7 SEL questions every teacher should be asking their students

Tal, Teacher

Everyone is talking about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) at the moment - and for good reason! 

Helping students develop their social and emotional skills has become a key element of teaching and learning, 

Research highlights short term benefits of students engagement in SEL programs, including:

  • Enhanced self confidence, persistence and empathy 
  • Development of self management skills
  • Improved attendance and grades 
  • More positive social relations

It’s also found benefits in the long run:

  • Increased school and university completion
  • Career success
  • Better mental health
  • Engaged citizens
  • Positive work and family relationships


Let’s dive into 7 SEL questions to support learning and growth. 

 

1. What is your mood for learning right now?

This is one of the best questions to ask your students.  It encourages self-management, which is one of the key elements of SEL.  Both teaching and learning are supported through this immediate feedback loop.

Reflecting on their mood periodically increases awareness of their own emotions and learning needs.  

Observing their mood for learning is effective when used throughout lessons.  It can be especially relevant after learning breaks to gauge wellbeing.


2. How well have you been sleeping of late?

We all know how imperative sleep is for wellbeing.  A lack of sleep:

  • decreases our ability to concentrate
  • makes it harder to remember and recall information
  • increases irritability
  • makes it difficult to control our emotions

This information helps us to gain a better understanding of what is happening in our students’ lives.  Subsequently, we can ask more meaningful questions to find out why they aren't sleeping. 

With this knowledge, offering guidance and directing students to support services is useful.


3. How supported do you feel in our class? Why / Why not?

The way students feel about their place in the classroom influences how they feel, think and learn. 

A student may be feeling excluded, or that their voice isn’t being heard by their teacher or peers.  

It’s our responsibility to ensure that all students feel supported within the classroom environment.

Gathering this feedback enables us to address how and why students are feeling this way.  We can employ different tool for supporting students, such as:

  • having one on one and whole class discussions to prompt inclusivity
  • communicating with caregivers 
  • Making changes to our teaching styles


4. What did you learn about working with others today?

We’re all familiar with the saying ‘there is no I in teamwork.’  

Research shows that people often learn best in group settings.  It helps to bounce ideas off each other, collaborate, and expand on concepts.

As students navigate this approach, it’s important for them to reflect on how they work with others.  

This question helps teachers and students evaluate their strengths and weaknesses when forming part of a team.  Whole class and small group discussions can follow, where elements of successful teamwork are explored.


5. How do you feel about your workload right now?

 It’s easy to forget that our students may have a lot on their plate.

We know that being overloaded, whether it be with work, schooling or life in general, is detrimental to our wellbeing.  Our students are no different.  

Asking this question highlights to them that we care about their wellbeing and mental health. 

It also gives us the information we need to tailor our expectations to suit the needs of individual students.  


6. What helps you to get in a good mood when you're feeling down?

We all feel down from time to time.  It can be hard to dig ourselves out of that hole.

It’s important for students to be able to recognise when they’re feeling under the weather. 

They can then work to address these negative feelings.  

Do they go for a walk?  Speak to a friend? Listen to music?    

If students are comfortable, share their responses with the group. Create a whole class list of their strategies.  You can refer to these throughout your classes.  

7. What's one thing outside of school that you love doing?

School isn’t everything.  Our students have rich lives beyond the classroom. 

To promote successful learning, students need to have happy and fulfilling experiences outside of school.

Have students turn and talk about their passions.  

Do they have a favorite hobby?  A love of sport?  An interest in languages? 

You can tailor your teaching to suit student interests.  If students love music, you can incorporate musical activities such as writing a song as an assessment.  


Conclusion

The students we teach are not blank canvases.  

Their social and emotional learning is pivotal to successful outcomes in every classroom.

Supporting this development is a privilege as a teacher.  We can help them succeed far beyond the walls of our classroom.  They’ll likely form meaningful relationships, improve their self confidence and succeed throughout life.    



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