Social-emotional learning is especially important for virtual classrooms.
Find out how to teach SEL with these SEL activities for distance learning.
Importance of SEL Activities When Teaching Virtually
Students who participate in distance learning may not have the benefit of strong friendships and frequent interactions.
They are most in need of learning social and emotional skills.
How do you teach them?
You use SEL activities for remote learning, of course!
On the social side, SEL activities can help your students relate to one another and connect to you.
On the emotional side, SEL activities for distance learning can foster a sense of belonging, positive self-worth, and growth mindset.
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Ways to Connect to Students for SEL
It is vital that you connect with the students in your classroom.
This is all the more important when you teach virtually since you don’t have the benefit of being in person together.
How do you do this?
You show students that you “see” them.
Even though you may only interact through the computer screen, you value them and notice them as human beings.
Here are some ways to connect:
Post a Weekly Newsletter
Write a weekly newsletter that stars the students.
Showcase their work, list their accomplishments, and highlight a student of the week.
Let your students see you as a person, and notice them as people, not just students.
Tell your class funny personal stories (but not too personal!).
Remind them of fun class memories and inside jokes.
Challenge them to read 3 books and then share their favorite one.
Have them share pictures of memories or experiences they have had.
Write Letters or Send Videos
Write a personal letter (handwritten or via email) to the student through the parent.
You could also record a personalized video and send it.
Send a picture or meme that reminds you of them.
Make the message positive, encouraging, and upbeat.
Do a Social Emotional Check In
One of the best social emotional activities for distance learning is a social emotional check in.
Create a Digital Social Emotional Check In using Google Forms to instantaneously know how each student is feeling on any given day.
Social Emotional Learning Activities in the Virtual Classroom
These SEL activities for distance learning will help you determine how your students are doing emotionally.
They also teach social and emotional skills that will help students thrive in school and in life.
Read Alouds and Open Ended Questions
You can read aloud to students of all ages (no one ever outgrows this).
Young children will benefit from specific SEL books (like A Little Spot books).
Older children can hear short stories where characters experience emotions.
You can follow the reading with open-ended questions like, “When have you felt this way?”
Show and Tell
The simple SEL activity of Show and Tell gives children a chance to share who they are and what is important to them.
It is a chance to get to know them and affirm them, helping them to develop positive, healthy identities.
So often, the voice we hear in our heads is negative.
Personal affirmations can retrain our brains to think more positively about ourselves and our circumstances.
Start each day by saying a personal affirmation together.
You can focus on the same one, or mix it up. Here are some ideas:
- Every day I am learning new things.
- I am smart and I can do hard things.
- I can be kind and polite to everyone today.
- I will learn at my own pace, and that’s just fine.
Breathing exercises serve multiple purposes.
They can help center a person, calm them down, and minimize stress.
Use visual cues to teach these breathing exercises, and do a series of 5 breaths with your class.
Try these deep breathing exercises: STAR breathing, balloon breathing, pretzel breathing, and drain breathing.
Scavenger hunts are another great example of SEL activities for remote learning.
They give students a chance to interact with one another and with you.
You can list items such as “a kitchen item in your favorite color” or “one of your favorite books” to allow students to share something about themselves.
Quotes of the Day and Magic Words
Growth mindset is important because it emphasizes progress and not perspective.
It keeps us positive.
You can introduce a growth mindset quote at the start of the day and then select a phrase or a word from it to be the Magic Words of the day.
Slip it into your lesson, and celebrate the student who spots it first.
You can flash a celebratory graphic on the screen.
You can also send FREE digital growth mindset bookmarks to your students as prizes.
They can print the bookmarks at home.
Acts of Kindness Hearts
When we notice others, we are more likely to develop empathy, a social emotional skill.
Challenge your students to do one act of kindness a week.
You can write them on digital or paper hearts and share them during class time.
Circle of Control
How often do we worry about something that is really outside of our control?
Our worry doesn’t accomplish anything; it just makes us miserable.
Draw a circle and give examples of worries that fall inside and outside a student’s circle of control.
If the worry is inside (“I worry I may fail this test” for example), talk about what the student could do.
If the worry is outside the circle (“I worry someone may say something negative about me.”), you need to acknowledge it is outside your control, and therefore not worth worrying about.
By giving students this visual and doing this exercise together, you can help them reframe their thinking.
Circle of Influence
This is another SEL activity for distance learning.
It works similarly the circle of control with some differences.
Inside the circle you place the choices that influence how you feel: your mood, what you eat, how much sleep you are getting, the music you listen to, etc.
These are all things that influence you.
They don’t control you, but you can control them.
Outside the circle go the influences you can’t control: other people’s behavior, the weather, social media, etc.
In order to improve your state of well-being, change the influences you can control, and learn to disregard the influences that you can’t control.
SEL Activities for Remote Learning
SEL activities are not less important in the virtual classroom; they are more important!
You don’t need to upend your day to teach SEL.
Just find some ways to connect with your students and introduce a few of these SEL activities for distance learning.
Your actions can make a difference!