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Sample Lessons for Centering Social Media in Our SEL Conversations

By Jeff Utecht and Tricia Friedman
Sample Lessons for Centering Social Media in Our SEL Conversations

(Photo source: Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash)

When we talk about social and emotional learning (SEL) with our students, when we engage in reflection, understanding, and self-awareness, we must include the topic of social media. If our SEL lessons from early childhood through senior high school do not include conversations about how social media and media literacy play into our feeling of self-worth, self-understanding, and the larger world around us, then are we actually preparing our students for their future and not our past?

In the most recent survey from the Pew Research Center on Teens and Technology, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat are the top-used social media platforms by teens today. It is also these exact tools where teens and children of all ages are being targeted with advertisements about who they should be and how they should think. According to this same report, 95% of all teens have access to and are accessing these social media sites via a cell phone. The one piece of technology education is still debating, should it belong in the classroom or not? When we talk about SEL with students we must include the devices and accounts they use the most, that impact them the most, and where, according to the research, they spend their most time while connected.

That is why media literacy, information literacy, and digital citizenship are not stand-alone lessons to be taught in technology classes or only while devices are out, but rather are foundational literacies that must be taught, practiced, reflected on, and realized as essential in all the work we do with students.

So where do we begin? We begin by finding ways to bring our conversations about SEL into lessons we are already teaching:

  • Social Studies: Look at the influence of media on our lives and how it ties to our historical perspective of the human condition.
  • Science: Create lab reports in the genre of a TikTok video or create a YouTube inspired song about lab safety, parts of a microscope, or explaining Mitosis.

By engaging students with the media they use and consume, we then start to create meaningful connections and conversations with them around how this media impacts them both socially and emotionally.

Resources that extend this thinking:

Our Media Literacy Routines (free guide)

Our community toolkit template (free to copy)

Link to our conversation with Tyler Rablin on mobile phones in the classroom (episode here)

Jeff Utecht is an educational consultant, author, and podcaster with over twenty years of experience as an elementary classroom teacher, technology coach, and consultant. Jeff is the founder of and the Shifting Schools Podcast.
Twitter: @jutecht

 Tricia Friedman is an educator with over a decade of experience in the classroom, five years of experience as a digital literacy coach, and five years as a consultant. Tricia is the creative content director with Shifting and founder of
Twitter: @tricia_fried


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