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5 Approaches to Enhance Emotional Intelligence in Your Students

emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is incredibly important to child development and future success. Beyond academic achievements, emotional intelligence gives students truly valuable skills. Daniel Goleman, author of the bestselling book “Emotional Intelligence,” wrote, “There is an old-fashioned word for the body of skills that emotional intelligence represents: character.” When you bring these techniques into your classroom, you are helping kids build their character—and that’s something that will stay with them forever. 

We’ll walk you through five approaches you can use to empower your students to navigate challenges, develop positive relationships, and thrive this semester. And with every approach, we’ll give you examples and activity ideas you can add to your lesson plans right now. 

Approach 1: Self-Awareness Activities

Self-awareness involves understanding one’s own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. To enhance self-awareness in students, create an environment that encourages introspection and reflection. By promoting self-awareness, students can better understand their strengths, weaknesses, and motivations, paving the way for personal growth. Teachers can facilitate this process with activities like these:

  • Journaling

  • Self-assessment exercises

  • Open discussions

  • Emotional check-ins

  • Research potential careers

  • Write a fake eulogy or letter to yourself

  • Personal Questionnaires 

  • Body language exercises

Approach 2: Empathy and Compassion Through Reading

Empathy and compassion are key components of emotional intelligence. Empathy allows students to understand and share the feelings of others, while compassion drives them to take action and provide support. Educators can foster empathy and compassion by incorporating activities that encourage perspective-taking, active listening, and engaging in community service projects. 

By developing these qualities, students learn to relate to others, build meaningful connections, and contribute positively to their communities. Here are 5 chapter books you can include in your curriculum to help build empathy and compassion:

  1. Wonder by R. J. Palacio

  2. Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson

  3. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

  4. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

  5. The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Approach 3: Practicing Effective Communication

Effective communication involves expressing oneself clearly, listening actively, and understanding non-verbal cues. Educators can promote effective communication by incorporating active listening, conflict resolution, and assertiveness training. 

By honing communication skills, students can effectively express emotions and needs, build stronger relationships, and navigate interpersonal conflicts. Here are a few activities you can add to your lesson plans to help teach this:

  • Storytelling

  • Simon says

  • Charades

  • Practice crucial conversations

  • Guessing emotions

  • Set up imaginative play activities

Approach 4: Creating a Stress Management Plan

Emotional regulation is the ability to understand and manage one’s emotions. Educators can support emotional regulation by teaching stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness practices, and emotional expression through art and writing. Students can handle stress, frustration, and conflicts healthily and constructively. Here are five ways you can assist your class with stress management:

  1. Have students write down the MITs (most important things) 

  2. Take stress breaks

  3. Social media break challenges 

  4. Leave time to share hobbies and interests

  5. Do project planning activities for larger projects

Approach 5: Building Coping Strategies

Resilience is a critical component of emotional intelligence. It enables students to bounce back from setbacks, adapt to change, and persevere in facing challenges. Educators can foster resilience by providing a supportive and nurturing environment, encouraging a growth mindset, and teaching problem-solving skills. 

Additionally, promoting self-care practices and teaching healthy coping strategies, such as time management and seeking support, equips students with the tools to overcome adversity and thrive.

  • Write a personal coping plan

  • Class meditation

  • Emotionally-based artwork

  • Morning yoga

  • Positive affirmations

  • Sensory grounding exercises

Combining Your Approaches

Emotional intelligence in students is a transformative process. It gives students essential life skills. As educators, we can create a positive and nurturing learning environment by combining approaches like self-awareness, empathy and compassion, effective communication, emotional regulation, and resilience. 

But you don’t have to use all of these approaches at once. Pick one or two areas that you think your class could benefit from the most. Or you can let them decide what types of activities they would enjoy working on. Why not equip your students with the emotional intelligence they need to navigate life, foster meaningful relationships, and achieve their full potential? Start implementing these approaches this school year and see what a difference it makes. 

Written by Rachel Jones
Education World Contributor
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