Monday, April 26, 2021

How Technology and Social Emotional Learning Can Go Hand-in-hand

Imagine... standing at the entrance of a classroom feeling calm, yet full of energy at the same time. That’s how I feel when I go into the first grade class of Ms. Olson. It is clear through her classroom culture how much she cares about her students.  Students and teachers in Northwest ISD are exposed to Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Since remote learning started and has remained in certain classes for the whole year, it has been imperative that teachers find ways to connect with their students no matter the obstacles they face. Technology and SEL were used effectively by Ms. Olson, so that students never felt left out of the learning environment. 

Let's take a look at what Ms. Olson had to say about how she incorporates technology and SEL into her classroom culture and daily routine. 

Fun Friday Check-ins

Virtual students do not get a lot of free time to interact with their peers, so at the end of each school day I allow my students a few minutes of “share time” to simply chat with their classmates.  Early on, I realized some students were monopolizing this time and not allowing all students to feel heard. To remedy this somewhat, I created a “Check-In Friday” Flipgrid group. Each Friday I present the students with a different, fun prompt for them to make a short response video for in Flipgrid.  Then, with the time they normally use for “share time” they are encouraged to go view and comment on their peers’ videos. Many great connections have been made this way because they are able to learn about each other & find similarities.


What zone are you in today with feedback and questions

When everyone was remote, our team altered a quick Seesaw attendance activity to fit our SEL needs. As the lone remote teacher for the grade level, I have kept it up every day! My daily Seesaw attendance activity is a multi-purposeful activity.  It helps me keep track of student presence/attendance in Seesaw for the day. Possibly more importantly though, it tells me how students are feeling and the emotional state they are starting their day in. At Peterson we have learned a lot about the Zones of Regulation. Each day students drag their “mustang icon” to the zone they feel like they are in each morning. Green means they are happy and ready to learn. However, if students drag their icon to blue, yellow, or red it means they are feeling off for some reason that day.  This gives me the opportunity to comment and ask why they may be feeling a certain way & how they’re going to try to move themselves into the green zone.  The personal feedback and attention alone, is sometimes enough to help make their day a little better. The activity opens up communication, helps students learn more about self-regulation, and makes me aware of anything that needs my attention: all in about 30 seconds! 

Filling Buckets with Compliments

For special occasions (and sometimes for none at all!), I like to let my students interact in ways out of our routine. One of my favorite things to do is to have them compliment each other.  They’ve had the opportunity to do this several times throughout the year. At Christmas my room mom spent time in our zoom having each student compliment the others and creating ornaments for them.  I wanted to find a way to do something similar for Valentine’s Day, except digitally! I ended up Using Jamboard! I used fun valentines jar images and put each student’s name on a different one, creating several pages on 1 Jamboard. Students then had the opportunity to go write a compliment on each page, for each classmate.  When they were done, students had a Valentines card with a sweet message from all of their classmates. It was fun for them to realize that even in zoom, they are noticed and admired. We’ve done similar activities since!

Brag Tags- Positive Reinforcement 

I am a firm believer in positive reinforcement in the classroom.  As a primary teacher, though, this is usually played out with tangible rewards.  I thought about how I could transfer this belief into my digital classroom.  I had previously used brag tag cards with students.  I decided these would be the best option for remote learners. My students earn digital brag tags for all sorts of occasions.  We have weekly goals that range from zoom manners to remembering to use conventions. They earn brag tags for winning kahoot games, jumping up Lexia levels, participation, holidays, etc.  Their brag tags are housed in Seesaw and the images are simply cut and pasted or uploaded into the post. Once students fill up a brag tag page they earn a special prize that I drop at their doorstep after school. Students have really taken to this system and the motivation to earn the brag tags may be just as strong as it is to earn the prize! 

In all classrooms, students should leave with a sense of uplifted pride in themselves. The way Ms. Olson uses technology and Social Emotional Learning to help her students fill their buckets is remarkable. Everyone needs someone in their life to believe in them, these kids at Peterson Elementary have that in Ms. Olson!

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