Focusing on Social Interactions with SEL

When thinking about social-emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom, we often discuss the student’s internal emotions and how they should be connecting and interpreting said emotions. These emotions are typically reflected on or evoked by classroom activities, assignments and projects. However, intentional social interactions used to promote SEL can be beneficial to growing the student’s emotional intelligence.

Defining Social Interactions in the Classroom:

Social interactions can be defined as a social exchange between two or more individuals. In the classroom, interactions are mostly in the form of one-way communication between the teacher and their students. Think about it, when we imagine a classroom, we think of the teacher standing at the front of the class, giving the lesson of the day, while the students process the information being presented. However, we know that the incorporation of more social interactions between students in the classroom can further a student’s social development because when interacting with others, students design rules, institutions, and systems within which they seek to live.

Social Interaction and Social-Emotional Learning:

In Implementing the SEL Framework, we discussed the benefits of SEL and its impacts on the development of students’ social skills. Specifically, the benefit of social awareness and its impacts on the students’ ability to understand, empathize and feel compassion for those with differing backgrounds and cultures. In fact, when a student becomes socially aware, they can consider the perspective of others and understand their needs which allows them to work effectively in teams and develop healthy relationships with those who may have alternative perspectives. Additionally, SEL provides a structure for not only increasing students’ social awareness but also relationship and decision-making skills.

Implementing SEL into classrooms enables students to be caring and civil, make healthy decisions, problem-solve effectively, be respectful and responsible, be good citizens and be empathic and ethical.

When incorporating intentional positive social interaction in the classroom coupled with SEL, students can have a major impact on their social development which prepares them for success inside and outside the classroom.

Strategies for Social Interactions with SEL:

1. Develop Social Awareness through group conversations

Demonstrate appreciation for diverse opinions and backgrounds. Assign small groups of students to share their opinions, perspectives and explore each other’s unique cultures. Encourage students to be empathic and understanding to one another and understand the importance of acceptance.

2. Build Relationship Skills through conflict resolution

Build a system for conflict resolution and assist students when they need to resolve conflict. Provide feedback when students resolve conflict well. By encouraging students to appropriately resolve conflict, their ability to create healthy relationships and develop social awareness.

3. Advance teamwork skills through group collaborations

Assign small group work to offer students opportunities to problem solve and collaborate. Ask students to reflect on how well they performed individually and as a group. When students collaborate, they practice social awareness, relationship skills, cooperation and comprise, all of which are tools needed for success inside and outside the classroom.

Nurturing students’ skills necessary for self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and responsible decision-making prepares them to become successful adults, establish healthy relationships, and positively impact their community. Learn more about incorporating SEL into your classroom with the iCEV SEL toolkit.

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