Going back to school for a fresh new year brings with it a ton of anticipation and excitement, but teachers are also worried about the COVID learning loss that our students may have experienced. And we’re not necessarily talking about traditional learning. 

While getting kids back on track with standards-based skills is important, it’s also critical to recognize that our students missed out on more than just reading, writing, math, and science. Our students missed out on in-person social interactions with peers, celebrating achievements as a class, and setting daily routines.

At Read to Lead, we’re all about whole-child development – that’s why we’ve put together three recommendations to integrate social emotional learning (SEL) into your middle school classroom!

First though, what is social-emotional learning? Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success. The CASEL framework tells us that students with strong social-emotional skills are better able to cope with everyday challenges and benefit academically, professionally, and socially. 

So, how can you weave social-emotional learning into your class this year? 

Focus on Building Relationships

Relationships are the foundation of success. For students who have spent the better part of the year behind a screen, forming and maintaining relationships may be something they need to work on. Start the year off strong by allowing students to set goals for themselves, and not just target grades in each subject. Encourage them to set goals for their own personal development, and get them to share it with you and their peers to set that foundation of building relationships with others.

Another way to help students build relationships is to let them help each other with projects or assignments. Introduce more project-based learning, or use the jigsaw technique in your classroom to give students more opportunities to interact and bond with each other. And as a bonus, students will LOVE you for letting them partner up with their buddies to work on tough tasks!

Facilitate Culturally Relevant and Diverse Learning Experiences

What better way to cultivate key SEL skills like social awareness, relationship building, and responsible decision-making than by facilitating culturally relevant and diverse learning experiences in the classroom? Sounds like a challenge? It doesn’t have to be!

Choose novels that feature diverse characters of different backgrounds for students to read and discuss in class – and if you need some ideas, check out our recommendations for 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grade! Set time aside for student-led discussions about topics they are interested in, and care about – and then encourage them to put their ideas into action in the real world.

Read to Lead’s online learning games are also an excellent addition to your middle school classroom. Students get to lead a diverse team and interact with a variety of characters in unique workplace settings. Each learning game has accompanying discussion questions that can be used for small-group or class activities, and each series offers a culminating project for students to work on as well. All this while having fun AND boosting students’ literacy as they read 5,000 words per game they play!

Adapt as You Go

This new school year won’t be like others. You may find that the usual scope and sequence may not be relevant, or that students are coming in at different levels. Adapting as you go will be key to supporting your students and helping them succeed – and this applies to SEL as well!

What will help in adapting and maintaining a fluid mentality to the year is using tools and resources that will do reporting and insight gathering in real-time so you can have a pulse on where each student stands in their learning. 

Read to Lead, for example, has formative assessments and real-time reporting so you can instantly see how each child is performing and the areas they need a little extra help in. Perhaps Ethan needs a helping hand in critical reading, or Sophia could use some extra practice with communicating clearly. Differentiating learning according to students’ strengths and weaknesses will go a long way addressing the gaps that may have formed in the past few months. Finding the right tools to empower your teaching style will support you in reaching every student. 

Are you ready to nurture the leaders of tomorrow and equip them with the SEL skills they need to succeed? Sign up for free with Read to Lead!

About Read to Lead

Read to Lead, created by the nonprofit organization, Classroom Inc., uses the power of game-based learning to empower middle school students to build literacy, life, and career skills. Teachers can sign up for a free account to get started!