Social-Emotional Learning through Films

Did you know…

  • That social-emotional learning (SEL) improves student behavior and affects their outcomes later in life?
  • That students recognize and understand the same social and emotional themes in iconic scenes from their favorite films?

What exactly IS Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)?

SEL is “the process in which children and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes to…”

  • Develop healthy identities.
  • Manage feelings and sensations.
  • Accomplish personal and collective objectives.
  • Experience and express empathy.
  • Establish and maintain supportive relations.
  • Make responsible and considerate decisions.

It can be challenging to teach and learn. But SEL also does not just come from simply watching a movie. Instead, it steams from reflection and thought-provoking discussions that occur and develop during or after watching others and applying them toward real-world applications.

Out of the Textbooks and onto the Big Screen

Numerous SEL concepts can be complex for a student to grasp. Films can bring these concepts to life by presenting them authentically rather than simply reading from a text or being verbally directed. Dealing with conflict, identifying emotions, and demonstrating social awareness are prevalent in just about every movie. By making SEL tangible through relevant and realistic film scenes, educators…

  • Improve understanding using visual examples.
  • Capture student interest and retains their attention.
  • Create a comfortable environment for discussion.

Films possess the ability to foster knowledge, skills, and attitudes across five areas of competence:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Social Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Responsible Decision-Making
  • Relationship Skills

And multiple key settings that establish equitable learning environments that advance students’ learning and development.

Such as…

The characters Joy and Sadness gazing at a golden orb known to be one of Riley's Core Memories. Film example that promotes SEL concepts  and student behavior and affects their outcomes later in life.
Joy and Sadness gazing at one of Riley’s Core Memories.

Disney Pixar’s animated film Inside Out personifies human emotions as living characters of the same name: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear. By analyzing the interaction between Joy and Sadness, students understand the value of empathy and that even negative emotions are valuable and significant in personal growth.

Warner Bros. Pictures’ 2000 film, Pay it Forward, is based loosely on Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel of the same name. The film chronicles the launch of a goodwill movement, “pay it forward”, by 11-year-old Trevor McKinney. It depicts the cause and effect of responsible or irresponsible decision-making of various individuals. Thus, providing examples to promote student engagement on moral and ethics, leading up to a climactic final scene ideal for such discussions.

A film poster of the main cast for the film, Pay it Forward. On it is written, "When someone does you a big favor, don't pay it back... pay it forward." Film example that promotes SEL concepts  and student behavior and affects their outcomes later in life.

Learning through cinematic aesthetics stimulates critical thinking. According to educators, videos are used…

  • To support lessons (96.6%).
  • In student homework (55%).
  • In the classroom weekly (38%) and daily (20%).

Download ClassHook’s white paper to learn more about the benefits of SEL instruction and how popular media can support students in acquiring the soft skills required to succeed in a rapidly developing world. In addition, ClassHook’s movie clips are searchable by CASEL’s Core SEL Competencies.

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