There are a lot of buzzwords in education right now, and some represent passing fads of the latest and greatest, but others are research-backed, proven, and here to stay. Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is one of those that has been proven to improve the academic performance of students, besides all of the other benefits it gives the students. One of the teaching practices that Missouri teachers may be evaluated on is their use of “strategies that promote social competence” in students (See Missouri’s Network for Educator Effectiveness). As stated on the Network for Educator Effectiveness (NEE) website, “NEE focuses on teaching practices that research shows have a large effect size. For example, promoting students’ social skills has a powerful effect on student learning. So does promoting critical thinking. These are two of the teaching practices NEE emphasizes.” Other states have evaluation systems that also look at the social development of students as being a natural part of everyday teaching. In The Iowa Model Educator Evaluation System 8, their standard one contains “Creates an environment of mutual respect, rapport, and fairness,” which is a product of a class that focuses on SEL and prosocial practices.
While there are a lot of ways to promote SEL and prosocial behavior in the classroom, one powerful way to do so is by leveraging the creativity of educational technology tools. Creative tools like Buncee can be a powerful resource for teachers wanting to embed SEL practices into their regular curriculum. Here are the links to the Buncee SEL -Toolkit- 7-12 and the Elementary SEL -Toolkit These are activities that you can use with your students or browse to get inspired.
Take a look at your curriculum and lesson plans. Are you embedding opportunities for creativity? What about those activities that you do at the beginning of every school year? Most educators build in those “get to know you” activities to kick off the year, but do we realize how important they are? Research shows that “The social climate of the classroom more strongly predicted GPA than teachers’ instructional practices (Griffith, 2002). Say what? You read that correctly. The social climate of your classroom trumps instructional practices for impact on student performance.
Now let me throw one more fact at you that might blow your mind. In a study that involved asking thousands of 4th to 12th graders, researchers discovered that “students who reported having more prosocial classmates were significantly more engaged; they were more interested, deeply processing, and actively participating in the class” when their classmates were prosocial (Z. Wang, Bergin, & Bergin, 2014). In other words, when classmates exhibited those SEL competencies from Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) in the classroom, academics improved because students were engaged. Are you motivated yet to have a classroom like this? Here are a few strategies to help you accomplish that.
We, educators, do love to have students share things about themselves, and we also want them to be able to identify how they are feeling, so why not combine these tasks creatively? Buncee has amazing Self-Awareness templates for educators. These are collected in the Buncee Boards linked below. Older students can be more resistant to this piece, but if you frame it within a creative activity or make it quick and easy for them, you can push past that wall of resistance.
- Identifying Student Emotions
Using a mood meter, such as this mood meter added to the Buncee SEL Self-Awareness Board, is an easy way to get a feel for the room and doesn’t take much time but adds that element of fun for students. The Do Now template is also a fun and easy way to check the room for how students are feeling.
- Identifying Strengths
Self-awareness “includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose” (CASEL). Why not have students illustrate their strengths visually using a creative tool like Buncee? By using a template like those on the Buncee SEL Self-Awareness Board for secondary students and these on the Buncee SEL Self-Awareness Board for elementary students, we provide students with more opportunities to flex their creative muscles while acknowledging their individual strengths.
Two big components of this competency are goal setting and visualization. What to do for these in our classes and curriculum? For starters, academic goal setting is easy to embed in your day with a little planning. The benefits students reap from it are huge. Personal goals, both short-term, and long-term, can be addressed as students finish a task early, as an exit ticket, morning warmup, or time that has been intentionally planned. Here are two easy ways to do that using some great Buncee templates on the Self-Management Buncee Board (secondary) and Self-Management Buncee Board (elementary).
- Academic Goal Setting
When students are learning new vocabulary or concepts, have them set a goal of what they think they will make prior to seeing the words or concepts for the first time. Discuss with them how to set a goal. They should choose a score that stretches them a bit but is attainable. Then play Quizizz, Kahoot, Gimkit, or a similar online educational game. On one of these Buncees Secondary Example Elementary Example, or one you create, have students chart their scores in the formative one column. Depending on the age of your students, you may need to fill in the unit name for them. Do the vocabulary on the educational game website of your choice once daily, 3 or 4 times total, and then quiz students. Have them chart their quiz scores. After a few times, students will become very good at setting realistic goals. Buncee Goal Setting templates are in the Self-Management Buncee Boards linked above and divided by age group. Secondary Example Elementary Example
Student personal goals can be set weekly, monthly, quarterly, or by semester, depending on the age of the student and teacher preference. Create a Buncee Goal Setting Board to house the academic goal tracker Buncees and one for the personal ones. Students and the teacher should check out the goal-setting Buncees of their classmates and encourage them to meet or exceed their goals.
- Future Planning
Vision Boards can be used in a variety of ways, but a fun way is to have students contemplate their future. High school students need to think about the colleges, training facilities, or jobs they want to attend or obtain after graduation and investigate what they will need in order to attend or obtain those institutions or employment opportunities. Students should post their Buncee Vision Boards to the Buncee Board that you set up for this purpose. See the examples below for the appropriate grade level. Secondary Vision Board Template Elementary Vision Board Template
Building friendships within your class or classes is very important. Let me say that again. Building friendships within your class(es) is very important. Research shows that “students who feel well-liked and have friends at school (compared to away from school) are more engaged in school and they have higher GPAs (Bellmore, 2011; Witkow & Fuligini, 2010). This reaches beyond just having friends at school. We, humans, are designed to do things together. Having someone to share experiences with us just makes it more enjoyable and engaging. This principle applies to education too. “Students are more engaged–enjoying and actively participating–in classrooms where they have friends, in contrast to students who feel friendless and socially uncomfortable (Thorkildsen, Rese, & Corsino, 2002). What we educators typically do is to separate friends physically within the classroom, and we often frown upon or simply don’t allow them to work collaboratively with their friends. This needs to change, and the change begins with us. Buncee has several ways that you can help build friendships among students in your class or classes.
- Non-Academic Turn and Talk Creations (5 minutes or less)
Educators frequently have students turn and talk about academic content, but we seem to want to stamp out all classroom talk that isn’t focused on standards or content. Let’s rethink this. Victoria Skinner, The Inspired Educator, wrote about this activity on her blog as a simple and quick activity that can help build relationships. Allow time for students to turn and talk to a neighbor about whatever they want or give them an ice-breaker type question to get them started, such as “what’s your favorite…”. Give them a few minutes, at least one (which you can set up like a speed “friending” event where they complete this activity with three or more classmates), to share their responses or to chat where the goal is to learn as much as you can about the other person. Then have students use this template (Elementary or Secondary), a template you create, or let them create their own Buncee that illustrates what they learned about their friend(s). If you aren’t using the template, just be sure to allow for extra time. Share them on a Buncee Board that can be created for your class. Allow time for students to read and react to those Buncees posted on the Board. You can also print them and display them in the classroom or hallways.
- All About Me (5-30 minutes)
Most educators use some form of an All About Me activity. Whatever way you want to handle this is great, but a fun spin is to have them create a Buncee of either their first/last name or their initials. They then decorate it with the amazing Buncee stickers and animations then post to an About Me Classroom Board set up by the teacher. Students can update it periodically and should be given time to also react to the posts of others. For older students, clubs, sports, and other activities they engage in should be represented. Check out the SEL – Self Awareness – 7-12 and the SEL – Self Awareness Board K-6 for some great templates!
- Cultural Empathy & Celebration
Classrooms everywhere will have either actual cultural diversity or simply diversity of sub-cultures. While your classroom may not have students of different races or nationalities, you still have a wide range of sub-cultures that can be shared and celebrated. Try some of Buncee’s amazing templates like these for Elementary or Secondary to get ideas or to be inspired to create your own. Let your urban, rural, military, and migrant students share about their communities, for example. Once students have created a Buncee, be sure to create a classroom Culture Buncee Board for them to share with each other. Provide time for them to react to each other’s Buncees as well. For more templates, see the Buncee Boards linked above in number 2.
Regardless of which activities that have been showcased here are implemented, the point is to start building ways to teach and practice those prosocial and SEL skills into our curriculum intentionally. Teachers have been doing some or many of these activities for years, but now the research backs up what we inherently knew; friends, relationships, and positive social skills lead to better academic performance. Buncee is a powerful tool that can help facilitate the learning and practice of SEL and prosocial skills within our classrooms. Its versatility means the way it is used is only limited by our imaginations. The vast number of resources available through Buncee also means that creativity is always within reach of our students too, and that is powerful. Facilitate friendships among students, allow friends to work together, teach and model those SEL competencies, and let Buncee do the rest. Check out Buncee’s Ideas Lab to get started!
Bellmore, A. (2011). Peer rejection and unpopularity: Associations with GPAs across the
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Griffith, J. (2002). A multilevel analysis of the relation of school learning and social environments
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Thorkildsen, T., Reese, D., & Corsino, A. 2002). School ecologies and attitudes about
exclusionary behavior among adolescents and young adults. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 48(1),
Wang, Z., Bergin, C., & Bergin, D.A. (2014). Measuring engagement in fourth to twelfth grade
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Meet the Author
Laura Steinbrink, a teacher for 25 years, presents technology and instructional practices at workshops locally, around her state, and nationally. She is also the Technology Integration Coach, Communications Director, Webmaster, yearbook adviser, esports general manager, and high school English/Spanish teacher for the Plato R-V School District. Laura has published articles for Matt Miller, author of Ditch That Textbook; Denis Sheeran, author of Instant Relevance; and articles for ISTE, ISTE TEN, Kahoot, Getting Smart, Classtime, Parent Square, and other educational related companies. Laura is also a contributing author in: Focused Environments, Stories of Change Vol 3, published by Connected Learning, and In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking by Rachelle Dene Poth, published by Edumatch Publishing. Laura’s work in the classroom has been featured in: ISTE’s Empowered Learner Magazine, What Works: Sketchnoting engages students while building comprehension, Designed to Learn by Dr. Lindsay Portnoy, and featured twice in Tech Like A Pirate by Matt Miller. Laura also co-authored a Microsoft Education course: Creative Expression and Social Emotional Learning with Buncee.