The 5 best social emotional learning apps for teachers

Social emotional learning (SEL) is a facet of learning that is difficult to assess and evaluate in students. Teachers must analyze student behavior and convert their observations into ratings and values on charts, which is complicated to say the least. It is also an ambitious task to try and reach children who have a social learning challenge in the hopes of helping them develop these crucial skills.

Luckily, these difficulties have caught the attention of some very innovative people, who have created digital tools that help develop and assess SEL.

Here are five great social emotional learning apps that you can use with your students to help them develop SEL skills:

1. SuperBetter

SuperbetterSuperBetter is a free mobile app that turns everyday actions into video game objectives. It encourages its players to set reasonable goals for themselves (stop smoking, be more active, overcome anxiety, etc.) and also to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Players can use “power-ups” (healthy actions like drinking water, taking a walk, or reaching out to a friend), do
“quests,” and battle “bad guys” (representing bad habits and emotional challenges) to achieve their goals. The app is self-regulated, self-paced, and accepts customization to fit your goals.

Teachers can suggest that their students use this app to help them plan homework, study, practice for an oral presentation to overcome anxiety, have healthy sleeping habits, maintain a positive attitude in class, or any other areas where they’re struggling or would like to develop better skills.

Pros:
It’s free
It lets players set their own goals
It uses video game progression and rewards to encourage healthy behavior

Cons:
The only accountability is to oneself, so success very much relies on one’s own determination
Not suitable for very young children because it requires players to have a good level of self-control

2. Middle School Confidential

msc_bannerMiddle School Confidential is a collection of digitally rendered graphic novels designed for children aged 8-14. It aims to help tweens and teenagers tackle their lack of self-confidence with an easy-to-navigate story.

The app explores many situations that are difficult for teens, especially in a school context, where self-confidence (or lack thereof) plays an important role in the outcome of social experiences. Bullying, positive self-image and social interactions, friendship, and critical thinking are all subjects that are explored and discussed in Middle School Confidential.

This is a good app for teachers who want to help their students develop good social skills and promote healthy classroom culture by using an interesting and interactive story.

Pros:
It’s reasonably priced
The app includes background noises that make each scene come alive
The player can send emails to the “characters” of the story to discuss and share their feelings

Cons:
Although it aptly discusses self-confidence and relationships, it doesn’t have a cooperative or teamwork aspect
While it focuses very much on children 8-14 years old, it may not appeal or be suitable for people outside of the target age group

3. The Social Express

SEThe Social Express is an educational curriculum designed to teach children and teenagers how to perceive emotions and handle social situations. It uses interactive animated videos that put its protagonists in many different scenarios, and the player is prompted to evaluate the emotions of the scene and decide what action the characters should do.

The characters are presented in social encounters inside and outside of school, where identifying and understanding their companions’ emotions and state of mind is beneficial to the resolution. In doing so, players are encouraged to adopt positive social behaviors and develop their social emotional intelligence.

This is a useful tool for teachers who are looking for a visual aid for teaching students about positive social interactions or for teachers who want to help special needs students develop emotional intelligence.

Pros:
It can be used individually as well as in groups
The animated videos show the results of both good and bad decisions

Cons:
The app focuses on teaching positive social behaviors to children with a social learning challenge, so players outside its target audience may not find it as useful

4. Smiling Mind

SMSmiling Mind is an Aussie-designed mobile app that aims to teach “mindfulness” to people of all ages through sessions of guided meditation of varying length. It contains a vast repertoire of programs aimed at different age groups (from ages 6-12, to teenagers, young adults, etc.) and different activities (school, daily commute, sport, relaxation, and more).

The app is easy to navigate, and you can begin a new program at any time. You can use the app for a minute, two, or 10 anytime during your day to have a break and refocus.

This app can be helpful for students who have difficulty concentrating in class, who experience outbursts of frustration and anger, or who just need a short boost of calming energy during the day. Teachers can also use the school programs to initiate their entire class to relaxation and guided meditation.

Pros:
It’s free
It takes mere seconds to set up and can be used for short “boosts” of mindfulness during the day
The programs for children and students are especially well done

Cons:
Its focus is mainly on self-improvement and healthy habits; only a small portion of its lessons tackle relationships

5. Classcraft

logoClasscraft is a classroom management tool that uses gamification to boost student engagement. One of its stronger aspects is its effect on class culture and student behavior: It encourages cooperation, communication, and other social emotional skills by rewarding these behaviors through its game aspects.

The program truly connects with children because it is built around an environment they know and are passionate about: video games. Unlike the other apps in this list, Classcraft is a much more in-depth management tool that also gamifies every aspect of the classroom to make it more engaging and fun — from quizzes and grades to exam review and teamwork.

This system is great for teachers who want to use gaming principles to develop collaboration, accountability, positive social interactions, and a healthy culture in their classroom.

Pros:
It is available to play for free, and it also has a Premium version that has even more features
It is an extremely versatile system for classroom management with many interactive tools
It is completely customizable to accommodate all subjects, grade levels, and students or teacher needs

Cons:
It requires a higher degree of involvement to make it work than it does for smaller apps
At the moment, Classcraft uses a fantasy theme, which some teachers might not care for

Photo credit: Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

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