High school SEL requires approach geared to teens’ changes

Table of Contents

Dive Brief:

  • While social-emotional learning lessons are commonly found in elementary school, they are less likely to be in high school curriculum, writes Edutopia, citing a 2019 survey, “Support for Social and Emotional Learning is Widespread,” from the RAND Corp. Yet teens still have a need for these tools, as they make the shift into adulthood.
  • There are ways for educators to work SEL lessons into existing classes for teens. One way is to designate the first few minutes at the start of class to ask high school students to mention what they’re grateful for. Another is to have teenagers play simple games, such as passing a ball to one another, designed to connect them together — and perhaps even laugh.
  • Educators may also want to scale back homework, which can relieve stress for not just students but teachers as well. And schools can consider assigning an adult to each teen, someone who regularly checks in with them — separate from their academic needs — to make sure they feel someone is connecting to them on a personal level.

Dive Insight:

Pressures and life changes are different for teens than for children at the elementary and middle school level — from physical hormone adjustments, to social pressure from peer groups, as well as facing the transition into adulthood that could mean leaving home for college, living on their own, or finding work.

There are often classes devoted to some of these needs, from job training courses to those that focus on health and wellness. But SEL skills can just as equally be woven into existing courses, whether that’s art or English, politics or literature, where human emotions and communication are explored and studied, and can be used to help students examine these in themselves as well.

Empathy and social awareness, core SEL skills, can be interwoven into English language arts classes, for example, by having high school students examine texts they’re reading for different perspectives, as CASEL suggests in its high school guidelines. Then there’s active listening skills, which can even be taught online, a key SEL lesson that can help teens learn how to listen to each other. This is not only useful in defusing peer issues, but also in how they support each other as they collaborate on school work.

Politics courses, where subject matter and discussions can be polarizing, can also be harnessed to teach self-management skills. The nonprofit Common Sense hosts a free online lesson, designed specifically for high schoolers, that teaches strategies for managing civil discourse, and how to apply them when and if tempers start to flare.

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