Why Social Emotional Learning Should Be a Part of Your Class Curriculum

March 11, 2022

Social Emotional Learning Day is a movement that sheds light on the importance of social emotional learning in schools around the world. Today, we celebrate the importance of teaching students to be socially aware in a digital era. 

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines social emotional learning (SEL) as a process through which individuals:


1) Acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities

2) Manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals

3) Feel and show empathy for others

4) Establish and maintain supportive relationships

5) Make responsive and caring decisions


“Social emotional learning is an approach to supporting young people through some of the most turbulent stages of their brain development, with the goal of helping them acquire and improve their emotional regulation skills and to make relationship building and maintenance easier and more fulfilling for them,” said psychologist and digital wellness expert Teodora Pavkovic.

When students are armed with the information they need to make responsible decisions, they’re able to seek help quicker, react to negative situations with greater control, and build healthy, socially-conscious habits that follow them throughout adulthood. 

Social emotional learning core competencies

Social emotional learning encompasses five core competencies:

  • Self-awareness: understanding how emotions impact behavior and recognizing emotional patterns in the self and in others
  • Self-management: taking control and ownership of thoughts, emotions, and actions. Self-management focuses on the ability to regulate emotions and impulses.
  • Social awareness: understanding how to express emotion and how your expression affects others. 
  • Relationship skills: resolving conflicts through problem solving and asking for help when needed.
  • Making responsible decisions: Making decisions that are responsible, constructive, and considerate of social factors and consequences.

The benefits of SEL are well-researched. CASEL conducted a meta-analysis that analyzed 213 studies involving over 270,000 students. Key findings included: 

  • SEL interventions increased students’ academic performance by 11%, compared to students who did not participate
  • Students who participated in SEL program demonstrated improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage depression and stress, and better attitudes towards themselves and others
  • An SEL approach was consistently effective among diverse demographic groups (in and outside of the United States)
  • SEL interventions reduces short term symptoms of anxiety and depression

SEL promotes diversity and inclusion

Every classroom is diverse; students come from various backgrounds, express themselves in unique ways, and have distinct talents and personalities. It’s important for educators to use SEL tools to illustrate how different backgrounds are a valuable asset to the learning community. 

Diversity enriches the learning experience. It creates opportunities for students to communicate across cultural differences and conflicting communication styles. This makes it easier for them to build relationships with people who come from different backgrounds and view the world through a different lens.

Integrating SEL into your schools

There are two primary ways to incorporate social emotional learning into your classrooms: SEL interventions and SEL-integrated lesson plans/curriculum. 

“The two phrases are at times used interchangeably, but an intervention can indicate a more targeted, short-term, urgent approach to managing acute behavioral issues within the classroom, whereas SEL teaching is the more longitudinal approach to implementing these learnings at a steady pace throughout the school year,” says Pavkovic. 

SEL interventions are high-quality, evidence-based programs that focus on social emotional learning through a comprehensive lesson plan and are often created by third party educational organizations. You can find some examples of effective SEL interventions here

“It's also important to keep in mind that while SEL can be taught through a formal and dedicated SEL program, elements of it can easily be incorporated into any class material and any curriculum, and really, throughout the whole school day,” noted Pavkovic. There are many simple ways to do this: 

Leverage reading materials 

Books are a great foundation for starting conversations around subjects that can elicit emotions and opinions. Go beyond standard reading discussions by talking to your students about how stories make them feel, how they think the characters felt, how fictional (or nonfiction) situations could have been handled better, etc. 

Create a welcoming environment

How you welcome your students sets the tone for your class. Take the time to use positive greetings. Non-verbal communication like eye contact, high-fives, and fist-bumps help build a positive classroom culture. Start the day by asking how their day is going and offering words of encouragement. 

Focus on group activities 

Social emotional learning teachings are easier to implement in group activities. Naturally, group activities allow students to practice communication and collaboration skills. 

Establish brain breaks

Create a healthy pause in academic demands by incorporating brain breaks into your lesson plans. “Brain breaks” should be centered around reflective activities like journaling, guided breathing, and meditation. 

Research SEL curriculums

If you want to take a structured, systematic approach to teaching students social-emotional skills, search for research-backed SEL curriculums. These curriculums are designed with teamwork, self-regulation, and communication in mind. 

Try a "buddy classroom"

“Buddy classrooms” pair students from one class to students from another; typically, an older student is paired with a younger student. Buddy classrooms can create strong dynamics between children and aid SEL efforts. Older students often feel responsible for and compassionate towards the younger students' growth, and younger students learn to respect and look up to their older peers. 

Be a positive role model for SEL

To effectively teach students social emotional skills, you need to demonstrate and embody SEL yourself. Students have good days and bad days. Some students are more disruptive than others. How you communicate with them inside the classroom models the kind of behavior you’d like to see from them too.

For example, if a student is having a bad day, take them aside and ask them how they’re feeling and why. Let them know that their feelings are valid and by doing so, build rapport with them. Encourage them to go to the school counselor to open up and further explore their feelings, or to speak to another trusted adult whom they feel comfortable with.

Cost-benefit advantages

According to research from Columbia University, schools that invested in SEL programs found an average return on investment of 11:1. This means that for every dollar invested into their students, they earned $11. This is an important consideration for education leaders who are considering whether an SEL program is worth the financial investment. 

According to the study The Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning: “There is a growing body of research emphasizing the advantages of teaching students social and emotional (SE) skills in school…we find that the benefits of these interventions substantially outweigh the costs.”

SEL is a marathon—not a sprint

Social emotional learning can make a tremendous difference for classroom culture, student behavior, and academic performance. Most importantly, it will make a difference in students' lives long after they’ve finished school; however, it’s important to keep in mind that SEL is a marathon and not a sprint. Social emotional learning takes time. Students learn at different paces and building trust doesn’t happen overnight. 

Make an active effort to incorporate social emotional learning throughout the day. SEL “exercises” are helpful, but not without repetition and consistency. When you make the (right) decision to prioritize social emotional learning in your class, school, or district, you’re making a commitment to model, teach, and coach SEL practices each day. 

Though many districts have not yet determined specific SEL standards, there are several ways to get started. District administrators can explore ways to implement SEL action plans and present SEL intervention programs to school teams. Teachers and counselors can also incorporate social emotional learning into their curriculum.  

Keeping students safe in schools

Unfortunately, Linewize Monitor and School Manager filtering software detect serious cyberbullying incidents far too often. In 2021, Linewize found a child involved in a serious cyberbullying, bullying, or violent incident every 22 minutes. 

A study titled “Self-Harm, Suicidal Behaviours, and Cyberbullying in Children and Young People,” found that students who experience bullying are at a greater risk of self-harm and suicidal behavior. With more students using their school-issued device to communicate and express themselves inside and outside of the classroom, web filtering and online monitoring systems can help catch and mitigate risks before they become serious.

“Teachers can certainly utilize the data that these types of products provide to gauge, for example, the quality of relationship skills amongst their students,” says Pavkovic. “For example, if incidents of online bullying seem to occur frequently over a particular period of time, that information can be used to inform how a teacher instructs on this particular aspect of SEL.”

As you consider whether SEL is necessary in your district, take a step back to get a bigger picture. While statistics shed light on the current state of our tech-centric education environment, there’s no better barometer of student safety than data from your own school. Filtering and monitoring technologies can spot cyberbullying behavior (among other risky categories) and show you exactly how your students are being affected. 

Armed with proper SEL skills, the number of cyberbullying incidents is much more likely to decrease inside the classroom and wider school environment. When students understand the value of empathy, the importance of communication, and learn how to manage and process their thoughts and emotions in healthy ways, they are set up for success and have better coping skills.

See your data for free

For a limited time, Linewize is offering a complimentary 30-day Student Safety Audit to any school who wants to learn more about where their student safety stands today. After 30 days, Linewize will present an image-rich report with detailed dashboards to show you what we learned. You can use this information to make smarter, well-informed decisions about your student safety protocols moving forward.

To get your Student Safety Audit, book a demo with our team. 


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Topics: Cyberbullying, Monitoring

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