Enhancing Classroom Culture Through Differentiated Options for Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) plays a critical role in equipping students with life skills that will carry them beyond graduation. Educators can use SEL to promote a more positive classroom culture that offers diverse options for learning where all students can thrive. Let’s explore the connection between a healthy school environment and the benefits of differentiated learning. 

Cultivating a Positive Classroom Culture

So, how do you build culture in the classroom? And how does it impact our students and their growth in SEL skills? A strong classroom culture sets the stage for meaningful SEL. Educators that cultivate environments that values empathy, open communication, and respect, build trust with their students. When students have a safe space to learn and grow, they not only grow socially and emotionally, but can thrive academically. Here are some easy activities and ideas to get you started: 

  • To Build Students Relationships with Each Another. Play a classroom game like “Circle Up.” Have your class form two circles, one inside circle and one outside circle. Then, have students face each other. Start to play music and have the outer circle rotate. When the music stops, give students a question to discuss with their partner. You can play this game for a few more rotations to get students talking to peers they may not usually talk with. 
  • To Strengthen Your Connection to Your Students. Think about your classroom environment from your students’ perspectives. How often are students receiving positive or negative feedback? Do students feel comfortable asking questions? You may consider carving out time to directly ask students for their feedback on their learning environment. Receiving feedback can be uncomfortable, but it will go a long way to show students you’re open to adjusting your methods to best suit their needs. 
  • To Grow Together. Throughout the week sprinkle in mindfulness moments as a whole classroom brain break. During a mindfulness session, play a guided meditation or calming music that focuses on breathing. Practicing alongside your students shows your classroom’s togetherness and strengthens your class culture. 

Differentiating Learning Experiences to Boost Classroom Culture

Offering differentiated options for learning also contributes to students feeling welcome in the classroom. Students that have a choice in their learning are more interested and engaged with the lessons. They get to leverage their strengths and interests which makes learning more fun. By incorporating diverse learning approaches into the classroom, educators cater to students’ needs. They also foster a deeper understanding of the academic material and SEL. Here are some ideas for providing learning options: 

  • Self-Reflection. Group projects play an important role in students’ relationship skill building and social awareness, but there are also times where independent work is critical. Consider adding in self-reflection opportunities to student group projects where students can provide feedback about how they as an individual worked well with the group, how other members contributed, and the opportunities for better collaboration in the future. This not only gets students’ perspectives on their teams but allows them to practice self-awareness
  • Project-based Learning. Incorporate lessons that focus on real-life scenarios. These opportunities encourage critical thinking and decision making. These types of activities also prompt students to be creative and display a deeper level of understanding of their learning.  
  • Service Learning. One of the pillars of SEL is preparing students for success outside of the classroom to contribute meaningfully to their communities. Service learning projects give students the opportunity to learn more about their communities. Having a sense of civic responsibility also fosters compassion and empathy. 

When educators use differentiated learning options, they cultivate a stronger classroom culture where all of their students can reach their goals. When students feel safe in their classrooms, they can focus on academics and the integration of SEL within their learning.  

Are you looking to measure your SEL curriculum’s effectiveness? We’re here to help! 

You may already have an SEL curriculum in place that focuses on fostering these skills, but are you measuring the program’s impact? Fill out the form below to get in contact with a member of our Partnership team, who will serve as your guide for scaling your SEL program. 

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