By Jen Schneider
As we transition into the new school year, our focus should be on the social-emotional needs of our students and families. Academics are, of course, important, but we know that Maslow comes before Bloom’s if we want students to learn and grow. Simply put, students’ basic needs need to be met in order for learning to occur. Ideally, we could help with social-emotional learning by meeting with each family at a back to school night. We could start by hugging those students that need it so much! However, social distancing is important, and many of our schools will not be starting the school year in-person. That’s why digital SEL resources for students and families are so important during this time. Here are some tools you can share with students and families.
GoNoodle may seem like just an app to get kids moving in a classroom, but there are also videos that support social-emotional learning on the website or app. One of my favorites for younger elementary students is a video that shows learners how emotions can get bigger and hard to handle. The video “Emotions Grow and Shrink” features the Blazer Fresh group and shows what different emotions look like and how to control them (shrink them) when they get too big.
Other meditation and yoga videos on GoNoodle are perfect for families at home or schools where students can practice safe social distancing while they relax and reflect.
Smiling Mind is an absolutely free app for students, educators, families, and individuals to practice mindfulness. When you sign up, it takes you through a questionnaire to help find the best ways for you to use the app and practice mindfulness. Before introducing the app to parents or students, try it for yourself!
The app offers “sessions” or “programs” for users. One of my favorites is the “Body Scan”. It’s an audio recording that helps you relax your body and meditate. In addition, Smiling Mind is offering care packs during the COVID-19 with pandemic downloadable activities to support schools and families.
Flipgrid isn’t necessarily built to be an SEL site, but it’s made to connect learners and share student voices. Start the school year by letting all your students and families share what they are excited or anxious about for the upcoming school year, regardless of whether they’re learning remotely or in person. You do not have to make all the videos viewable for the whole class. Simply make sure to require moderation (under topic settings). Rather than approve the videos, leave them in your grid or topic to view and respond to the students and parents. This is similar to assignments where you ask parents to write letters about their children. However, if your families have access to an internet-enabled device, Flipgrid lets you put a face with a story, and you’ll be able to share with your own video response back.
It’s hard to remember what life was like pre-Google Forms! Even before the pandemic, I shared a Google Form check-in with my students daily. It had questions to check their social-emotional well being. You can use emojis for younger students to ask how they are feeling or number scales for older children. Include a place where students can ask for a check-in with you or a counselor as well as a place to share more information.
Even students that may not have any concerns may choose to share some great things happening on your Google Form. This SEL check-in can help you stay connected with your students and address needs to help their families.
Even though these digital SEL resources for students and families can help with mental health and well-being during the back to school transition, it’s important to note that some of our families do not have access to the internet or hardware at home. A simple note in the mail, socially distanced home visits, and phone calls can make a huge difference in the lives of families. Let them know you care, and you’ll do whatever you can to find support during this time.