Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom

Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom


After a few years of pandemic learning that was spent largely online and at home, children everywhere are struggling with the back-to-school transition to an in-person setting.

Specifically, stress and anxiety about falling behind in class are having an adverse impact on how students perform in school. That, in addition to the usual suspects that get in the way of learning: Boredom and distraction.

Schools everywhere are looking to implement methods to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on education, and social emotional learning is among the most popular programs schools are using.


What Is Social Emotional Learning?

Social emotional learning, or SEL, is a program that is designed to improve the classroom experience for students and teachers alike, with the end goal being to help kids have a better educational experience.

Self-awareness and self-control are the cornerstones of social emotional learning, which is helping students everywhere improve their educational journey. SEL teaches students skills to process the emotions that can negatively impact learning, both their own and their classmates’. 

Through SEL, students can see how their emotions and social interactions can create either a positive or negative learning experience. Self-control and productive collaboration can lead to better learning, which is why SEL helps students gain the problem-solving, self-management, and communication skills needed to ensure that their emotional experience and social interactions in the classroom create a positive, rather than negative, learning experience.

To achieve this, SEL focuses on developing five “core competencies” within students. The five core competencies are:

      1. Self-Awareness - Recognizing your own emotions and how you perceive yourself
      2. Self-Management - Regulating your emotions and behaviors
      3. Social Awareness - Recognizing the emotions and experiences of others
      4. Relationship Skills - How to communicate with and work with others
      5. Making Responsible Decisions - Problem-solving and taking responsibility for your actions

These core competencies are divided into two categories, “self” and “others”. 

The self-focused core competencies are meant to deepen children’s understanding of how their thoughts and emotions play a direct role in influencing their behavior, which in turn influences how they get on in the world.

The other core competencies are focused on others, with the goal being to improve their ability to communicate and deal with other people. Getting along with peers and authority figures (e.g., teachers or parents) is the goal here, as strengthening these relationships can lead to greater success in life down the line.

SEL is taught through a variety of tools, activities, and methods, some of which we will get into below.


How Time Timer Products Can Help with Social Emotional Learning

In the classroom, SEL-related activities tend to be on the shorter side, since the bulk of the day, of course, is dedicated to education.

This is why the Time Timer 5 Minute PLUS is the best Time Timer for SEL, as it offers a fully visible timer that goes up to five minutes (on a regular 60-minute Time Timer, the five-minute interval does not take up all of the display).

Read on below for examples of how a Time Timer product fits into SEL-focused activities that last for short durations.


Bring the Time Timer Into Calm Corners to Promote SEL

With a Time Timer visual timer, a quick trip to a “calm down corner” can be made even more effective.

That calm corner does not need to be figurative, but, rather, an actual corner in the classroom that is designed to promote mindfulness.

Many schools have benefitted from mindfulness programs and calm corner kits, such as those offered by the Calm Caterpillar.

Combining a Time Timer visual timer with a Calm Corner Kit can be fruitful, as it can offer a time-sensitive aspect to visiting the calm corner in the classroom.

Giving kids a 1-5 minute calm-down period can be a simple and effective way to stop any excitability, anxiety, hostility, or other disruptive emotions that may get in the way of learning for all of the students in the class.

While in the calm corner, kids can be instructed to engage in breathing techniques, one of which is the easy-to-learn hand breathing technique, which can last for a pre-set amount of time.

For example, sending a kid to the calm corner for 1 minute of hand-breathing, with a countdown on the Time Timer 5 Minute PLUS, can result in that kid returning to the desk with a more focused and open attitude toward the classroom experience.


Naming and Processing Feelings

This is a key activity in SEL, as it strengthens self-awareness and self-management.

If a student is being disruptive, whether out of frustration or excitability, then giving that student a few minutes to reflect on their emotions can be good.

Set a Time Timer visual timer to a couple minutes wherein students can reflect–perhaps on a piece of paper that will be turned into the teacher and discussed after class–on what emotions are being felt, why those emotions are taking control, and how to better manage them the next time they pop up.

When it comes to self-awareness and self-management, half the battle can be understanding just what, exactly, you feel and believe, so giving students the opportunity to identify and process troubling feelings can be a major step toward a more learning-friendly classroom environment.


Movement Breaks

Sitting at a desk for 45-minute+ intervals can lead to boredom, stress, and distraction, along with the usual daydreaming and note-passing.

Using a Time Timer 5-Minute PLUS to create a brief movement break can introduce much needed stress- and boredom-relief to the classroom setting.

The younger the students, the more easily-distracted and boredom-inclined they are, which is why frequent movement breaks set up throughout the day can be the key to keeping students engaged and free from troubling emotions such as stress and boredom.

For example, if a student finds a lesson particularly challenging, then a movement break can be a way to process the material taught thus far, which can relieve the stress of feeling confused at the lesson. That student can also take advantage of the break by asking the teacher questions.

Think of it this way: Would you rather students be engaged for only a fraction of a full 45-minute period, or engaged for the entirety of shorter “blocks” of time broken up by movement breaks?

Taking a movement break also exercises more than the legs–it has been shown to improve memory processing, so the day’s lesson is much more likely to be remembered if a movement break is introduced.

Given the intellectual benefits of movement breaks, this activity does not have to be a “brain break” after all!


More Great Classroom Tools from Time Timer

Time Timer products have been essential for creating success in classrooms around the world, with a variety of uses for it in education.

Check out the rest of the Time Timer products, which includes the Time Timer Wash, a great Time Timer product for creating a healthier school environment.


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