It's important to focus on courage and SEL in the classroom--these resources can help.

12 tools for courage and SEL in the classroom

Emotional skills are increasingly important in school--here are some resources to help build courage and SEL in the classroom

Building SEL in the classroom requires face-to-face interaction, meaningful discussion, and reflection. Edtech is no complete substitute for that, but there are tools that can supplement the development of character and SEL in the classroom and at home.

Courage is a big component of SEL, and courage is taking on challenges even when there’s risk. It’s also speaking up for what’s right even if there’s opposition, and acting on your convictions.

While some tools focus specifically on courage, the websites and apps that you use daily (in all subjects) can be used to promote bravery, too. You don’t have to stop using the tools you love or toss out your lesson or curricular plans to start developing SEL in the classroom. Below, we have included some tips, tools, and actionable ideas for seamlessly integrating courage and life skills-building into your content classroom.

Why courage?

Compared to some of the other SEL strengths, there’s limited research on courage. For some psychologists, however, what defines courage is clear: To be courageous is to identify a meaningful goal and make the choice to reach it, despite personal risk. But what’s “meaningful”? Values vary widely, and some who might feel they’re exhibiting courage instead exhibit what Cynthia Pury calls “bad courage”: “bravery in pursuit of goals that result in the destruction of oneself or of other people.” For our students, it’s important that they not only stand up for their convictions but also think critically about what’s right and fight for equity and justice for all people. By being critical, courageous, confident, and independent, students can change their schools and the world, emerging as better decision-makers more prepared to face adversity and support and defend uncommon — yet just — views.

Take action

  • Teach a lesson around social or environmental activism. Kids can use digital tools to create their plans for taking a stand.
  • Discuss how superheroes show courage on the outside; have students reflect on what courage looks like on the inside.
  • Link courage to other SEL skills–give examples of when showing integrity, self-control, or compassion takes bravery.
  • Make sure the technology you use doesn’t take the place of, but instead supplements, face-to-face interaction.
  • Using our Digital Citizenship Curriculum? Both our student interactives and lessons already foster key SEL skills.
  • Visit some other excellent SEL resources, including CASEL, Character Lab, Edutopia, and Ashoka.
  • Think about the digital tools you’re already using in the classroom. Can you find a creative way to use them to model courage? Check out our suggestions below.

Directly target courage and SEL in the classroom

(See Common Sense Education’s Great Picks for Building Courage list for more focused tools.)

1. Sit With Us
This social app helps teens find a seat at lunch. Challenge students to become ambassadors who host open lunches. Kids can be a force for change, breaking down the barriers among peers who normally don’t interact with each other.

2. Thrively
Kids take an assessment that identifies 23 potential strengths. The site suggests activities tailored to these strengths, such as a robotics class or an art camp, which can spark an unknown interest and propel students to step up and try something new.

For ELA classrooms

4. Tell About This
Use the picture prompts as a starting point for kids to record their voices telling a story. Call on students to explore the background behind a tale of courage, such as when they were an upstander or when they had to make a tough decision.

4. Youth Voices
Kids can explore provocative issues such as homelessness or racism and create an online discussion, rallying others to comment on their message. Students can even incite others to rethink their own beliefs through a debate or poetry slam.

For math classrooms

5. Brilliant
Empower students to start a Math or Science Olympiad team, and use Brilliant’s tough problems for competitive practice. If students don’t agree with an answer, have them dispute it to the site and make a claim to support their reasoning.

6. Khan Academy
Since Khan Academy is self-paced open instruction, have students choose a topic or lesson that is either foreign to them or above their grade or skill level. Kids can set goals and reflect on how it feels to push outside one’s comfort level.

For science classrooms

7. Curiosity Machine
Kids complete design challenges such as engineering an airfoil or building a water filter. After finishing their prototypes, students can boldly submit their process and design to actual mentors and experts who provide feedback for iteration.

8. NASA Global Climate Change
With this comprehensive collection of climate change information from the experts, students can search the Solutions section and make a video or infographic to educate younger students on how they can stand up and fight for the environment.

For social studies classrooms

9. Parable of the Polygons
This interactive website stimulates thought around racial segregation in neighborhoods and then asks students to challenge their own biases through their actions moving forward. Students can also reach out and donate to diversity causes.

10. TweenTribune
Students can use this news site to explore human-interest stories that are above their grade levels or even in Spanish. Then, they can write a personal essay that highlights how stories of bravery from real people have influenced their lives.

For all classrooms

11. Canva
Canva is great for creating graphic designs. Have students research a cause and then create a plan to make an impact or inspire a solution. They can use a template to create a design that gets the word about their cause out to the community.

12. Edublogs
Customizable classroom blogs get students writing and collaborating. Have students blog about a time they failed at something, how it made them feel, and what fears they will need to overcome to try again; peers can give helpful advice.

 [Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Common Sense Education.]

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