Social and Emotional Learning Warm-Ups in the Remote Learning Space
Social and emotional learning (SEL) begins with the self. It’s the ability to identify our own emotions and manage our own stress, and everyone is exercising those muscles right now. Leading an activity or two that asks your students to focus on identifying their emotions will help them be better able to manage their stress.
One thing you can have students do to help them tune into how they are feeling is sharing how they feel with a “fist of five.” This is a short, simultaneously performed activity, in which students rate how they’re feeling on a scale of one to five, with one being down in the dumps and five being quite happy. Everyone who feels comfortable participates, and it’s absolutely okay at a time like this for those who do not feel comfortable to opt out. After students have shared their ratings, if one or two feel comfortable sharing why they’ve given themselves the rating they have, that’s great! Allow those students space to express their feelings. It is a best practice not to have a student who is at one end of the scale share first.
It’s helpful to gather this information before teaching a lesson. It’s not your responsibility to change a student’s rating but rather to accept and support the students where they are. For example, if students share that they have low energy or that they have trouble focusing, you might want to make each part of your lesson shorter in order to keep an engaging pace.
Another suggestion is to have students take a few deep breaths before beginning a lesson or to lead the group in some easy tongue twisters. Both of these strategies are designed to help students focus on the present moment, and they allow students to perform a task together, strengthening the group’s bond.
Regularly engaging in practices like these shows students that sometimes they might feel great, and other times they might not—but how they feel during one part of the day isn’t permanent. I hope these ideas help you strengthen social and emotional learning in your remote learning spaces!
Professional Learning Consultant and Trainer
Danielle Martin is an educational consultant for the Great Books Foundation. She has more than 15 years of experience as a teacher, curriculum developer, and instructional coach. She holds an EdM from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an MA in theater history and criticism from Catholic University.