As I navigate this school year, I am keenly aware of the ever-present power of change. Each day seems to bring a new challenge, a new policy, a new online platform, a new protocol, a new expectation, and at times, new quarantines. As educators, we take a deep breath, strengthen our resolve, and carry on. But what about our students? How are they navigating this new environment? Now more than ever, they need us to be aware of and support their social-emotional health and help them cultivate SEL skills.

In my work with gifted students, I’ve had the opportunity to develop strategies and purposeful activities for exploring and strengthening social emotional learning.

Related content: 6 strategies for teaching SEL remotely

Realizing there is no single strategy or activity that will address every need was monumental. The SEL needs of my students are as varied as the students themselves. Therefore, I needed a well-stocked and easily accessed SEL toolbox. The ideas below are my most used and most effective tools.

Time matters: The power of belonging and being known cannot be overstated. The strength stemming from that connectedness empowers students to both survive and thrive. Set aside time each week for an individual chat with your students. Call them by name and engage them in a conversation that matters to them. This is not a time for discussions of missing assignments, test grades, or behavior issues. Use this time to really get to know the student. Show you are interested in their world.

About the Author:

LeAnn Simmerman is a Teacher of the Gifted in Columbia, TN. She serves as Co-President Elect of the Tennessee Association for the Gifted. LeAnn is honored to be a part of the Discovery Education Network and serve on their Leadership Council.


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