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The Debrief

Emotions, Grief and Social Media Top Students’ SEL Reading Insights

The Newsela Team
Mar 20, 2020

As awareness of the importance of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) grows, schools are looking for new ways to bring SEL topics into the classroom, especially in ways that are integrated with core instruction. With content that covers themes like self awareness, building relationships, and making responsible decisions, the Newsela SEL Collection is designed to help teachers illustrate core SEL competencies through real-world stories students can relate to.

As engagement with our SEL collection increases, what kinds of insights can we glean from the most popular SEL topics and articles of 2019?

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The list of topics below reveals a drive to help students understand themselves and navigate difficult social issues, especially in a culture where many of their interactions are online or via smartphone. Topics like Emotions, Processing Grief, and Social Media top the list, with other challenging, relevant issues—like Identity and Bullying—close behind.

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here are also several interesting age-specific insights we can draw from the SEL content students are reading in elementary, middle, and high school. Conflict Resolution, Friendships, and Bullying are key themes for elementary schoolers, as younger students learn to navigate relationships for the first time. In middle and high school, Social Media and Identity and Self-Concept rise to the top of the list, as students grapple with expressing themselves and interacting with peers not just in the classroom, but online.

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The most popular SEL articles at each grade level also tell a story, revealing how teachers can help guide students to self and social awareness using relevant content and everyday examples. Articles about the death of Grumpy Cat and why people cry are among the top-viewed articles for elementary students, illustrating one of the most-viewed SEL topics in elementary classrooms: Processing Grief. An article that tops the SEL most-viewed list in middle school (and is the third most-read for high schoolers) explores whether social media is good or bad for teens, a question that’s front-of-mind for many schools and parents as students are increasingly drawn into online communities. 

Examples of current-day issues don’t end there: other popular SEL articles of 2019 cover vaping, the death of reading, and the anxiety that comes when teens measure themselves against the “perfect” lives of peers on Instagram. With so much to grapple with and process growing up in the social media age, content that helps students understand their emotions and feel less alone is more important than ever.

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