7 Tips for Teaching Social-Emotional Learning Online

For obvious reasons, teaching social and emotional skills online is very important these days! We lead an hour-long workshop on teaching SEL online, but if you don't have 60 minutes to spend with us, here are seven tips for making the switch to online SEL. Don't have seven minutes? Watch the six-minute video instead.



Not only are teachers, social-emotional learning specialists, and counselors finding themselves separated from normal routine due to COVID-19, but the need for healthy coping skills has increased dramatically.


How to Teach Social Skills Online

  1. Practice SEL daily
  2. Build routines
  3. Take & share pictures
  4. Have students move
  5. Manage the cameras
  6. Leave space for thinking
  7. Remember the music

1. Practice SEL Daily

With everything, kids are dealing with today, 30 minutes of SEL a week is just not cutting it. During this pandemic, social-emotional learning should happen every single day of the week. But how can we realistically add in SEL Monday through Friday, when we also have so many other things to cover? Our Program Director, Charlie, has built a 5-day SEL schedule just for you.

2. Build routines into your SEL lessons

Whether you’re teaching SEL live online or through recordings that you make, try starting every lesson with a mindful moment (here are some mindful moments we had kids record) or start or end lessons by having every student write an I-Statement on a big piece of paper and show it to the camera or. For recorded lessons, email it to your class or send a picture.

3. Get pictures of students using SEL skills and share them back with the class.

Check your school’s policy on privacy, but consider students or their parents sending you pictures or videos of students using SEL skills. These could be pictures of student’s cozy corners, their mindful seated posture, their drawing from a recent read aloud, or a poster they’ve made of the brain. Then put them together into one document or webpage and share it back with the class. This encourages participation and is a form of much-needed connection.

4. Have students move!

Online learning can involve a lot of sitting. Along with building in movement activities to your live or recorded lessons (stretch breaks, 5-minute workouts, etc.), use physical movements to get participation. For example: “put your arms up if you think that apologies are easy, cross your arms in front of you if you think they are hard to do.” You can also send students out on quick scavenger hunts in their homes: “go and bring back something that helps them calm down,” or “everyone go and get a hat to put on for this next activity.”

5. For live online teaching, manage the cameras thoughtfully.

It’s a lot to track other people on camera and your own video. We find it tiring to see ourselves during meetings. In Zoom, use the “hide self-view” function and show students how to do it themselves. For other platforms that don’t have this capability, have everyone (you too!) tape a piece of paper over their self-view. Also, build in dedicated time for students to be silly on camera.

6. For recorded lessons, leave space for thinking.

After you ask a question, even if you’re going to answer it yourself, leave space for students to think. Silently and slowly count to at least 7 and, if you know how, go off camera and just show the question.

7. Remember the music!

For younger kids, you can sing “together” by having you on mic and everyone else muted singing along at home (online platforms inevitably have a lag that doesn’t allow for actual singing together). You can also play recorded music into your microphone or, with some platforms, share screen and audio and play a video.

These are just some helpful tips for teaching SEL online, but if you'd like to learn more, check out our short video of this workshop.