Social and Emotional Learning in the Classroom: How Movement Changes Everything

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a key component to growing up, and something we ALL go through. SEL is the process of understanding how to manage emotions, cope with difficult times, socialize with others, achieve goals, make (and keep) healthy relationships, and become a responsible individual. These are critical to our development and occur as a child grows and interacts with their surroundings. As such, it’s imperative that we promote healthy habits that guide them!

SEL in schools

Since we know that this type of learning is built as a child grows, using it in schools is an excellent option to help develop these skills. Schools that implement this type of learning find that children or teens have higher academic performance and are more likely to graduate. Research from the Committee for Children shows that students were 42% less likely to be physically aggressive AND there was 20% less bullying reported. Why? Because children learn coping skills that can help them make decisions that are more sensitive of others and help them regulate their own emotions with more ease. Part of this process includes physical activity, which helps individuals learn to rid themselves of unwanted emotions and exert them elsewhere, such as through movement.

The SEL framework

The social and emotional learning concept is founded on five different key components. They are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills. Self-awareness and self-management help an individual become an expert in how they are feeling, and how to appropriately manage those feelings. For instance, learning how to decompress after a long school day. Social awareness and relationships skills focus on communicating effectively with others and adapting to social situations, like showing compassion for others during a difficult time. Lastly, responsible decision-making helps children identify consequences and develop critical thinking skills.

Movement and cognition

Many physical activities teach more than just how to move. Sports or physical education classes also teach team-building exercises, such as how to work together and be aware of your surroundings. Even during younger years, children learn how to listen to instructions through games like ‘Simon Says’. This is supported by scientific data that confirms exercise elevates our neurotransmitters, increases oxygen flow to our brains, and elevates our neurotrophins, which are responsible for memory and learning. 


Teachers and school districts can implement SEL programs in their classrooms by working on the skills highlighted in the foundational components, through ideas such as goal setting or mindfulness.  You can also look at bringing in guests that are trained in movement and learning. Brave Yoga for All is a great example and even can be done virtually. Movement is adapted to the class and any disabilities, which can be an excellent option for those wanting to expel the boundless energy teens and kids have while teaching them critical skills. This will demonstrate skills that can benefit them long-term and increase their likelihood to be successful, both in school and post-graduation. Start by booking your free consultation here!