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Get Unruly with Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

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The Value of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) 

Kids of all ages and personalities naturally gravitate to playing games. Whether it is creating obstacle courses on the playground or building a magical fort in the living room, creativity and playfulness is something that we are born with. It is a way for kids to connect with each other, work collaboratively, create friendships, and have fun! Today, we call this social emotional learning (SEL).

What is SEL? 

SEL is the ability for kids to manage their emotions, set and achieve goals, feel and show empathy for others, and create strong relationships.

students playing games with unruly splats helps develop SEL skills

Why has SEL become such a hot topic? 

Setting students up for success in their life and career is the #1 priority for educators, so it's easy to lose sight of the importance of just letting kids be kids.

Educators have a limited amount of time in the school day to cover their curriculum and need to meet state standards and testing goals. While students are focused on individual projects and assignments, it doesn't leave a lot of time for play. A 2011 study done by CASEL called "Ready to Learn" suggests that students who receive quality SEL instruction have higher achievement scores than students who did not receive SEL instruction.

It might sound silly, but play is serious business! Being able to work in teams and communicate effectively is a key part of being a productive adult. This has led to a focus on how to incorporate social emotional learning (SEL) into school.

SEL in the Classroom

In an effort to incorporate SEL in the classroom, some schools are adopting SEL frameworks and introducing curriculum focused on helping kids manage their emotions and build relationships. One of the more common frameworks we’ve seen is the CASEL five, a comprehensive approach that identifies specific core competencies, namely self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. 

SEL framework from CASEL five
Source: Casel.org

While there are many different approaches to incorporating SEL in the classroom, one of the more popular approaches is integrating it with existing curriculum and culture in the classroom. One way to do this is by encouraging kids to work collaboratively in groups and having group discussions. The thought is that, by working in small groups, students will naturally learn to work as a team, manage their emotions, and come up with creative solutions. Regardless of what social emotional learning approach you decide to take, the goal is the same - to teach students to work together, learn empathy, and approach problem solving with confidence.

different SEL approaches
Source: Casel.org

An Unruly Approach to SEL  

At Unruly Studios, we combine active play with coding through our programmable, stomp-able floor buttons called Unruly Splats. Students code the rules that tell Splats when to light up and make sounds when they are stomped on to create their own active, recess-style games like whack-a-mole, relay races, and tag.

Splats encourage cooperative learning and SEL in the classroom by getting students to code and play games in small groups. When students take on different roles in groups, they feel a sense of ownership and build resilience, problem solving skills, and relationship skills. Crystal Jordan, a PE teacher from Virginia uses Splats in her PE class and says it has built up her students confidence and taught them how to work together as a team.

“The Splats offer an inclusive feeling to my class. I feel like no matter your athletic skill, you can try your best with Splats and it makes it fun as well.”

In the video below, her PE class helps a student find where the "mole" is in the game whack-a-mole.

Our teacher-tested lesson plans walk through how to manage a classroom for learning and fun with Splats. For example, in the Splats Memory Challenge lesson, students work in groups to create a classic game with a creative twist as they explore the use of functions, variables and conditional statements.

download lesson button in SEL blog

After coding the games in groups, students get to play the games they made as a class. This is not something that students often get to do during school time, and it gives them a chance to work together and enjoy the game they worked hard to build!  Some teachers even have a showcase at the end of a unit where students show their parents the games they build and invite their parents play them. When building a game for others in the class or parents, students are encouraged to use empathy as they consider what others will like. Michael Fricano, a K-6 computer science teacher says it gives his students a sense of empowerment to have other people play the games they built.

encourage SEL skills by playing games with unruly splats
Students in Michael Fricano's computer science class show their parents the game they made with Unruly Splats

“It’s great to see the ownership and the pride that students have in their work. Especially since they have the opportunity to show it to their parents and get their parents moving around. Kids have a lot of fun watching their parents play, knowing that it’s something they created.”

Inclusive STEAM Learning with Unruly Splats

Splats are uniquely designed to create a playful, inclusive learning environment to fit multiple learning styles. To understand more about our approach to learning, here are two webinars featuring classroom experts using Splats. 

  • How to Mix STEAM and Play: One key to teaching STEM subjects in elementary and middle school is to make it approachable, fun, and playful! In this webinar, you will hear from Jason Behrens, the Innovation Specialist at Somerville Public Schools, and how he combines STEM with play.
  • Create an Inclusive STEAM Classroom: As an educator, you want to help each and every student engage deeply with what they are learning. But you don’t have the time or resources to tailor every lesson for all learning needs. Explore how to make your classroom more inclusive to all different types of learners with varying interests and core strengths.

    Whether you are integrating specific framework for SEL in the classroom or helping your kids connect naturally through small groups and playing games - both are a big step towards improving the social connections and social skills in students. 

browse webinars button for webinars on sel and inclusiveness

Unruly Studios makers of Unruly Splats, programmable, stompable floor tiles that help kids learn fundamental coding skills through recess-style play. Best for elementary and middle school students from PE to science or coding class, a great addition to the classroom for active STEM coding and play!

Learn more about Unruly Splats: https://www.unrulysplats.com/
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