Teaching Social Emotional Learning in a Virtual Classroom

Written by April Willis

July 20, 2022

Ever since the inception and spread of COVID-19 across the globe, people have been struggling to emotionally cope with the extreme uncertainty of what was going to occur next. Not knowing how to deal with new environments and situations didn’t just affect adults, but also school students who were even less familiar how to fully process what was happening around them. In this heightened intensity of stress and emotional conflict, it is vital for students to acquire the skills needed to navigate their emotions and any challenges they may face in their life. Teaching these skills early on will allow students to manage themselves and make responsible decisions in the future.

Growth Mindset

Teaching a growth mindset to your students is the first step in building a base for further SEL teachings. Many students hold the belief that certain individuals are naturally born smarter or more talented than others. By reversing this thought and allowing students to slowly understand that they can gradually build their intelligence and skills, students will realize that their intelligence is not fixed, and would be more willing to grow academically and emotionally. Make sure your students replace certain phrases like “I will never understand” or “I can never be like them” with more encouraging phrases that advance a growth mindset, including “This is challenging, but I know I can get better if I keep trying.”  If students can acknowledge their weaknesses, but also their ability to grow, they will be more academically and creatively driven in and out of the classroom.

Build A Community

Within a virtual classroom, plenty of students struggle with the direct disconnect between their peers, their teachers, and even the curriculum they are taught. To counteract this, gradually build a communal relationship within the classroom so students can rely on each other. With gamified activities and interactive group activities, your students will be more engaged with each other and gradually form relationships with one another. Within a community classroom, students will feel more comfortable to be vulnerable with each other and to naturally develop their social awareness.

Check-Ins

For many students, a virtual classroom is completely new compared to the in-person classrooms they have been learning in their whole life. By integrating SEL check-ins into the class itself by having students write their thoughts on a daily insightful prompt or how they are mentally doing. By regularly checking in, students will be more comfortable with the instructor and the class itself, keeping them even more engaged. Furthermore, a check-in will allow students to have accountability and process their emotions, something a lot of students are not taught to do in this fast-paced world.

Involve Families

Make sure your students’ families are in the know of your SEL-integrated curriculum. By communicating with parents, they can have a discussion with their kids about the importance of social emotional skills. Especially in a virtual environment at home, with the encouragement of their family, students will be more inclined to engage with their emotions within the classroom.

Keep it Safe

SEL is something that you want to make sure is directed to your students with care as each student has a different story and struggles through emotions differently. SEL cannot be taught in an abrupt or rigid manner as that’s simply not how it is meant to be digested. Make sure to have a safe space for students to remain comfortable and for you to be honest with them about your own experiences as well.

Take Care of Yourself

Even though it may be your responsibility to teach your class how to self-mange their emotions,  make sure you are prioritizing your own emotional well-being as well. In a virtual environment, it’s difficult to differentiate work life from homelife, so try to keep them as separate as possible. Not only will this help manage stress, but keep you significantly more organized and productive. To take care of others, you must take care of yourself first.