This year has highlighted the importance of supporting social-emotional skills and emotional intelligence. Teachers worked valiantly in 2020 and 2021 to transition familiar routines and relationships to the virtual setting. Through breakout rooms, educators created social groups that would provide camaraderie for distanced students. Through chats, videos, and home visits, teachers connected with students. Teachers went the extra mile to bridge the gaps in social and emotional connections created by distanced learning. Despite heroic efforts, students lost social and emotional skills during the last year.
Educators must now be prepared for the aftermath of the pandemic. We need to elevate our attention to social and emotional intelligence and can no longer view this work as optional. Covid-19 has forced us to see that being primarily focused on developing students’ IQ is not enough and to help students to reach their full potential, we must also help them to recover and build social and emotional skills.
Social-emotional skills include building skills in each of the following critical areas.
- Emotional Awareness: Self-awareness is the ability to notice your feelings, reactions, habits, behaviors, and thoughts.
- Goal setting and self-management: Self-management skills allow children to develop the ability to control their behavior and moods.
- Perseverance: Perseverance allows children to meet goals despite difficulties.
- Social skills: Children need to find common ground with others, work effectively with others, and participate fully with a team.
To build emotional awareness, consider the use of student self-reflection. When students learn something new, teachers can model intrapersonal development by asking students to reflect with three simple questions.
- “What did I feel successful with during this lesson and why?”
- “What was challenging during this lesson and why?”
- “How am I feeling about my learning?”
These questions are easily modified for older and younger students. Educators can use student responses to scaffold learning during future learning. Most importantly, this practice encourages students to think about their thinking, to check in with themselves, and to guide their learning.
To support goal-setting and self-management, challenge students with problem-based learning. Give individual students or teams a problem-based challenge that requires the completion of a set of steps to complete a goal. Students learn how to chunk a larger task into smaller steps to complete a goal. They absorb the process of tackling a problem through a series of manageable steps. By practicing problem-solving challenges, students learn to manage their work to complete a goal. These skills can translate to solving problems inside and outside the classroom.
The last year has highlighted the need for children to learn how to persevere. When things get tough, students need to access a growth mindset that will support their continued work to meet the challenge at hand. A teacher can support a growth mindset by modeling it in the classroom using self-talk. They can encourage students to see struggles as essential in the learning process. They can provide examples of “failures” that supported the learning essential to meeting a larger challenge.
Many students have not spent significant time with their peers in over a year and have experienced regression in social skills. To support the reclamation and growth of student social skills, use team learning experiences in the classroom. Collaborative learning experiences will provide opportunities for students to build trust, support one another, and build teamwork skills for learning and relationship-building. Working with peers will help students to rebuild essential skills in collaboration and communication that may have weakened during the last year.
The intentional use of practices to support social and emotional skill recovery is essential to supporting students as they return to a “new normal.” Let us welcome our students back to school with strategies to support growth in both content and social-emotional development. The last year has provided many lessons— the need for social-emotional skills to support cognitive and whole-child development is one we should heed.
Mind Missions can help. Collaboration, problem-based challenges, and reflection are integral to our learning model. Want to try it? Access this free critical-thinking lesson plan about the three branches of government, Branch Build, or learn more about the Mind Missions process by watching a short video. Our elementary social studies lesson plans are designed to support 21st-century social studies skills.
Have a great day! Thank you for all that you do to support the whole growth of students in your daily practice.