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5 SEL Competencies to Focus on this Valentine’s Day!

Updated: Feb 16

When you think about Valentine’s Day, what comes to mind for you? You may be imagining chocolates and roses, but there’s more to this holiday than just romance. At its core, Valentine’s Day is about love, including things like trust and support that students experience everyday.

This got us thinking: what if schools celebrated Valentine’s Day by helping students the personal and interpersonal skills to be more loving towards their friends and peers? In that spirit, we are discussing five social-emotional learning competencies that support compassionate community building in the classroom.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a big part of what we do at Kikori. The curriculum is focused on providing students with the thoughtfulness and empathy needed to regulate their emotions and interact with others meaningfully, both of which we believe are crucial components of education. Furthermore, the Kikori app makes it easy to make SEL a part of your classroom by providing teachers with experiential activities specifically designed with these goals in mind. Download it today!

# 1: Identifying Emotions

“Identifying Emotions” is a personal SEL competency but one that is very important for the development of relationships. Taking the time to help students recognize and express their feelings can lead to a deeper understanding of themselves and better recognition of the emotions of others.

The easiest way to practice this competency in the classroom is to ask students to reflect on their current emotions. This can be in the form of a check-in at the beginning or end of the day or a prompt given at the end of an experience such as reading a story or participating in a relaxation exercise.

# 2: Empathy

Of all the competencies being discussed today, “Empathy” is perhaps the most important. Being able to connect with others on an emotional level is crucial to student well being and cooperation on so many levels, and many students nowadays struggle to do so. Furthermore, investing in student’s empathy can make the development of other traits like compassion and respect easier down the line.

Empathy can be complicated to build, but an easy place to start is with activities that have students intently listen to one another, such as pair shares.

# 3: Respect for Others

Respect is an aspect of Valentine’s Day that is as important for platonic relationships as it is for romantic ones. Teaching youth to treat one another the way they want to be treated can lead to positive feelings for all!

“Respect for Others” stems from students understanding how their words and actions affect others, so begin to teach this competency there. It can be helpful to incorporate this lesson into both situations where respect has been violated (ex. Insults, shoving) and also ones where it is maintained (ex. sharing) to demonstrate both successes and shortcomings.

# 4: Communication

“Communication” is a broad competency, so as such, it has implications for all sorts of community building. Fostering effective communication helps students communicate their feelings (as mentioned earlier), their needs, and their expectations, all of which build a more supportive and positive classroom.

There are many ways to build communication skills, but a good place to start is with activities that involve sharing and with group challenges that involve working together.

# 5: Relationship-Building

Lastly, taking the time to focus on “Relationship-Building” (the platonic kind) can have wonderful impacts on your classroom. Oftentimes, connection can take a back seat to content during the school day, but some effort spent into getting students familiar with and trusting of one another will lead to the compassionate and supportive outcomes that are so desirable.

“Relationship-Building” begins with classmates sharing about themselves (like “Communication”) and deepens as they become more trusting of one another from situations where support is maintained (like group projects or challenges).

Looking for activities that help students develop these competencies? Check out this week’s spotlighted content creator, Laurie Frank!

Laurie Frank is a former public school teacher and author with over 40 years of experience in the fields of adventure and experiential education. Many activities from her book “Journey Toward the Caring Classroom: Using Adventure to Create Community” can be found on the Kikori app, and the book itself (including even more activities and additional resources) can be found at the link below.

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