Social-emotional learning (SEL)
Social-emotional learning is a critical skill that can be taught across the span of a lifetime. Many teachers are looking to make this teaching happen in their classrooms because it’s an important aspect of learning to read, write, do the math, and learn science. What does social-emotional learning look like? It looks like getting along with other people, controlling emotions, having empathy for others. It looks like being able to say no when tempted by others, staying focused on a task, or making hard choices.
This article is part of the Toolbox for Beginning Teachers where teachers are always looking for creative ways to help their students learn.
Below, kindergarten and first-grade teachers share 5 of their favorite games that help students to learn how to cope with feelings, be more patient, manage anger, build friendships, and work well with others.
Then I pass a third toy that is very different from the first two—maybe it’s a rock, piece of paper, or plastic cup. I ask if anyone can guess what this is. As soon as they’ve guessed the correct answer (a rock), I place all three objects in an old pot that we use for dramatic play.
This article presents 5 games that are used in the classroom setting to help children work on specific areas of social-emotional learning. These five games are designed to be played by students with each other.
5 games for social-emotional learning
- The first game is called “Connect 4” and was created for children who have trouble reading emotions or understanding how their actions affect others. This game helps children to read the emotions on a person’s face by giving them a grid of pictures and asking them what emotion is being portrayed in a given picture. For example, if a student was asked to pick out an angry face they would look through their grid until they found an angry-looking face (or something close enough) and then choose that face. The game also helps children to understand how their own emotions affect others and how others’ feelings may be different from their own.
- The second game is called “Hangman” and was created for students who have difficulty with controlling impulses or understanding why they should control them. In this game, a student selects a word that the rest of the class tries to guess. If a student guesses incorrectly they are hanged by that word until they are dead or if their time limit expires. The goal is that students will try to out-think the other players and choose words that can’t easily be guessed which requires impulse control.
- The third game is called “Strategy Games” and was created for students who have difficulty with planning and following rules. In this game, there are two parts; the first part is played in a Bejeweled-like fashion where players need to clear the board of certain gems (in order) by matching them or by dropping them on top of them. The second part requires students to work together to build a house. The teacher will show how to build the house with some blocks and then the students must work together to recreate that design on their own.
- The fourth game is called “What’s My Opinion” and was created for children who have difficulty understanding why they should be respectful of others’ opinions even if they are different from their own. This game gives students a situation where they must decide what is the best course of action to take. For example, if there are not enough crayons for everyone, should children share them all equally even though one child may need more than others? The student must then write down their reasoning on why that decision is or isn’t best.
- The final game is called “All about me” and was created for children who struggle with understanding how their actions affect others or who struggle with empathy. This game helps kids to get to know other students in the classroom by asking them about their activities, interests, etc… Information can be taken from social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, presentations from the students, etc…
The games described in this article are not only fun; they help children to develop their social-emotional skills. Social-emotional learning (SEL) is about teaching children how to understand and manage emotions, empathize with others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and exhibit ethical behavior. We hope that you’ve found this article useful.