3 Lessons That Teach Students SEL Through Women’s History

March is Women’s History Month, and this is an excellent opportunity to teach social and emotional learning (SEL) through the lens of women’s contributions, struggles, and achievements throughout history.

When students feel empathetic connections with influential figures in history, this can deepen their engagement and understanding of core subject material in areas such as Language Arts, History, and Social Studies. At the same time, learning about the struggles of women — and how they rose above these obstacles — can be a powerful way to teach and reinforce SEL.

Here are three lessons that teach students about Women’s History while embedding SEL in your core subjects. Have fun exploring pivotal women and SEL!

Lesson Idea #1: History, Economics, Civics, Social Studies

SEL Skills: Self-Reflection, Empathy, Problem-Solving, Responsible Decision-Making

This lesson has students explore the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professions. Students learn about women who overcame obstacles to excel in their chosen STEM careers, and the students are tasked with reflecting how these same barriers may exist in their own lives. The lesson helps students build fluency in SEL concepts such as self-reflection and empathy.

Deepen the development of social-emotional skills with a class discussion around responsible decision-making. Here are a few probing questions to get started:

  • What role does confidence play in helping more women consider STEM careers?
  • How can individuals, community members, and policymakers encourage more women to join and succeed in STEM careers?
  • How can we change social norms involving women and STEM professions?

Lesson Idea #2: Language Arts, History

SEL Skills: Perspective-Taking, Empathy, Cultural Awareness

Have students read about influential women such as Sacagawea, Mae Jemison, and Malala Yousafzai. This website offers a great collection of stories about strong women, and it includes quizzes that test comprehension.

After students read about the women’s stories, make the lesson more meaningful by bringing in SEL. Help students develop empathy and perspective-taking by talking about how the women were able to overcome adversity. Talk about which social-emotional skills each woman possessed, and compare/contrast how these skills were used in their different circumstances. Teach cultural awareness by exploring the traditions and customs the women would have experienced in their respective cultures.

Lesson Idea #3: Art

SEL Skills: Empathy, Self-Reflection, Perspective-Taking, Appreciating Diversity, Social Awareness, Social Engagement

Ask students to choose an influential woman and research major contributions she has made to society. Have students draw a portrait or make a collage about that person and her accomplishments.

Bring in SEL by having students present to the class about how they would feel if they found themselves in the place, culture, and situation this woman experienced. This can increase students’ perspective-taking skills, appreciation of others, social awareness, and sense of community. 

Women throughout history have overcome obstacles and adversity, and their stories are an excellent way to teach students SEL. Incorporating SEL into your lessons around Women’s History Month can increase students’ understanding of the core subject matter, and it gives them real-world context in which to apply social-emotional skills.

We’d love to see your SEL in action! Share your SEL lessons on Twitter by tagging @ApertureEdu.