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Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, sets and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
SEL is based on five core skills — self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.
One of your biggest challenges as a teacher is to maintain healthy relationships in your classroom. By fostering acceptance and inclusivity of those that look “different” from ourselves, we can create an environment that is both healthy and imperative to a child’s view of the world that lasts long into adulthood.
The concept of teaching SEL in your classroom shouldn’t be a stand-alone Lesson Plan. It should be part of your classroom culture, infused in every single thing that you do from teaching students the polite way to ask for things, having them take a deep breath if they’re losing control of their emotions, and encouraging them to speak kindly to one another in every situation.
Having the right tools in your classroom to encourage this type of classroom culture is the easiest its ever been. Years ago, SEL was not a common practice nor was it recognized as an essential part of academic achievement. The more self-aware, empathetic and accepting children are both in and out of the classroom, the more they will achieve both academically and socially long after their school years are over.
These are some ways you can promote SEL, acceptance and inclusivity in your classroom:
1. Start the day with Kindness: Crouch down to eye-level when you greet your students each morning, one by one. Tell them you’re so happy to see them and that you look forward to a great day together. Encourage them to say hello to their classmates one by one. Ask them to point out something kind about their fellow student. Example: “Amy, I really like your dress today.” “Jose, your hair looks nice!”
2. Encourage Self-Regulation:
From the ages of 2-6, emotions run especially high as young children have not yet mastered the skill of regulating what they’re feeling let alone identifying their emotions. Help them along by referencing toys that encourage their emotions, like Miniland’s These ethnically diverse blocks allow children to create different characters showcasing various emotions. Playing with the blocks builds visual and spatial-relation skills but they most importantly help start a conversation about feelings. This is especially important as we head into Back to School where things may be quite different from last year, where emotions are further stressed, and where children may be more confused than ever before.
3. Provide Opportunities for Acceptance: Allowing children to be themselves and showcase their unique differences will lead to a more accepting and socially aware classroom. One of the biggest triggers for acceptance lies within racial diversity and special needs. These topics are actually quite easy to explain to children of this age who are more likely to just accept those around them at face value. By providing them with the right tools and messages, they are less likely to lose that acceptance as they grow up. One of the simplest ways to provide easy access to acceptance of those that are unique, whether it’s a different race or a person with special needs, is to have toys and games that showcase these differences in a positive way. Miniland just released our new Dolls with Down Syndrome that come in various ethnicities and showcase the sweet facial characteristics of babies with Down syndrome in a realistic and respectful way. Both children with Down syndrome and those without need access to toys that closely resemble them to feel both a connection to a doll that’s just like them and also a connection to a doll that may look like a friend or family member. The benefits of doll play, both emotionally and educationally, are limitless. Our dolls serve to support a child’s self-confidence as well as teach both self-acceptance and acceptance others.
Together, we can do our part to encourage kindness and respect between students, particularly as we head into an unprecedented school year ahead. For more information on Miniland’s SEL products, follow us on Instagram @MinilandUSA and Facebook at MinilandUSA.