Need a Timesaver? Try an Activity That Ties SEL to ELA

There’s not enough time. How often do you think—or say—that? How many times have you heard your colleagues say it? It makes perfect sense. There are all kinds of wonderful things about teaching, but luxuriating in a pool of extra time isn’t usually on that list.

As a former middle school teacher, I vividly remember the drill: At school during the day, try to check all the boxes by integrating everything that’s required for your school curriculum. At home, review student work and then prepare—or prepare for—the next lessons you’ll deliver. Right, yes, also focus on family, friends, meals, and that book you’re reading. Don’t forget the poor dog. Did someone say they’re going to the gym? Wait, what about sleep?

Lather, rinse, repeat.

What’s miraculous about this? The things get done. Teachers are miracle workers—never doubt it. They do a tap-dancing whirlwind of activities in and out of the classroom, and they find a way to make it work.

Okay, so it can be done . . . but when you factor in the growing need for social-emotional learning, you may wonder how, exactly, to check that particular box. How do you teach a subject that may not be part of your curriculum (yet) in any official fashion? How do you foster SEL through academic subjects? Few educators today would say SEL is unnecessary, but even the great majority who say it’s necessary struggle with how to fit it in effectively.

We’re here to help! 

Social-emotional learning and English language arts go together like peanut butter and chocolate. When students read and study a text (fiction or nonfiction), they practice some important SEL competencies: perspective taking, analyzing situations, identifying emotions, and more. The basics are already in place, so with a little finessing, educators can grow two flowers with one seed . . . which is to say, they can help students practice and build social-emotional competencies by focusing in a particular way on ELA texts—all the while encouraging students to practice and build the skills they need to become better readers.

Ready to grow those SEL and ELA flowers? Try this “Capture the Feeling” activity for Grades 2–8. For your convenience, it can be used once or multiple times. You’ve got this, miracle worker!

  

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Explore the important role of relationships in social-emotional learning.