Middle school is a time when students are exploring their identity and developing their sense of self. It’s also a time when they’re forming relationships with their peers and adults, and learning how to navigate the social world.
That’s why social and emotional learning (SEL) is so important for middle schoolers. SEL helps them develop the skills they need to manage their emotions, set and achieve goals, feel empathy for others, and make responsible decisions.
If you’re a middle school teacher, you can help your students develop these important skills by incorporating SEL into your instruction. Here are six best practices for doing so:
1. Teach social and emotional skills explicitly
Make sure your students understand what social and emotional skills are and why they’re important. Explain that these skills will help them in school and in life.
Then, teach these skills explicitly. Model how to use them in different situations, provide opportunities for practice, and give feedback on progress.
2. Create a positive classroom climate
The climate of your classroom plays a big role in how well students learn social and emotional skills. A positive climate is one that’s supportive, respectful, and inclusive.
To create a positive climate in your classroom, start by establishing rules and expectations that are fair and reasonable. Make sure your students know that you’re there to support them and that you believe in their ability to succeed.
3. Incorporate social and emotional learning into your content area instruction
You can infuse SEL into any subject you teach. For example, if you’re teaching a history lesson on the civil rights movement, you can discuss the importance of empathy and standing up for what’s right.
If you’re teaching a science lesson on the water cycle, you can talk about the importance of goal-setting and planning. There are endless possibilities for infusing SEL into your content area instruction.
4. Use instructional strategies that promote social and emotional learning
There are many instructional strategies that can help students learn social and emotional skills. Some examples include cooperative learning, role-playing, and journaling.
When you use these strategies, make sure your goals for social and emotional learning are clear. Also, take time to debrief with your students after the activity to help them reflect on their experience.
5. Provide opportunities for student voice and choice
Giving students a voice and choice in their learning is a great way to promote social and emotional development. When students feel like they have a say in what they’re learning, they’re more engaged and motivated.
There are many ways to give students voice and choice. For example, you could allow them to choose the topic for their next research project or create a menu of activities from which they can choose.
6. Foster relationships with students and families
Building positive relationships with your students and their families is essential for promoting social and emotional learning. When students feel connected to their teachers and school, they’re more likely to succeed.
There are many ways to foster positive relationships. You can start by getting to know your students and their families. Get involved in school and community events. And make sure you communicate regularly with families about their child’s progress.
By following these best practices, you can help your middle school students develop the social and emotional skills they need to be successful in school and in life.