A Positive and Productive Learning Environment from Day One

Incorporating social and emotional learning (SEL) practices into your daily routine on the very first day of school can have a tremendous impact on students’ willingness and readiness to learn. Use these SEL strategies to help students make a smooth transition to the new school year and lay a foundation for academic and behavioral success all year long.

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Build Strong Relationships

Educators play an important role in students’ lives. Research shows that a strong and caring relationship between students, teachers and other school staff can greatly impact students’ academic and social and emotional development. Relationship building is a process and takes a conscious effort.

  • Get to know your students: Ask questions about their interests, plan an assignment where they share something about themselves, and/or have students work in small groups on an activity centered on students’ lives outside of school. Spend a few minutes each morning to meet as a class so you can catch up with one another in a meaningful way.
  • Find ways to empower your students: Giving students a chance to express their needs and desires can be a great way to build empowerment. For instance, establishing classroom rules as a group at the start of the school year can be a great opportunity for students to take ownership of their learning and feel like they have a voice.
  • Share a personal experience: Another effective way to connect with your students is by sharing a personal experience where you overcame a challenge or obstacle to meet a goal. Students often don’t realize that like themselves, their teachers sometimes struggle, too. Bring humor to your story and compare it to a real-world example students can relate to.

Promote Positive Attitudes

Students with positive attitudes about learning have greater motivation to learn and are more committed to productive school and classroom behavior. Students pick up on what educators say about learning and how they act, so make sure you’re promoting learning in a positive way. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Inspire your students with these TED Talk videos about people overcoming adversity to learn.
  • This activity will help students transform from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
  • This “Reach for the Stars” activity creates a fun visual that illustrates your students’ goals for the year.

Decrease Negative Behaviors

Set the right tone the first week of school with one or more activities to promote positive behaviors. Be sure to also outline goals to help your students stay on-track throughout the year.

  • Check out this video for a fun “give a shout-out” activity that encourages students to focus on positive behaviors and accomplishments achieved by their peers. Peer-to-peer recognition promotes positive behavior, and it will also help strengthen peer relationships.
  • This “Emotional Bank Account” activity helps students define and work toward positive behavior.
  • Implement recognition awards such as stickers, small tokens, or certificates. Be sure to engage with students when they receive the award – ask them how it made them feel, and let them know the award stands as a reminder of that feeling. In this way you are using extrinsic motivation while enhancing the student’s intrinsic motivation.

Building SEL into your daily practice from the first day of school will establish a culture that promotes strong student/educator relationships, positive attitudes about learning, and decreased negative or disruptive behaviors. Creating a plan for how you are going to incorporate SEL into your daily routine will help set the course for a smooth and productive school year.

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