Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a way of advancing self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills in the lives of our students. Research shows that in schools and districts where there was a focus on social and emotional learning, the rate of behavioral school suspensions went down, and the rate of school attendance went up. Some of the biggest challenges children face since the days of the pandemic are SEL related. Our students are dealing with more behavioral challenges, anxiety, and depression than ever before. Our children need skills like self-advocacy, active listening, the ability to problem solve, and to know how to remain (or become) resilient. These skills most certainly can and may be worked on at home, but we as educators can also help children develop these skills at school while we are teaching our core curriculum.
One of the easiest ways to teach these skills is by using books and more specifically reading those books aloud to our students. Reading books and generating discussion about how the characters in those books deal with challenging everyday topics is something our students can benefit from. Seeing characters navigate successfully through situations that can and sometimes are happening in real life is a good model for students. It will take a little bit of intentionality and planning, but it can be incorporated into your daily, weekly, or monthly routines. I want to spend some time identifying some books and book lists that I have found helpful, and I want to discuss how to effectively bring focus to the skill you are targeting. let's start with the how... As a literacy coach, I have been working with my teachers to continue to incorporate what they have learned about the science of teacher reading into their daily instructional practice. I push for explicit and systematic instructional practices. This blog will be no different.
We start with a focus on the skill or skills we will target with the book we have chosen. It is important to let the children know the skill we are focusing on as we read. Having your students pay close attention to how the character exhibits the behaviors related to the skill is as important as having students pay attention to how the character changes over time. The children may begin to recognize themselves in the character. Consider making this skill practice a routine by establishing a consistent way of visiting and revisiting the skill (maybe a daily, weekly, or monthly morning meeting). It may be a good idea to choose a skill that is a high need with your group and as your routine grows add other skills to this established structured time.
Next, we begin teaching the skill. We may first describe the skill or model how a student might behave while doing the skill. As a lover of vocabulary, I would also take a moment to define the skill. This part of your lesson may take up to 10 minutes but shouldn't take much more than that. The engaging read aloud will be the focal point of this lesson. If you want students to have notes or want to use a graphic organizer to help students identify key behaviors related to the skill prepare students for that in the beginning of the lesson. If time permits, make children aware of examples and non-examples of the skill and associated behaviors.
It is very important to revisit the skills that have been introduced routinely. To make this easy, establish a designated time to do this (maybe the end of the day as an exit ticket or daily reflection). Remind your students of the skills they have already learned and affirm them when they are displaying the skill. for example, if you notice a student struggling through an assignment you could say something like "I saw you struggling through your math assignment. I know how frustrating that can be. I see your resilience getting stronger." The idea is to reinforce the skills learned and used daily and often. Let's talk about some books that can help use teach the skills.
It is easy to find several book lists that target elementary, middle, and high school SEL topics so just know this list is not all encompassing. It is just a way to get you started:
SEL Books for Elementary:
SEL Books for Middle Grades:
SEL Books for High School:
With greater social and emotional competence, increases the possibility of high school graduation, the ability for success with career, post-secondary education, better mental health, and home life are all attainable. We as educators can play a crucial role it the social and emotional development of our students.
Thank you for reading,
Pearl Garden, Ed.D has completed her dissertation research involving understanding the vocabulary instruction practices of early grade teachers. She has a passion for the new and novice educator, and it is her goal to help educators tackle the achievement gap with her research findings. She will use this blog to share what she has learned in “pearls of literacy”. The ideas come from her dissertation titled “A Content Analysis of the Vocabulary Instruction Habits by Early Grade Teachers”.