How SEL Is Taught Through Remote Learning?


Thought there has been an inclination towards remote learning in the last decade or so, the Covid-19 pandemic has further helped the cause. Remote learning does not merely cut down on the travelling time and costs, but also allows both the students and providers with a worldwide reach – increasing choice and competition. Furthermore, remote learning offers greater time flexibility and cost advantage to both parties. In the case of school education for young children, remote learning might still not be the first choice, though the times might require remote learning to return.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

Given that Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is a relatively new social and academic debate, it’s fair to say that the timing of this increasing trend towards remote learning is not great for the promotion of SEL. The purpose of SEL is for the students to understand their thoughts and emotions, and those of their peers, to create effective social connections. This is not so easy for many students as is, to do so while attending classes in a virtual environment just adds additional layers of complexities. These additional difficulties come during times when the level of stress and anxiety in younger students is already at peak, with some students falling behind up to 12 months of learning (Dorn et al., 2020). Below, we will discuss how SEL can be taught effectively through remote learning.

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Teacher Must Be Mindful

Let’s start off with something easy to do right at the beginning of each lesson – an emotional check-in for the students. Ask each student how they feel that day, or perhaps even about a recent situation, incidence or an occasion. The teacher must be mindful to keep the focus of this activity on how the students are feeling to gauge whether they need any help, support or reassurance. In a literacy class, this can be adapted to get the students to explain how they would have felt if they were a particular character of the story that they just read. Convert this into a group activity and now two or more students could be sharing their thoughts on how they would have felt if they were the characters of the story that the class just read.

Remote Learning

Since remote learning requires that students learn on their own, one important way in which they can be assisted to articulate their thoughts and emotions is to get them to write a reflective journal. This could be a formative activity, though there is an increasing trend to use reflective writing as summative assessment because of its numerous benefits. Again, there is room to convert this into a group activity where the teacher can help the student to select a portion of their reflective journal to read out to the class and have a follow up discussion.

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Avoid Longer Sessions

A critique of remote learning is how it can be boring and make the students feel lonely and and isolated. This is not a good news if you are trying to promote SEL as a teacher. You need to be full of excitement and adventure so that you can spark the same amongst students. Avoid longer sessions of talking and get your students to take regular breaks. A great combination of making sessions adventurous and embedding games in the curriculum as learning activities can be found in Adventures Aboard the SS Grin – an engaging story based SEL game where Grade 3-5 children learn by helping animated characters resolve various interpersonal issues, just as they would in their own lives.

Social Emotional Competency

The game helps the students practice all five social-emotional competency skills identified by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), namely self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. The game is very easy to get trained on both for the students and the teachers and only requires short 30 minutes sessions of play (Lee et al., 2021). As a teacher, you might be aware of other SEL  tools such as Everday Speech, so do feel free to use the ones that suit your curriculum and students better.


There are always smaller steps that can be taken that will compliment the overall endeavour to promote SEL. An example is getting students to write a note of kindness about each other that is passed on to the teacher who will then forward it to the receiver whilst keeping the identity of the sender secret. This will help the teacher maintain a healthy and respectful learning environment where SEL will deliver the best results. So follow the above steps mentioned and described in detail to maintain a healthy and respectful learning environment where social emotional learning (SEL) will deliver the best results.