This guest post was written by Kerri Lambert, Instructional Technology Teacher Specialist at Anne Arundel County Public Schools and Tech4Learning Innovative Educator.
Social emotional learning (SEL) has surged to the forefront of education over the last several years. The importance of mental health and building relationships became glaringly apparent during the pandemic, and that has carried over as students and teachers returned to physical classrooms.
Developing social skills, dealing with feelings, and addressing bullying are all part of normal classroom routines. Wixie provides teachers with a multitude of ways to address these key concepts and life skills with their activities, templates, and creativity tools.
Embracing the Teachable Moments
As any good teacher will tell you, it’s a rare day when everything goes as planned. There are often those unexpected moments that require a teacher to think on their feet and pivot from their carefully crafted lesson plans. Some of those moments may include needing to address the social and emotional needs of students. That’s when it is a good idea to have a few Wixie SEL templates in your toolbox.
One of my favorite templates is the Team Member ID Card, a great activity to do before starting any kind of team project. In it, students identify their strengths and weaknesses along with what they enjoy about group work. Of course, any ID card wouldn’t be complete without a picture, so students can embrace their love of a selfie or illustrate their picture.
Teachers can use the information to form groups, or as a jumping off point for class discussions on what it takes to be part of a team.
When things are going well, encourage students to use the High Five Someone template to compliment a fellow classmate or teammate. Since students can access this template on their own, they can create a high five anytime they want to recognize someone in their class. With Wixie’s automatic sharing with teachers, the teacher can immediately access the work and share it with the receiving student.
This activity can also be printed to create a display in the classroom or hallway. It makes anyone feel good to see a wall full of high fives and it serves as a reminder that everyone has something positive to contribute to a team.
There inevitably comes a time where negative behavior or feelings have to be addressed in the classroom. Using an activity like Take a Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes allows students to think about an event from someone else’s perspective and how their actions may have made them feel. They can then address the situation with more empathy and understanding.
Students can use one of the dozens of comic strip templates, or even a blank page, to illustrate a better alternative ending to an incident. Since students can open templates without the file needing to be assigned, they are ideal for having as options in a cool-down corner.
Addressing SEL Needs with Ongoing Activities
Building relationships and addressing the social and emotional needs of our students is a key component to having a positive classroom climate and a successful school year. Using a tool like the Feelings Tree or the Daily Check-in gives students a safe, private way to communicate how they are feeling with their teacher. Teachers can assign these to students and use them for a week, a month, or even a whole quarter if they would like. Both can easily be modified by the teacher to best fit the needs of the class.
Students aren’t quite ready to type? They can use the camera feature to take a selfie of their feeling or record a brief video or audio message explaining their thoughts. Another option would be to replace typed responses with emojis from the image library. Students can then circle the emoji that best represents how they are feeling that day. With this information, teachers can adjust expectations or lessons as necessary to best meet the needs of the class.
Having students take a moment to reflect on the positives in their life is also an important part of SEL. Teachers can assign the Gratitude Jar activity to students, and once a day or even just once a week, have them complete one of the cards.
To encourage reflection, students can add a blank slide and write, draw or record to provide additional detail. Use Wixie’s hyperlinking feature to link from each card to this reflection page (and back) so that when complete students can a beautiful reminder of things they can be grateful for each day.
Connecting Content and Social Emotional Learning
Teaching students social emotional concepts should not be limited to stand-alone activities. Incorporating literature with SEL themes into instruction allows teachers to address comprehension and foundational literacy skills along with SEL concepts such as feelings, sharing, or bullying.
An activity such as Wixie’s Reading Response Journal encourages the students to make self to text connections by asking students to identify something that happens to the character, and how they themselves would feel if the same thing happened to them. This brings out the comprehension skill of identifying key details or events in a story, but takes it even further with an SEL connection.
Wixie has a library of activities and images that relate to specific stories that all can be used with an SEL lens. One example is The Color Monster by Anna Llenas. The My Feelings book encourages students to understand their own emotions based on each of the monster's colors and expressions.
Use the SEL quote templates as an extension for older students studying famous people such as Malcolm X, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Jefferson to reflect on topics such as power, honesty, and life balance.
As you can see, Wixie can help you address social and emotional goals in a creative and non-threatening way. The more that we work to build our students’ capacity for emotional well being, the better off our students will be!