Social Emotional Learning: 5 SEL Skills to Improve Student Success

Tips on teaching your students how to manage their feelings and foster their emotional well-being.

Social Emotional Learning: 5 SEL Skills to Improve Student Success

As teachers, you know that your classroom is shaped by how your students are feeling. Teaching students how to address their feelings and manage their emotions is challenging, but they need to develop these skills to thrive both inside and outside of school. Here, we'll discuss a few ways you can incorporate social emotional learning into your teaching.

What is Social Emotional Learning?

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines social emotional learning as the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

By developing these skills, children and adults are better able to address and strengthen their social and emotional well-being. For schools, this means learning environments that are safe, supportive and more successful. Students that were exposed to evidence-based social emotional programming showed an 11% point increase in grades and test scores in one study. However, this information is valuable for anybody.

When we feel supported socially and emotionally we’re able to perform to our best ability and thrive in all areas of life. Social emotional learning provides the foundation students (and adults) need to be more successful in school, in the workplace, and in their personal lives.

What are SEL’s five core competencies?

Social emotional learning (SEL) has been broken down into five core competencies. These competencies look very similar to Daniel Goleman’s four areas or domains of emotional intelligence. It can still be difficult to clearly envision what this means for our students. What should this look like in the classroom? What specific social and emotional skills should students be developing? The list below matches specific skills to each of the SEL competencies.

  • Self awareness: identifying emotions, expressing emotions, mindfulness, self-confidence, and recognizing strengths
  • Self management: managing emotions, resilience, stress management, impulse control, self-motivation
  • Social awareness: empathy, discovering differences, diversity appreciation, civic engagement, and respect for others
  • Relationship skills: conflict resolution, active listening, cooperation, teamwork, and communication
  • Responsible decision making: identifying problems, solving problems, analyzing situations, goal setting, leadership skills


So how do we help children develop these social skills and improve emotional health?

Schedule a Morning Meeting
Give students the chance to connect with one another by gathering for morning meeting. This can be an opportunity for students to share how they’re feeling, something they’re struggling with or set an intention. Coming together at the beginning of the school day can affect how everyone will interact with one another for the rest of the day.

Build a Diverse Classroom Library
The books and literature students are exposed to have a strong impact on developing empathy and building global awareness. It’s important to share books that represent a diverse set of cultures, races, family structures, living situations, etc. They should also address a variety of themes, main topics and central lessons. Use books as a starting point to discuss individual differences, feelings, and conflict resolution.

Inspire an Attitude of Gratitude
Research shows that demonstrating gratitude not only improves mental health but improves physical health, decreases stress, builds resilience, and improves self-esteem. There are a number of ways to inspire gratitude in your classroom, including: have students share one thing they’re grateful during a classroom meeting, create gratitude journals for reflection, or write thank you cards to other classmates.

Switch Up Your Seating Arrangement...and keep switching it
Arrange your classroom so that students have the opportunity to sit in groups. This encourages collaboration, communication and teamwork. By switching group members, group size and the arrangement of your classroom, you give students the opportunity to get to know each other, discover strategies for how to work and communicate with a variety of personalities, and keep things from getting boring!

Continue Your Best Practices!
Chances are your lessons and activities already encourage social and emotional development in your students. Look for opportunities to include group work, peer feedback, and creative expression in your lessons plans. Use literature and read alouds as a means to inspire discussion surrounding your classes’ social and emotional needs.

Want more ideas on how to integrate social emotional learning in the classroom? Here are five more ways to increase student success through SEL.

About Move This World

Move This World provides PreK-12 schools with a comprehensive social emotional learning program. Through evidence-based, developmentally aligned digital tools, Move This World ritualizes a daily practice of identifying, expressing, and managing emotions. Educators and students strengthen their social skills and improve emotional health in order to create environments where effective teaching and learning can occur. Click here to learn more about their social and emotional learning programs.

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