For years, afterschool program leaders and staff have seen firsthand the powerful impact of social-emotional learning (SEL). By incorporating SEL into the program, students learn to manage emotions, make good decisions, develop good relationships and avoid negative behaviors.

However, a new, groundbreaking study provided evidence that teaching social-emotional skills to at-risk students after school has a direct impact on academic performance and classroom behavior. The study evaluated over 350 kindergarten and first-grade students at four different sites. It found that students who participated in the WINGS for Kids afterschool SEL program for two years showed improved social and emotional skills, executive function, and reading skills when compared to their non-WINGS peers. Classroom teachers even reported that WING participants displayed significant effects in the following areas:

  • Self-awareness
  • Less bullying
  • Letter-word identification
  • Decision-making
  • Less conflict with teachers

As the first study of its kind, this research substantiated what afterschool leaders and advocates have known for years. SEL in afterschool can translate to academic achievement and improved behavior in the classroom.

5 Digital Tools to Bring SEL into Afterschool

While the benefits of teaching social-emotional skills in afterschool are clear, doing so may be challenging for some programs. Maybe there isn’t enough budget for a SEL curriculum or your staff lacks the knowledge or skills to properly teach these essential skills. There are practical yet effective ways to sneak in SEL in afterschool[1] , and one way is through digital learning tools.

Below are a few digital tools and apps that you can use to foster social-emotional health in afterschool settings. With access to a computer, tablet or mobile device, students can begin experiencing the benefits of SEL in no time.

1. Empatico

With Empatico, you don’t need an extensive budget or a highly skilled staff to incorporate SEL into your program. This free tool is designed to help 6-11 year old youth build empathy by connecting with others from cultures and communities that are very different from their own. The goal is for them to find common ground through meaningful conversations that spark curiosity, kindness, and empathy. Using Empatico’s platform can support your efforts to foster key social-emotional skills in your students.

Learn more about Social-Emotional Learning Activities for After-School and Summer Programs

2. The Social Express

Social competence is a key aspect of SEL, and it’s essential for getting along with others as well as forming and maintaining close relationships. The Social Express program allows users to interactively work through real-life situations to gain foundational social skills. Through 81 webisodes, your students can help Zack, Emma, Sam and Katie solve social problems while learning important skills such as attentive listening, conflict resolution, group participation and many more. The program also offers both online and offline activities - helping students develop and apply their social-emotional skills at home and in the learning environment.

3. KidConnect

Promoting SEL includes teaching students how to manage their emotions and behavior. That’s where KidConnect can help. The tool teaches students in the moment of an incident to regulate their emotions, modify their behavior and be prepared to learn. It also helps kids connect their emotions to a particular behavior, teaching them new strategies to use when they’re in similar situations. By allowing students to self-reflect using KidConnect, you can help improve their emotional self-awareness, and thus, their ability to manage their emotions and behavior in school, at home and in life.

Check out The Behavioral Survival Guide for Kids for behavior management exercises and strategies

4. Love in a Big World (LBW)

If you’re looking for a practical approach to incorporating SEL into your program, Love in a Big World (LBW) is the answer. The program offers a comprehensive curriculum that covers 24 essential character traits with meaningful activities that support student development. The curriculum - which can be used in any learning environment - is designed for students between grades K-8 and provides explicit SEL instruction and supporting materials. These include a teacher guide, storybooks and student journals. With LBW, you can empower students to be socially competent, emotionally healthy problem-solvers who make a positive difference in the world.

5. SuperBetter

SuperBetter is an app that makes self-improvement like playing a video game. It allows users to achieve personal goals by turning daily chores and responsibilities into quests and missions. Users are awarded points, levels and achievements for doing things like drinking more water, resisting nail-biting or even watching less TV. It helps build resilience, self-awareness and self-control in children 8 years old and older, and it’s an easy and fun way to bring SEL into your afterschool program.

It doesn’t take much to promote SEL in afterschool. With these digital tools, you can easily equip your students with the important skills they need to thrive socially and emotionally. For additional tips and strategies, check out our articles and insights on social-emotional learning in afterschool programs.