Meeting Students' Social and Emotional Needs Through Remote Learning

social emotional and remote learning

Social Emotional Curricula and Remote Learning

We are now four weeks into the remote learning experiment (time may vary depending on where you teach), which has no precedent and no determined end. Like so many teachers and educational support personnel, we are learning to adapt to this ever-changing landscape, in the midst of a pandemic.

Fortunately, this transition to remote learning has been made manageable because of a team philosophy that takes a whole-child, trauma-sensitive approach that embeds social and emotional learning (SEL) into the curriculum. Our team at Elk Grove High School, comprised of Kristen Lesniak (English language arts), Samir Chaudhari (physical education), Shirley Flickinger (education support personnel—counseling background), and myself (social studies) are all comfortable using an integrated focus, where literacy instruction drives our social emotional student outcomes.

Our primary responsibility is to support the social and emotional well-being of our students. My team is using a multi-tiered approach because we are not going to reach every child with every single outreach/connection opportunity. We hope that through a team-based approach with myriad interventions and opportunities, we are trying to meet each child where they are and figure out how best to support them.


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Addressing Social Emotional Needs: A Step-By-Step Process

The following is a step-by-step process of how we are using interventions and technology. Before the start of the week, students receive a message on their phones using their Remind account. The two-way communication tool is used for updates, instructions and friendly reminders. For example, today we used it to remind students to complete their “Zone Check-In.” Zone is a modified version of Leah Kuyper's Zones of Regulation.

Zones is a quick way to gather feedback on the emotional zone students are in before the meeting. The initial check-in provides the team with the ability to ask follow-up questions such as; Where would you like to be? What do you need? What do you want us to know? How can we help you? And how can you help yourself get to the zone that you desire to be in? Responses to the questions are then captured in a Google Doc, where we can access a spreadsheet with the name of the student, current emotional zone, and short responses to the questions posed.

The team then uses the information to address immediate issues or can be used later to make a more personal connection. For example, last week Mariana said, “I am making cheesecakes and I think I found my passion in life.” I emailed her back with links to career resources and a copy of Bernice Green’s recipe for Yum Yum coffee cake.

As in Mariana’s case, email is used to personalize the one-to-one interaction with our students. I also use email to develop learning plans with students who are interested in raising their current grade. I also provide more detailed information as it relates to projects, assignments or other questions students want to have clarified. 

To support remote instruction, all students have been issued the technology they need to facilitate asynchronous and synchronous communication through our learning management system (Schoology) and videoconferencing software (Zoom). It is important to note that while all students have been issued technology, not every student has resources at home to access the internet.

The contents of my Schoology page are all centered on social and emotional support. Students can access mindfulness meditations on leadership adapted from Erica Brown’s Take Your Soul to Work, discussion boards, community resources, and favorable psychology assignments that include short readings and videos.  

Students also can access opportunities to volunteer for projects ranging from making hospital masks to investing in people around the world through Kiva. We want to give our students a sense of control and belief that they can make a difference in the world. We encourage our students to dream and imagine taking "Loving Action." A term coined by Shawn Ginwright and his work on healing-centered engagement.

Our team is trying to make it fun, build routine and create consistency, and let students know we love them and are here for them no matter what. The verdict is still out as to whether any of these strategies and resources presented here have been useful. We did get a message last week from a student named Taylor who wrote: “You guys glue us all together. Thank you for keeping us together during these crazy times. I think after this year, we will always be family because we have experienced this time together. I wanted to tell you that you guys change lives. Thank you.”

Thank you to my collaborators on this post: Kristen Lesniak (English Language Arts), Samir Chaudari (Physical Education) and Shirley Flickinger (Education Support Personnel).

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