5 Ways to Integrate Social Emotional Learning in Centers

When you started the school year this year, you embarked on a journey that was foreign to all of us. Some of us were teaching all online. Others were going right back to face-to-face learning. Many were doing some magical combination of the two. While the world of teaching was flipped, so was the world of being a student. Therefore, social emotional learning became more important than ever to integrate into your day, but where? You can integrate social emotional learning in centers and make your students' mindset a priority too!

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What is Social Emotional Learning?

Social emotional learning is taking what you’re already doing in your classroom to the next level and helping students face adversity. When you include SEL into your classroom, you not only help students cope with a variety of different adversities from angry parents to a pandemic but also you gain improved behavior, better communication skills, and strong leaders. So, how can you incorporate social emotional learning into your classroom? Utilizing your math and literacy centers is a great way to make this happen.

1: Know Your Students' Social Emotional Needs

To start integrating social emotional learning into your lesson plans, you have to make sure you know what trauma or adversity your students are facing. By understanding where your students are emotionally, you can identify the next steps. In order to find out what’s bothering your students, consider using your morning work to do a “check-in” journal. This can be part of your literacy centers as well. You can also use the check-in journal as your exit-slip for students as well. By using it as your exit slip, you may get bonus information like what your students are struggling with in centers.


2: Write About It

Another way to use your math and literacy centers for social emotional learning is to have your students right about various scenarios. You can have students watch a video about something going on in the world or about a common issue, like bullying, and then write about it using a guided note system. This is a great way to not only get students writing, but also working in digital centers. Not only are digital centers great for distance learning, they are easy to keep clean while teaching during a pandemic.

3: Read Literature that Counts

If you are using guided reading techniques, you can encourage students to allow their feelings to be present and teach them how to manage them. The wonderful world of literature has so many different books about pretty much anything. Therefore, if you pair a guided reading activity with your literacy centers, you can ask students to identify the internal or external struggles a character is dealing with and connect it back to themselves.


4: Solve the Problem with Social Emotional Learning

Literacy centers are not the only place to turn for social emotional learning in centers. You can also integrate this idea into math. While math might seem like a “cold” subject, you can help students review math facts while learning about feelings and emotions through reading. For example, you can have students play a math game during their center time that asks them to use math to get through a “life problem.” Maybe that life skill is learning how to deal with anger or frustration. In order to get to the next step, they need to solve a problem. This would be a great activity for Google Forms which can easily be applied in your digital centers. This helps students review material while learning social emotional skills along the way

5: Keep It Stinkin' Simple

Finally, you can keep it stinkin’ simple by modifying some of your center expectations and roles. When you give students responsibilities, even those responsibilities just in centers, they are learning strong leadership roles. In addition, it gives them an opportunity to work as a group which increases collaborative learning. By modifying or adding expectations to the roles and responsibilities of students, you can teach them what it means to be a good leader and have consequences for not being a good leader as well. By keeping everything the same, you are keeping it consistent and adding another layer to your centers.


Social emotional learning is a vital part of our education system today. Therefore, it’s important for us to try to help our students grow not only academically but also emotionally. Integrating social emotional learning into our centers is a simple way to ensure our students are getting the mental care they need in order to grow into independent grownups!

Until Next Time

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