Tackling Social-Emotional Learning and Literacy with Newsela

Illustration by Kate Moore

Illustration by Kate Moore

The term social-emotional learning is sweeping through schools. In short, social-emotional learning, commonly referred to by its acronym, SEL, is a method of encouraging holistic development by teaching students skills like empathy, mindfulness, and self-regulation. As educators, it’s easy to see the practical benefits of SEL instruction. Every day, year over year, we work with our students to strengthen their ability to regulate emotions, focus on their work, and build strong relationships with their peers.

So what’s new? Why are we talking about SEL now?

What’s new is that our understanding of the importance of teaching SEL skills is getting a boost from a powerful wave of research. Recent studies from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, the Aspen Institute, and others has linked SEL to higher test scores and grades, improved graduation rates, and higher rates of mental and physical well-being in adulthood. This body of compelling research reinforces that as we develop, our social, emotional, cognitive, linguistic, and academic centers are inextricably linked and central to learning. When we acknowledge that all learning is in fact rooted in positive social and emotional development, we can help students assemble the skills they need to succeed in school and beyond.

But how?

Much like digital citizenship and media literacy, we know these are important skills to teach. But who owns bringing SEL into the classroom? And who has time with everything else you need to cover in class?

In discussing this issue with some of our Pear Deck coaches, we learned that many teachers are looking for simple ways to introduce SEL concepts to their students. Today, in partnership with  Newsela — the leading instructional content platform for reading engagement and learning — we’re releasing a set of templates that will help you explore five important topics with your students: Mindfulness, Empathy, Active Listening, Mutual Respect, and Mind-Body Connections while building literacy skills. The content is drawn from Newsela's SEL Collection which was developed by their expert educators and informed by many research-backed SEL frameworks including CASEL’s SEL Core Competencies.

Taking a cue from CASEL’s recommended approaches for effective SEL teaching, we created a set of easy-to-teach activities that are:

  • Sequenced: Connected and coordinated activities to foster skills development.

  • Active: Active forms of learning to help students master new skills and attitudes.

  • Focused: A component that emphasizes personal and social skills development.

  • Explicit: Targeting specific social and emotional skills.

Our new SEL templates are organized into a simple sequence of activities:

Step 1 Introduce the topic and have students respond to a writing prompt

Step 2 Students read an article at Newsela.com Note: Students will need to create or login with their free Newsela account

Step 3 Reflect and discuss the SEL topic as a class

This three-step instructional pattern makes it easy to layer in SEL instruction on top of your daily classroom activities while also working on critical thinking, reading, and interpersonal communication skills. You can preview the templates below.

How are you teaching SEL skills in class? Share your challenges and success stories with us via Twitter and tag @PearDeck and @Newsela!

TemplatesKate Beihl