BLOGS  >  MAY 2, 2019

Picture Books and Social and Emotional Learning in the Classroom


To me, social and emotional learning (SEL) is just as important as any other subject in school. For a long time, when I thought about SEL, my brain would go to the primary school grades. I now see that teaching SEL in fourth or fifth grade is just as important as it would be in a first or second grade classroom.

First things first, what is SEL? SEL is the process when both children and adults recognize and manage emotions, set and accomplish positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and uphold affirmative relationships, and make responsible decisions.

In my classroom, I strive to create a learning environment where my students feel safe, proud, understood and respected. This has always been incredibly important to me. Each day, we start off with a class meeting. This is a chance for my students to open up about something new and exciting, something that their family did or something that they are struggling with.
This is a chance for my students to ask their peers for advice and to see things from someone else’s perspective. There is a very warm and welcoming feeling in my classroom. My students respect one another, they have learned how to have a proper conversation, and they are there for one another. I feel that this is because of our daily meetings.

This year, we added picture books to our morning meetings a couple of days a week. I looped with this class, so we are together for the second year in a row. They came into fifth grade with the experience of morning meetings and with a common connection between them all.

I have really enjoyed using picture books to teach SEL this year because it puts things into different perspectives for the students. I try to pick books that I know reflect some of the things my students are going through. This way, they can hear the book’s solution, as well as their classmates’ solutions, without feeling like they are being put on the spot. I know that at times, it can be hard to ask for advice, especially when you really need it.

There are so many wonderful picture books and resources to help you get started on your SEL journey. It is hard to pick just one favorite, so here are my two favorites that we have read so far this year.

First is Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. In this book, we meet Chloe, who is not very kind to the new student in her class. She makes fun of the way this student looks and dresses, and Chloe refuses to play with her. When Chloe’s teacher teaches a lesson about kindness, Chloe realizes how horrible she has been to her new classmate, but by the time she realizes this, it may be too late.

The second is Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña. In this story, a young boy rides the bus across town every day with his grandma. Through the story, he teaches us the importance of noticing the beauty of everyday life.

I encourage you to try to teach students SEL skills in your classroom through the use of picture books. My advice is to start slow. Maybe set a goal to do one skill a week. I promise you will love this and want to do more.

Fourth/Fifth Grade Looping Teacher, McHenry IL
Carly Accomando is a fourth/fifth grade looping teacher at Duker School in McHenry, IL. It's her fourth year teaching, and this is her second year at Duker School. Previously, she taught first and second grade at a charter school. Says Carly, "Teaching is my greatest passion in life! I feel very fortunate to say that I truly love what I do. Each day is a new adventure." In her free time, Carly enjoys reading, baking and shopping. She also loves spending time with her family, boyfriend and their three dogs.

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