“Today’s [youth] are more knowledgeable and informed than any other generation before them,” says Preeti Shrikhande, founder and CEO of Vivensity. “Yet, there’s been a rapid increase in anxiety, depression, and sadly, a 33% increase in suicide.”
Three years of extensive research for her company’s new SEL-supportive curriculum and app, imSparked©, led Shrikhande to one central conclusion. “What I learned,” she says, “Is that the students are so focused on the outside world that they are not getting enough time to develop the resilience and the life skills they need to live a balanced and meaningful life.”
Social and Emotional skill sets are essential to students’ school and life success. Prioritizing this for just a short time each day can help kids long-term in managing stress, coping with life events, developing good relationships, setting and achieving goals, and responsible decision making. It’s easy to understand the push to embed SEL into daily classroom learning.
If you’re just getting started, or are looking for ways to bring more SEL opportunities to your students, here are a few ways to seamlessly integrate social and emotional learning into academic content.
Metacognition, or thinking about one’s thinking, can lead to stronger academic results. It can also help young people learn to recognize important thought and behavior patterns, including those that are limiting or that might benefit from targeted SEL work. Metacognitive reflection “has been linked to the development of self-awareness, self-regulation, executive functions, and decision-making–all key SEL skills.”
We can model metacognition by actively thinking aloud or by verbally mapping our intentions, actions, or social-emotional states of being. If your school or classroom is eyeing a more comprehensive SEL-based program, be sure to look for one that already embeds this feature. imSparked, for example, supports students by building resilience and developing life skills through a CASEL-aligned approach that is based on microlearning, metacognition, positive psychology and deepening social connections. And because metacognition benefits more than just students, imSparked also supports these practices among teachers and parents through its co-learning curriculum.
Scaffold reframing behaviors:
Reframing occurs when we view a text, idea, or situation in a different way. It is an important strategy that can help students learn to think more critically and creatively. Reframing, when employed as an SEL tool, can expose learners to new perspectives- a practice that can develop empathy and strengthen relationship building skills. We can scaffold perspective taking by walking students through reframing patterns in an I-Do/We-Do/You-Do way.
Collaborative practice is already central to most classrooms- and for sound academic reason. But did you know that structured interpersonal work is important to SEL outcomes, too? “Cooperative learning is valuable in its own right,” explains ASCD author Karen VanAusdal. “But it is especially useful in helping to teach and model social and emotional learning (SEL) skills, like listening, teamwork, and relationship building.” Consider where you are already implementing cooperative learning in your classroom and then focus on how you can make these learning times more intentional spaces for SEL skill building.
According to senior researching lecturer Dana Di Pardo Léon-Henri, students benefit from using reflective learning practices in their studies. They can improve academic performance, increase engagement, and boost critical thinking, among other perks. Similarly, reflecting on SEL gains and acquired tools can help students refine skill sets and further grow their capacity. Whole class debriefs, journaling, or more formal SEL self-reflection tools, like this one from CASEL, are all great options for building and nurturing reflective stamina.
Preeti Shrikhande is confident that advancing students’ SEL capacities is an important part of the solution when it comes to diminishing youth stress, anxiety, and even suicide. She explains that social and emotional learning opportunities, like those included in the imSparked program, “Help students solve critical and urgent personal problems, study for a test, get ready for a game, or just learn to relax.” As young people learn new skills and develop a greater command over their own social and emotional well-being, they are more equipped for school and life success.