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CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.

Turning Your World Right Side Up: Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) During COVID-19

What do you do when your world turns topsy turvy? Upside down? Chaotic? How do you learn? Regulate your emotions. That’s a hard question to answer, and likely not one that could really be answered completely anytime soon. Right now perhaps all we can do is take a stab at giving you some support to help children learn some strategies at being successful in regulating some of the many emotions they may be feeling right now.

SEL Circle

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) During COVID-19

What is SEL: Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. (Definition and image courtesy of CASEL)

Fred rogers quote


COVID-19 has dealt us a range of emotions now. The world and our country is in a state of turmoil and to some degree trauma. New research has indicated a strong correlation to the detrimental effects on trauma and learning (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.org.) Educators and parents are attempting a new landscape of teaching in response to these emotions and range of feelings. Utilizing strategies to meet the needs of SEL can help attend to deal with the range of emotions students may be feeling now and help with learning at home. SEL activities can also potentially support and strengthen relationships among families or family type settings during this challenging time.

Take a look here for some SEL ideas for use at home:

Social Awareness Self-ManagementTry using this Emotional Safety Plan linked in the next column when children are angry or anxious. Managing emotions right now can be stressful for both parents and children having a plan may help take the stress of both of you.Emotional Safety Plan
Self-Awareness Relationship SkillsConsider how the simple act of listening to music can enhance and support a positive mode for both children and adults. There is a whole field based on the therapeutic benefits of music.

Music can:
  • Promote Wellness
  • Manage Stress
  • Alleviate Pain
  • Express Feelings
  • Enhance Memory
  • Improve Communication
  • Promote Physical Rehabilitation
(Reprinted from the American Music Therapy Website)
Here are a few suggestions for integrating music to support SEL:
  • Use familiar songs to play games like “Freeze Tag” or “Freeze Dance” play the music and stop
  • Going back to some of those familiar nursery rhyme games/songs like “Bingo” or “Old MacDonald” clapping in time songs can help with remembering rhymes and build self-confidence and memory
  • For older children finding music that can be shared together and discussing lyrics or changing the lyrics to share feelings can be a way to develop writing skills as well and integrate showing empathy.
  • Add some calming music or classical music in the background during study time.

It might be a surprise how joyful participating together in these activities may be and may allow for some natural opportunities to build stronger relationships.
Responsible Decision Making The ability to make constructive and respectful choices and discerning safety decisions can be difficult and confusing right now. Offering opportunities with structure and guidance can help children/young adults build their own confidence and capacity to build their own skill for responsible decision making. Consider using these tools/activities for practicing responsible decision making:
  • Daily Schedule: During this time, scheduling studying and free time can be a challenge. Try one of these schedules linked here to set up “structured choices” for responsible decision making for daily activities.
  • How to respond to all those questions? (That there may not be answers to . . . )

    Try this:
    • Reframe the questions
    • Identify the stuff you can control
    • Identify the strengths you have so you can deal with the what is bothering you
    • Are some of the questions possible opportunities?