Over the last year, teachers and staff have heroically adjusted instruction to meet the needs of at-home learners. Not only has academic instruction evolved, but we've also witnessed innovations in social-emotional learning (SEL) to center care, connection, and belonging in classrooms (virtual or in person).
The concept of an SEL Choice Board, while not entirely new, has increased in popularity this year because of the rise of different learning models. Flexible and interactive, SEL Choice Boards can give students agency in their social-emotional development at school. They're also a low-lift way for students to engage with SEL during asynchronous learning time or in homework.
Whether or not remote learning is here to stay, it's clear that SEL Choice Boards are a powerful tool for personalized learning. In this guide, we'll cover how to create an SEL Choice Board, sample activities to include, and ideas for implementation.
What Is an SEL Choice Board?
Commonly used by SEL coaches, school counselors, and student support staff in elementary school settings, SEL Choice Boards are a curated list of activities, videos, and prompts to help students build SEL skills and competencies.
SEL Choice Boards saw wide adoption during the 2020-21 school year due to the shift to remote and distance learning. Tasked with teaching social-emotional learning in a virtual environment, many educators worked to create digital collections of their favorite SEL lessons, YouTube videos, and activity prompts that students could engage with independently, in small groups, or with family members.
When Should Students Use SEL Choice Boards?
SEL Choice Boards are great for asynchronous learning time, but can also work well during instructional time. Many educators and SEL coaches work to align the activities on their Choice Board to the lessons from their yearlong SEL curriculum. Here are a few times when students might engage with a Choice Board:
- Periods of explicit SEL instruction in the classroom
- Advisory Group meetings
- Asynchronous learning time for at-home learning days
- Extra time for early finishers
How to Create an SEL Choice Board
- Choose a tool for creating the SEL Choice Board. Many educators use Google Slides or PowerPoint. You can also download customizable, pre-made templates in this SEL resources toolkit. When selecting a tool, consider factors such as interactivity and the ease of sharing the board with students.
- Select specific topics or SEL skills for students to focus on. On the SEL Choice Board, create topic pages or sections for key social-emotional skills and competencies, such as relationship skills, gratitude, responsible decision-making, and empathy.
- Write instructions for students and caregivers explaining how they can use the SEL Choice Board. These instructions will vary depending on your context. Consider including recommendations for how many activities students should complete in a given day, which lessons are conducive to family member involvement, and how to track their progress.
- Research and select activities and prompts to include in the SEL Choice Board. Search for free online resources from SEL curriculum providers to add your Choice Board. Explore our curations of effective SEL interventions, small-group SEL activities, SEL activities for high schoolers, and get-to-know you questions for students. You can also write short prompts, use existing worksheets, or add links to YouTube videos. Compile all of these activities in the appropriate sections of the SEL Choice Board.
- Share your SEL Choice Board with students, caregivers, and colleagues!
Sample SEL Choice Board Activities
As you curate resources for your SEL Choice Board, consider these sample social-emotional learning activities:
- Social Awareness: Watch this video on empathy and kindness. What did you learn about the impact that being kind to someone else can make?
- Self-Management: Listen to an audio-guided mindfulness recording if you need a moment to calm down.
- Self Awareness: Draw a picture of yourself and write down 10 strengths around the image. Then, think of a skill that you want to improve. Make a list of three steps that you can take to start moving in that direction.
- Relationship Skills: Create a list of positive self-talk phrases to help flip your thoughts when it comes to making new friends.
- Responsible Decision-Making: Imagine that you see a new student in our class playing alone at recess. What might you say to them or do in that situation?
Tips for Effective Implementation
- Create themed SEL Choice Boards with specialized activities by grade level. For instance, you might create an SEL Choice Board focused on emotion labeling and coping skills for 5th-grade students; one on health, wellness, and physical activity for middle school students; and one on project-based learning and responsible decision-making for high school learners.
- Curate activities that are conducive to different learning models and learning styles. Some lessons should be easy for students to complete in the classroom, with or without the guidance of an educator. Other lessons should be self-guided for the days that students are learning from home. To cater to different learning preferences, compile online/digital activities as well as printable handouts or worksheets.
- Include options for students to work independently and to collaborate with peers in small groups while building social-emotional skills.
- Use Google Classroom or other existing district webpages (such as your district's SEL Resource Center) to share your SEL Choice Board with students, families, and colleagues.
- Consider using an SEL Choice Board to strengthen relationships with caregivers. Regularly check-in with family members to understand what types of activities from the SEL Choice Board are resonating and what other resources might be helpful in helping them extend social-emotional learning into their homes.