Back
The District

To support students and teachers this fall, prioritize SEL

The Newsela Team
Jul 31, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many student needs into sharp relief, but arguably none so urgent as social-emotional learning (SEL). When we consider what young people are dealing with today—shifting routines, uncertainty about the future, and big changes in interactions with family and friends—it’s clear why a focus on helping students learn how to understand emotions, maintain relationships, and make responsible decisions is so important.

But when incorporating SEL into the coming school year, school leaders must prioritize approaches that also work in remote and hybrid learning environments. As the shape of this fall remains blurry for so many schools, the following recommendations will help ensure that whether in the classroom or continuing distance learning, students and teachers have their social and emotional needs met—and can, in turn, better support each other. 

Foster strong connections between students and trusted adults

While there’s no substitute for time together in the classroom, schools shouldn't wait for reopening to strengthen relationships between students and trusted teachers and staff. In their guide for leveraging SEL in preparation for reopening, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) stresses the importance of maintaining these relationships, especially since distance learning means many students are feeling more isolated. 

Having a dedicated teacher (or other school adult) assigned to check in with each student via video meetings or phone calls helps keep the connection to school strong, and ensures that students don’t feel “out of sight, out of mind.” The guide—and CASEL’s recent Roadmap for Reopening—also shares several strategies for teachers to consider when planning student outreach, from facilitating virtual class meetings and collaborative forums to reaching out to students individually to communicate that their contributions are valued. 

Integrate SEL into core distance learning activities

One key way to make SEL a priority during distance learning? Integrate it into core learning activities like reading and writing. The CASEL guide suggests crafting writing exercises that are also designed to help students reflect, from journaling about their experiences during the pandemic to writing letters to teachers and also classmates (especially those they may be leaving behind as they enter a new grade) as a way of nurturing relationships among peers. 

Assigning readings on SEL topics is also a good way to foster important discussions while supporting core learning. A recent list of Newsela’s most popular SEL articles covers a wide range of topics—including social media, stress management, friendship, and procrastination—and shows how SEL readings can be a key tool in promoting emotional learning from afar.

Don’t forget about the adults in the (virtual) room

Just as students need extra guidance and connection during this time, teachers need more social and emotional support as well. The universal effects of the pandemic mean teachers are dealing with trauma in their own lives and communities, and schools need to provide dedicated time and resources for instructors to process emotions and reflect with colleagues. 

Schools should also equip teachers with the training they need to address students' increased emotional needs. In a recent blog post on SEL best practices during distance learning, the Education Development Center encouraged schools to train teachers to identify students who might be struggling—something they’ll be better prepared for with an emotional support system of their own.  

As the CASEL Roadmap puts it, “We recognize that SEL is not a panacea to the complex, systemic issues we face. However, SEL offers a critical foundation for supporting students and adults in the midst of great uncertainty and stress, and a long-term path for sustaining thriving communities.” Whether continuing remote learning or taking a hybrid approach, schools can make Social Emotional Learning a priority in meaningful ways—by supporting teachers, strengthening connections with students, and weaving SEL into reading and writing. Students need all the tools they can get to adapt to new environments and process everything they’ve been through, and while it may take additional planning, the impact will be felt for years to come. 

The Latest from @Newsela

The right content resource keeps learning going, even through times of disruption. See how schools and teachers nationwide are using Newsela for the 2020-2021 school year. https://t.co/pFYUlO4b4o https://t.co/VSukeGa663
November 24, 2020, 3:04 PM
It is hard to imagine a more challenging year, but that doesn’t mean good things haven’t happened, too. We put together a list of our favorite things from 2020. From panda birthday cakes to llamas in tuxedos, there are fun moments to be thankful for. https://t.co/JtwGfug0fy https://t.co/Xzl9r8gsoq
November 24, 2020, 12:04 AM
Love hearing about students wanting to learn more after reading a Newsela article! 💙 https://t.co/7zDf4w9yvs
November 23, 2020, 7:33 PM
Odds are you’ll be using butter during your Thanksgiving meal, so why not make it yourself? With simple supplies and a bit of arm strength, you can use science to make homemade butter! https://t.co/B10uQt6ydx https://t.co/SN04LEsZqS
November 23, 2020, 6:12 PM
Make Social Emotional Learning a part of your distance learning classroom. The articles in this Text Set come from Newsela’s SEL Elementary School Collection and cover topics relevant to language arts 👉 https://t.co/055i7dGjwS
November 23, 2020, 4:36 PM
A safe Thanksgiving during a pandemic is possible, but health professionals know their advice is as tough to swallow as dry turkey. Make the most of your turkey dinner by following these tips from health experts: https://t.co/ZMYHSLcxgg https://t.co/MMQv0V7q4o
November 23, 2020, 2:18 PM
Kamala Harris, a Democrat, made history as America's first woman to be elected vice president. However, Republican women have their own successes in the election of 2020. A record number of them are heading to Congress, with more races still to be called: https://t.co/RyVX9HWeZX https://t.co/QjykHpKTLL
November 23, 2020, 1:19 AM
Shoutout to Mr. Macha's English class! 👏 A great project to keep students engaged in a relevant way. https://t.co/jhraxT7pxv
November 22, 2020, 9:01 PM
With high school around the corner, middle schools make math, science and English a priority — but what about learning to manage stress? Or developing healthy habits and friendships? Make them a priority with Newsela's SEL collection for Middle School: https://t.co/PHe94GZorZ https://t.co/nhw3bU6tTC
November 22, 2020, 4:31 PM
With Thanksgiving right coming up, lots of people will be thinking about turkey: Where to buy one, how to prepare the bird and how many leftovers there will be for sandwiches the week after. But how much do you really know about turkeys? Let's find out: https://t.co/JAJVKqItbl https://t.co/2KSNhsA2Zi
November 22, 2020, 1:31 PM
How and why did the foods served at Thanksgiving dinner come to be so fixed? Many falsely assume that most of the same meats and vegetables were eaten by the Pilgrims during the first Thanksgiving, but let's explore the true origin: https://t.co/KWZ4sNj3vh https://t.co/zIJfxJVWEc
November 22, 2020, 12:27 AM
This past week is the second week in a row that a major drugmaker has issued data indicating its new vaccine could be successful at fighting COVID-19. Preliminary results indicate that the vaccine by Moderna is nearly 95% effective in preventing sickness: https://t.co/FYQk4sfvbo https://t.co/KKMIeB2o1h
November 21, 2020, 9:05 PM
On November 7, former Vice President Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States. Use this collection to educate students about his inspiring journey to the oval office and controversial transition ahead: https://t.co/E3tI8wPIxz https://t.co/kFvbFk4X4n
November 21, 2020, 6:06 PM
Weave SEL into your lessons with content selected for elementary, middle, and high school learners. Take a closer look at the Newsela Social-Emotional Learning Collection: https://t.co/pOK7cSxH3z https://t.co/8Oq9RPlgoG
November 21, 2020, 4:34 PM
In search of creative new ideas and resources for your teaching? 💡 Explore the Newsela Educator Center for videos, lessons, and ready-to-go assignments for leveling up your classroom 👉 https://t.co/XkF9zQwAIz https://t.co/Oq3Jvi2P3M
November 21, 2020, 3:02 PM

The best lessons start with the best content.

Ready to bring great instructional content to your students?

Contact Sales