4 engaging strategies that promote student SEL

In 2020, the World Economic Forum released a list of the most sought-after skills for the jobs of tomorrow. Among them were a number of surprising entries such as creativity, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, and service orientation. At least, they were surprising if you weren’t an educator. For those of us who spent the last year teaching through a pandemic, the necessity of social-emotional learning (SEL) has been only too apparent. After all, what good is a knowledge of STEM if you don’t have the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions?       

As educators, we know all too well how important social-emotional learning is to a student’s overall development. Science, math, and reading are vital subjects, but empathy, self-awareness, and responsible-decision-making are what allow someone to apply those subjects in ways that make the world a better place.


But with so many standards and subjects competing for our attention, how do we make space for effective SEL in the classroom? Well, it starts with the right activities. Here are just a few engaging lessons that can make a huge impact on students’ emotional growth:

The Marshmallow Experiment: In a 1972 experiment at Stanford University, young children were offered a marshmallow. They could eat it right away, or they could wait 15 minutes for the proctor to return. If they waited, they would get two marshmallows. The study followed the students and found that the ones that could wait for the second marshmallow were more likely to be better students, have more friends, and stay physically healthy. Try recreating this experiment with your own students to highlight self-management and the difficulties of delayed gratification.

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