Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

Christina Lowery,
2nd Grade Teacher, Wedgefield School – Gifted and Talented Cluster
Orlando, FL, United States

As our generation of kids changes, there is more and more of a need for SEL in the classroom. SEL should accompany academics in the classroom and we as educators have to be very intentional when implementing SEL.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) consists of 5 main skills:

  • Self-Awareness– recognizing your own emotions, goals, and values
  • Self-Management- regulating your own behaviours and emotions
  • Social Awareness- understanding of others and their backgrounds & cultures; Empathy 
  • Relationship Skills- build & maintain healthy relationships
  • Responsible Decision Making– making good choices about one’s own behaviours; problem solving situations appropriately

SEL and KUBO in my classroom

My second-grade classroom is made up of 18 sweet boys & girls, from many different backgrounds, lifestyles, cultures, and socioeconomic statuses, however one thing they all have in common is an inquisitive nature and a love for all things tech!

When we were presented with the opportunity for KUBO in the classroom, I knew my students would absolutely love it! We started with the basics of routes and functions, with instructions from the KUBO experts, and we continued from there. After our initial experience, I began to ponder all the ways I could continue to use KUBO in my classroom. However, I wanted something more than just integration within the regular academic subjects. This is where SEL came into the picture.

My students are a part of the Gifted & Talented Cluster at our school, meaning that they are either Gifted or very high academically and all fall within the top 20% of the grade level. As research has proven, many times students with high academic ability often have a harder time with social-emotional skills.

“Gifted children demonstrate greater maturity in some domains over others, they may be at greater risk for specific kinds of social-emotional difficulties if their needs are not met” – National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)

So here is an example of the activities we carried out. Using a map with different facial expressions placed on different coordinates on the map, KUBO was coded to go to a facial expression and pick a corresponding task card. The task-cards ask: “How do you think this person is feeling?” and “Why do you think this person is feeling this way?” and “What could have happened to this person? In this way, students first analyze a facial expression and then come up with a suggestion for why this person might be feeling a certain way. This means they recall situations and express feelings without necessarily having to speak about their own private emotional experiences.

I decided to take on the challenge of integrating KUBO into our SEL lessons. My first thought with that challenge was to integrate our current SEL curriculum with KUBO to have my students begin to recognize real-life situations where their SEL skills might be tested on a daily basis. The idea was simple; using scenarios placed strategically on points on a KUBO ready-made mat.

The objective was to have the students code their path to each point for KUBO, then when KUBO arrived at that point, they would read the scenario on the card and discuss appropriate ways to solve the problem on the card. To integrate our school’s SEL curriculum, the students were asked to follow the S.T.E.P. method to come up with solutions to each scenario. The S.T.E.P. method stands for State the problem (without blame), Think of the solutions, Explore consequences and Pick the best solution.

How It All Came Together

Our first trial with SEL and KUBO was definitely not without some challenges, however overall the kids had a great time and as they became more familiar with the task, the kids were able to focus on the SEL portion and really begin to discuss the real-world problems and find solutions to them using the S.T.E.P method. 

Prior to anything, I spent about 15 minutes on whole group instruction using our school-based SEL curriculum. If you don’t have a school-based curriculum, you can use resources such as Brain Pop Jr. or Brain Pop to introduce many SEL topics.

I grouped my students into groups of 4 and gave each one of the groups a ready-made map, problem-solving cards (6 total), and a KUBO robot with tiles. I gave my students about 10 minutes to simply play with the tiles and KUBO in order to allow them to explore and practice their prior learned skills but to also give them time to free play before focusing on a task. Once the initial 10 minutes was up, I gathered them back and then began to give them explicit instructions on how this activity would work. For example, the students code KUBO to go to a facial expression on the map. They talk about what that person might be feeling and why they might be feeling that way. They discuss what could have happened to that person to make them feel that way. 

Once I gave instructions, I walked to each group and checked on them to make sure they got started and were set. I was amazed at the conversations I heard! My students were really thinking deeply about the possible solutions to the problems on their cards and even discussing the possible consequences involved for each solution. They were not only deeply thinking about solving real-world problems, but they were also having fun! With this task, it was possible for students to explore feelings based on their own experiences, without having to talk about their specific experiences. And in this way, they learn to explore and express emotions.

It’s A Win with KUBO

With KUBO, I was able to take a complex topic like SEL and make it easy and fun for my students. KUBO made things so easy and really needs no prior experience, it is easy to put with any subject in the classroom and instantly makes even the toughest of tasks more engaging and fun. That’s what I call a WIN!

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KUBO is a simple, intuitive plug-and-learn tool with low complexity and easy adoption for teachers. The unique, hands-on, TagTile® system provides new ways to learn coding, with broad curriculum relevance to maximize learning outcomes. KUBO is suitable for students aged 4 to 10+.

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