending on how your virtual class is operating, the discussion could be done whole-group via video conferencing or you can advise parents to facilitate the discussion at home. Then students can complete the independent activity on their own or with the help of an adult or older sibling. When possible and appropriate, encourage kids to share their work with you and/or their classmates. 

More Resources for SEL

CASEL Weekly Webinars

How to Teach SEL from EdWeek

5 Tips for Supporting SEL During Distance Learning from Understood.org

SEL Activities from SEL Providers Council

SEL Resources from Common Sense Education

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