Emotional education in the classroom: The key to knowing ourselves and reaching our potential

7 minutes
Written by: Ruth Martín

Admit it: there’s one teacher from your school days who’ll always have a special place in your heart. And now that you’re a teacher, you value them even more! When you think back on those times, what comes to mind? Their passion for their subject, or maybe their ability to explain complex concepts?

Maybe it was because their classes were the most fun. Or maybe it was because they were so nice and always made sure you felt at ease in class and helped you reach your full potential.

There are many things that make a great teacher, not just the fact they know a lot about their subject and have got their classroom management down to an art. It can also be because they are able to teach students to manage their emotions, understand themselves better, take care of their own well-being, and bring out their full potential

Many studies in the psychology of learning are very clear on the fact that feeling pleasant emotions while learning something will help to achieve much more meaningful and lasting learning over time.

The problem arises when we don’t know how to identify our own emotions, understand why we feel them, or know the best way to express them. And if we lack this knowledge, it can lead to frustration and misunderstandings.

If it happens to us in adulthood, imagine at younger ages when we’re still getting to know the world around us and learning every day on the fly! That’s why it’s important to offer students emotional education as early as we can.

But what is emotional education, what are its objectives, and how can we give it the space it deserves in our classrooms? Stay with us a little longer and we’ll tell you all about it. 

What is emotional education?

Emotional education consists of teaching children to identify, understand, and manage their own emotions and feelings. This allows them to express themselves effectively, set positive goals, and develop empathy, which is necessary to be able to recognize and understand the feelings and emotions of others. Through this process, emotional intelligence is fostered.

Emotional education in the classroom has a big impact on students’ behavior, but it also influences their learning and development as individuals. And not only that! Social-emotional education also helps teachers to better understand their students, as they can offer more motivating activities that awaken pleasant emotions in their students. 

Sounds like all positives, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is! Teaching socioemotional education has tons of benefits. Now let’s look at some of the most relevant ones.

7 reasons to integrate emotional education into your classes

You know that when you’re a teacher, every day is a new adventure and as soon as you walk through the school door you’re greeted with something different. There will be days when your students behave well and everything flows smoothly (tip of the day: make the most of these days and enjoy them to the fullest!). And other times the opposite will happen: you won’t know what’s going on, but it will seem as though a dark cloud has fallen over the school that day. 

The good news is that you can teach your class the keys and skills they need to learn to manage their emotions and develop their emotional intelligence. And the earlier you start, the better. From an early age, students are ready to learn to understand their own emotions and empathize with those of others. 

And when students learn these skills, wonderful things like this can happen:

  1. They become more aware of their personality and their place in the world.
  2. They increase in confidence and self-esteem by recognizing their strengths and needs.
  3. They develop a growth and improvement mentality.
  4. Their motivation to learn new things also increases.
  5. They develop better relationships with the rest of the class and school.
  6. They participate more actively in class and their academic performance improves.
  7. They grow their capacity for responsible decision making and reflective thinking.

Today is a great day to start working on these skills in your classes, don’t you think? Well, let’s see how you can do it.

How to foster emotional education in the classroom

Okay, we’ve touched on some of the advantages and benefits of teaching emotional skills; did you think we were going to leave you hanging without telling you how you can strengthen them in your classes? No way! We’ve prepared a few ideas and activities to inspire you so that you can start applying emotional education in the classroom right away. 

And since with Genially’s templates most of the work is done for you, it couldn’t be easier. So here they come!

Let students reflect and make their own decisions

Great, you’ve found a topic that you know inspires or motivates your class, and now it’s time to make the most of it in the classroom. Now is when the good stuff starts! But before we continue, it is important to clarify one thing: for students to be truly involved in their social-emotional learning, it is not enough to do just any activity and wait for the magic to happen. 

Make sure you give them the opportunity to do something they love: express themselves freely and feel like an active part of the group. How do we achieve this? Through team activities and dynamics in which they have to discuss various emotions or scenarios. Especially if you’re just starting to apply emotional education in your classes: they can identify and discover different emotions on their own.

How about creating a dictionary of emotions? You can select several images with people or characters expressing different emotions and organize the images based on the type of emotion.

This dictionary can become a reference material or resource to turn to whenever you deal with emotions. In addition, it will give rise to all kinds of reflections throughout the year: how we manifest each emotion, what thoughts it provokes in us, how it makes us feel, what we can do when we feel it, or the best way to express it or detect it in others.

We can create an interactive dictionary of emotions super easily thanks to image galleries like these:

Pssst! Want to make sure they don’t miss a single detail? Add Full screen interactivity to the images and the image will expand with just one click. And if you want to give more context to each image that expresses an emotion, add Audio interactivity.

Apply storytelling

Do you remember the last time you were moved by a series or movie? Was it because of its special effects, its cinematography, or its costumes? Maybe all of these things played a part, but in truth, what really makes an impact on our emotions are the stories.

A well-told story, with situations and characters that students can empathize with, is a very powerful resource for teaching about emotions. To do this, the first thing to do is to know your students’ interests and concerns. Then, you can decide what kind of story to use and for what purpose. Once you have this figured out, it’s time to create resources and content that harness all the power of storytelling.

For example, you can tell a story using a comic like this. You can choose the characters, edit the dialogues and select different scenarios. All with the aim of creating a story that’s a great fit for your students. 

Oh, by the way… From the creators of ‘Make a genially in the blink of an eye’ and ‘Create awesome learning experiences’ comes: ‘Download your creations as incredible MP4 videos!’.

If you have an Edu Pro or Master plan, you can download and share your geniallys as videos and wow your classes with your amazing new productions. I don’t know about the Oscar for best original script, but the award for best teacher is in the bag. 

Set aside moments in your daily routine for students to express themselves

You don’t have to wait for special projects and occasions at school to start talking about social-emotional learning. What’s more, if you include it on a daily and recurrent basis, students will perceive emotions and social-emotional education in a much more natural way.

It’s always a good idea to set aside time for more relaxed conversations in which they can express themselves freely. That way, some very interesting topics will emerge that will give you great ideas for future classes. Often we don’t need to look any further to find a topic that fits our classes and resonates with our students. 

If you pay attention, you’re bound to get a few ideas. For example: is there an exam or other event coming up and do you notice your class is more nervous than usual? Maybe it’s a good time to address the topic of identifying and managing stress. And if you deal with it in a relaxed and fun way, you’ll help them calm those nerves and they’ll learn the tools to do it on their own too.

Try simple, visual resources that capture students’ attention, help them connect ideas, and motivate them to give their opinion. Resources such as mind or concept maps, lists, and interactive infographics are great; just check out this template:

Don’t be afraid to set aside part of the week to promote activities and dynamics aimed at social-emotional learning. Remember that every minute invested in developing students’ emotional skills will have a very positive impact on their academic performance and, more importantly, on their self-confidence and their relationship with the rest of the class and the school. 

So, tell us: what activities do you like for working on emotions in your classes? We’re all ears!

Ruth Martín
Ruth Martín
If you don’t get it wrong from time to time, it means you’re not learning enough
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