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4 Ways to Incorporate SEL into Your Summer Classroom Learning

4 Ways to Incorporate SEL into Your Summer Classroom Learning

Many educators are innovating what summer learning looks like this year to include enrichment programs and social-emotional learning (SEL) in addition to traditional academic scheduling. A fresh take on summer learning presents a unique opportunity to accelerate academic knowledge by addressing the whole learner. This means that students will be building academics while practicing skills to regulate emotions and behaviors, developing relationship skills and social awareness, and practicing critical decision-making to plan for their futures.

How can we easily incorporate SEL elements into our daily summer learning? In this post, we look at four ways to explicitly address SEL in our summer classroom, online or in person, to meet the SEL needs of our students.

1. Student Check-Ins

This SEL element is a simple moment that students take to check in with themselves to name how they are feeling and communicate issues they need help with. Set this routine in place from day one, and establish a method of communication that works for you, whether it is an online platform that your district uses, an in-person pen and paper dialogue, or brief, individual conversations.

Allow the information that students share to impact your teaching. Be flexible when a student is demonstrating behavior resulting from unmet basic needs or from an argument with a loved one. Not only does this check-in elevate student voice, but it also sets the stage for relationship and trust building between students and educators. Depending on the time you have available and the number of students you are teaching, check-ins can be done on a daily or weekly basis.

2. Explicit Naming of SEL Skills

Clearly naming the nonacademic skills incorporated within the classroom environment and learning objectives allows students to practice and reflect on these competencies. Rigorous learning requires students to use their social-emotional skills to communicate and collaborate with their peers, manage challenges and frustrations, set goals, monitor progress, and explore different perspectives. Explicit, consistent naming of SEL skills reinforces understanding of these skills and the ways to use them.

Consider deepening comprehension with an online, evidence-based SEL program like BASE Education to guide students with courses like Coping Strategies, Healthy Communication, Motivation, and Self-Esteem that incorporate reflection, problem-solving, and planning for the future. As we deeply address the whole learner, we also address barriers to academic success because we know that students who have a high level of SEL competence perform better academically.

3. Relationship Building

Teaching happens in the context of relationships. Students of all ages and backgrounds want and need to feel seen and valued by their teachers, and research shows that developmental relationships between students and teachers propel motivation, learning, and academic achievement. The Search Institute’s Developmental Relationships Framework consists of 5 elements expressed in 20 specific actions that make relationships powerful in young people’s lives.

Take some time to revisit your goals regarding student relationships and examine how you express care, challenge growth, provide support, share power, and expand possibilities for your students. Building this understanding as an educator allows you to engage in creating strong relationship foundations where your students feel safe, seen, and heard so that they can access academic learning.

4. Collaboration

Incorporate opportunities often for students to engage with each other throughout the summer learning day. With each collaboration opportunity, clearly communicate and check for understanding of procedures and expectations, and give individual students a specific, defined role so that they have individual and group accountability. Assign group arrangements so that students learn with a variety of peers with different perspectives. Allow students to practice and demonstrate their SEL skills as they cooperate, problem-solve, and negotiate conflict constructively as a team. This type of collaboration requires self- and social-awareness skills that are essential for professional and personal success throughout school and into adulthood.

Incorporating these SEL elements into your summer classroom helps the whole student level up by building nonacademic essential life skills in conjunction with academic skills. These SEL skills help students engage more effectively with academic content and allow them to develop healthy identities, manage emotions, achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

Looking for resources to help you plan for summer learning? Check out our Summer Planning & Success Toolkit for blogs, downloadables, best practices, and more!'s picture
Sian Reilly

Sian joined Edmentum in 2019 and serves as a Senior Marketing Specialist. A former teacher and administrator, Sian believes that individualizing education for the whole learner with quality academic and non-academic curriculum and assessment can powerfully transform students, campuses, and communities. Sian is passionate about connecting educators with content to meet their specific needs in an ever-evolving education environment.