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3 steps to embed lessons on social-emotional learning in the virtual classroom

April 15, 2020 , By Sharon Rosenfeld, Director, Research

The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to rapid changes in classrooms across the United States: Thousands of school buildings have closed and classes have been moved online. The transition to virtual teaching is an enormous adjustment for teachers, and many will be feeling the stress of trying to cover their curriculum in a new format. But it’s also important that teachers find ways to continue to embed social-emotional learning in the virtual classroom, as students need the support of SEL instruction now more than ever.

We have outlined three strategies below to help teachers to continue to support students’ well-being by integrating SEL lessons into their online classrooms.

1. Incorporate online SEL lessons to teach coping strategies to students

As a first step, EAB recommends that teachers start by adopting the Three Signature Practices. Originally developed by Oakland Public Schools, the Three Signature Practices have now been endorsed by CASEL as a best practice for integrating SEL into every meeting and class for both adults and students. They are incredibly simple to follow, and an easy way to keep SEL a priority while learning to deliver remote instruction. The three practices are:

  1. Welcoming rituals: Engage in open-ended community building that allows for interactions that create connections to one another and the course material
  2. Engaging practices: Provide opportunities for individual reflection and small group interaction to think, share, and listen
  3. Optimistic closures: Take time to reflect about the learning, identify next steps, and make connections to individual student’s work

2. Look for plug-and-play, online SEL lessons

Once teachers feel more comfortable teaching content online, they can also find opportunities to explicitly teach explicit social-emotional learning in the virtual classroom. Schools that already offer an SEL curriculum should check to see whether online ­­modules are available with their existing vendor; for example, Second Step offers a resource for adapting the curriculum for remote learning during COVID-19.

3. Create resources that directly address the needs of our students

While this strategy will not work for everyone, some districts, such as Fulton County Schools in Georgia, are putting together their own programs for incorporating social-emotional learning in the virtual classroom. Fulton County’s content is divided into lessons for elementary, middle, and high school students, and offers an array of activities that can be completed online. Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students (TRAILS), a program run by the University of Michigan’s Depression Center, also offers schools a host of resources for students at different age levels, including handouts, homework, activities, and more.

Sharon Rosenfeld

Sharon is a Director at EAB where she conducts research to support independent school partner success. Since joining the firm in September 2017, her research has focused on expanding the independent school enrollment funnel, risk management, optimizing use of financial aid, and today’s independent school parents, among other topics.

Prior to joining EAB, Sharon worked at several education technology firms, collaborating with school districts around the country to implement software related to college and career readiness and a platform for teacher observation and professional learning. Before that, she worked at the central office of Pittsburgh Public Schools on an initiative to improve school teaching and learning environments. Sharon previously spent several years as an adjunct English professor.

In her free time, Sharon enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.

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