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In October 2020, amidst the hullabaloo of schools reopening for the first time, we introduced a new Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) module for our primary grade students. Despite the fact that we went into a second lockdown after barely a month of in-person school, the SEL module got off to a roaring start in online classes. Through innovative and engaging lessons delivered through WhatsApp, our teachers had students immersed in navigating complex emotions and developing social awareness through art based activities.
First things first, what even is Social Emotional Learning?
SEL activities and classes encourage five major capabilities in children:
What SEL is not:
Why is Social and Emotional Learning Important?
Conversations around emotions and behaviors are vital in aiding students come to terms with their own experiences. SEL creates a safe and positive learning environment which fosters children into becoming healthy expressive adults. It promotes ideas of personal growth and allows them to gain confidence, empathy and stress management skills.
It has been found that supporting young people’s SEL has long-lasting effects, including lowering rates of depression and anxiety which is crucial to the mental health of children in this uncertain ‘New Normal’.
The consequences of a healthy approach to social and emotional behaviors were reported in a study, published in the journal of Child Development, where it was found that students exposed to SEL learning achieved an 11 percentage gain in their academic performance.
Our students and Social and Emotional Learning.
Here is what our Social Studies lead, Aasia Atiq shared about the SEL module she designed:
“We started SEL when schools reopened after the first lockdown. It was to keep students in constant contact and with each other and their teachers through WhatsApp and Zoom, and to get them engaged in fulfilling activities and learning life skills during Covid-19. We conduct activities /classes once a week.”
Through the heartwarming artwork that students created for exercises during their SEL classes, you can also see the expression of their frustrations with online learning. These drawings help students identify and articulate the negative emotions that they are feeling. By maintaining an ‘Expression Journal’ they are encouraged to identify different types of emotions as well as their causes, and thus cope with them in a healthy manner. One of the activities also involved creating and using a “Worries Box” which encouraged them to identify, accept, normalize and thus manage some of their difficult and worrying thoughts and feelings.
Our experience of teaching SEL has shown an improvement in the lives of not only the students but also teachers by encouraging them to acknowledge, know and accept their selves and their emotions. The module was initially started to help students regulate their emotions, communicate with compassion and empathy, build relationships and learn how to make decisions. During distance learning, the turn towards student wellbeing and an opportunity to provide social interaction with the school and their friends proved to be key to its success, so much so that SEL classes had the best participation out of all our distance learning on Whatsapp. To learn more about our SEL initiative, you can read about it from the perspective of a student and a teacher.
Sports promote physical fitness, alertness and better concentration, collaboration, self-esteem, and perseverance in children. Each of our schools features weekly sports classes for all students.
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