Social and emotional learning (SEL) has quickly become a cornerstone of K-12 education, because it helps students regulate their own emotions and teaches them to respond kindly to their peers.
SEL helps students build intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies. When students cultivate important social and emotional skills, such as self-management and social awareness, they can improve their success along with the school climate.
SEL focuses on five core competencies: self-awareness to help students recognize emotions, thoughts, and behaviors; self-management to help students successfully regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors; social awareness to help students take the perspective of others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures; relationship skills to help students establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse people and groups; and responsible decision-making to help students make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions.
Research shows that school leaders believe SEL is a huge benefit to students. In fact, 98 percent of principals in a recent survey said they believe students from all backgrounds would benefit from learning social and emotional skills in schools.
Those principals said SEL can help improve school culture (99 percent), help students grow to become good citizens as adults (98 percent), improve student-teacher relationships (98 percent), and decrease bullying (96 percent).
Schools are developing plans to incorporate SEL into classrooms, but progress is varied. Thirty-five percent of surveyed principals said they have a plan for taching SELand are systematically implementing it school-wide, and while 70 percent said they expect all teachers in their school to teach students social and emotional skills, just 25 percent said that expectation is fully realized in their school.
Below is a list of apps and resources to help teachers and students build SEL. (Note: Editors have not reviewed the apps or resources.)
1. Calm: Because Calm allows for a ton of customization, teachers can engage students in a collaborative whole-group discussion on how to choose peaceful background noise and animated images for the day. Teachers could also set up a relaxation station in their classroom for students to use the app—with attached headphones—at their leisure after instruction. After recess or before a test, consider using this app in a whole-group session to help students relax or transition to a new activity.
2. Pairin: Teachers can use Pairin in their classrooms or in professional learning communities. Using an in-service meeting to collaborate with school counselors and other character-education professionals could help boost professional development. Logging into the teacher dashboard quickly shows the overall perceived climate of the teacher’s classroom based on student responses.
3. Positive Penguins: Positive Penguins is an award-winning, top ranked, fun educational app developed to help children understand why they feel the way they do and help them challenge their negative thinking. The app aims to help children understand that feelings come from their own thoughts—not the situations.
4. Touch and Learn – Emotions: Touch and Learn – Emotions can be an extremely useful tool for helping kids who are struggling to relate to and empathize with other kids, or who find it difficult to express their emotions using words. Be sure to use all of the settings to customize play, focus on certain emotions, and add your own lists. After kids practice identifying emotions on this app, act out some of the facial expressions and body language for various emotions to see if they’ve made the connection between the images and words that they’ve seen and heard with active expression.
5. Peekapak: Peekapak ties in most easily to existing ELA curricula. Though many lessons could potentially stand alone, they really work best as a full package. That means teachers should plan for two 20- to 25-minute lessons per week for four weeks for each of the 10 units. If there’s not enough time to do the full curriculum, teachers should be thoughtful in their choices of which lessons to skip so they don’t lose the advantages of exploring topics from multiple angles. Or, perhaps better yet, they could do full units but only some rather than all 10.
6. Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame: Children help a Sesame Street monster friend calm down and solve everyday challenges. Tap and touch to help the monster friend take deep breaths, think of plans, and try them out. Children are exposed to important emotional vocabulary, a calm breathing technique, personalized encouragements, and more.
7. Mind Yeti: Teachers can begin by letting students watch the instructional video that introduces the Mind Yeti and the group of Hububbles, which are thoughts that can cloud the mind. After whole-group instruction, teachers can introduce students to the expectations of where to sit or stand for these sessions. After a few practice sessions, assign a weekly Mind Yeti leader who can take the app with a small group to a corner of the room to practice leadership and communication skills.
8. Middle School Confidential: Middle School Confidential is a book and app series from anti-bullying activist Annie Fox, M.Ed. The series targets ages 11-14. The book series, a fiction/non-fiction hybrid, is part full-color graphic novel and part smart-talk life skills.
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