SEL skills with English learners

In the diverse landscape of classrooms today, educators are faced with the challenge of not only teaching academic content but also fostering the social and emotional learning (SEL) of their students. This task becomes even more complex when working with English learners in grades 2-12 with varied levels of language proficiency. 

In this blog post, we will explore the importance of building SEL skills with English learners and how Listenwise podcast and video lessons can serve as powerful tools in cultivating these essential skills.

Reasons to Address SEL Core Competencies of SEL With English Learners

SEL skills with English learners

The CASEL Framework identifies five SEL core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, responsible decision-making, and social awareness. 

Within those competencies, three emerge as areas of specific interest for English learners: social awareness, self-management, and relationship skills. Let’s further explore specific areas of these five core competencies that particularly apply to English learners.

Social Awareness

Language acquisition goes beyond grammar and vocabulary; it also involves effective communication. SEL skills such as taking others’ perspectives, demonstrating empathy and compassion, and identifying diverse social norms are vital for English learners to succeed academically and socially.


Learning a new language can be a challenging and emotional process. Building SEL skills with English learners equips students with the tools to regulate their emotions, manage stress, and develop courage, creating a safe environment for language acquisition.

Relationship Skills

English learners come from diverse cultural backgrounds, and understanding and respecting these differences is crucial to fostering an inclusive classroom community. Building SEL skills with English learners helps students develop the capacity for effective communication, teamwork, leadership, and positive relationships.

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Listenwise: A Different SEL Teaching Tool for English Learners

Podcast and video lessons are valuable tools for teaching SEL skills to English learners for many reasons. 

Here are three ways that Listenwise can be used to enrich lessons with social-emotional learning as it relates to our three areas of interest for English learners: social awareness, self-management, and relationship skills.

Engaging Podcasts for Language Development

Listenwise offers a wide array of podcasts that cater to different proficiency levels. These engaging audio resources expose students to authentic language use, diverse accents, and various topics, enhancing their listening and comprehension skills and developing self-management and self-awareness.

If you are looking for content that features authentic speech and diverse accents, try these Listenwise ELD podcast and video lessons:

Self-Management: Graphic Novel “New Kid” by Jerry Craft (ELD)

This podcast and video lesson explores the complicated emotions surrounding being the new kid, like excitement, anxiety, fear, or a sense of being overwhelmed. Additionally, the audio includes multiple voices with different accents, including several children. Listening to the podcast provides students with an opportunity to consider content relevant to their experiences while they practice listening to authentic speech.

Relationship Skills: Connecting Through Art at the Border (ELD)

Students with family connections to the Mexican border will find this podcast and video lesson particularly resonant. This story discusses an interactive art installation on the U.S.-Mexico border that allows exhibit visitors on both sides of the border to chat, sing, and even celebrate birthdays together. The voices in this podcast include several Spanish speakers as well as accented English speakers that will be familiar to students who live close to the border.

Promoting Active Listening and Discussion 

The interactive nature of Listenwise lessons encourages active listening. After listening to a podcast, students can engage in discussions, share their opinions, and practice expressing themselves in English. This improves language proficiency and enhances SEL skills related to self-awareness, social awareness, and self-management.

If you are looking for content that promotes classroom conversation, try these Listenwise ELD podcast and video lessons:

Relationship Skills: A Place at the Table (ELD)

Points of connections and discussion:

  • Do you have a special meal that you like to share with your family? Who makes it, and what makes it special to you?
  • Do you like eating food from other cultures? Which are your favorites?
  • Why do you think food is such an important part of culture?
Social Awareness: How Snow is Made (ELD)

Points of connection and discussion:

  • Have you ever lived somewhere where it snows? What was that like?
  • If you’ve moved from somewhere where it doesn’t snow to somewhere where it does snow, what was that like?
  • How would you describe snow to someone who has never seen it before?
Self-Management: Garbage in the Sea (ELD)

Points of connection and discussion:

  • Do you think single-use plastics should be banned? Why or why not?
  • What can you do in your home, school, and community to help reduce plastic trash?
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Cultural Relevance in Content

Listenwise provides content that reflects the cultural diversity of English learners. This cultural relevance aids in building a connection between students’ experiences and the content they are learning, fostering a sense of belonging and promoting SEL competencies such as social awareness, self-awareness, and self-management.

If you are looking for content to celebrate the cultural diversity of your classroom, try these Listenwise ELD podcast and video lessons:

Social Awareness: Picking Watercress and Other Family Stories (ELD)

Listen to hear about an author and illustrator who, as children, felt embarrassed by their immigrant family members, and learn how their perspectives about these memories have changed over time.

Self-Management: Cliffhangers: A Girl Who Looks Like Me (ELD)

Fiction writing begins with a story idea. In this audio story, the idea comes from a young Arab-American girl who enjoys mysteries. She works with an adult Arab-American writer to develop her original story idea into the first draft of a cliffhanger.

Social Awareness: Immigrant Experience (ELD)

In this audio story, Somali refugee Barwaqo Mohamed talks about her immigrant experience with a journalist who volunteered to tutor her in English for over four years. Barwaqo describes herself as a natural at learning languages and that helped her fit in. Listen to the interview to learn how that skill has served her since she came to the U.S.

Real-Life Success Stories

This year the two Listenwise lessons that I’ve been super popular with my students are “Mexican American Comic Book Hero Saves Lives” and “Why We’re Not So Great at Recycling.” They really enjoyed that lesson because they have gone with their parents to recycling centers so they knew exactly what the story was describing and explaining to them. We ended up spending two days on that one because they just had so much to discuss and they just wanted to keep having conversations. We talked about what they recycle and things that they’ve thrown in the recycling bin they probably should not have been there. Now they know more, so it was just a fun topic for them!

– ELD teacher, Vista USD, California

Listenwise is a great tool for Emergent Bilinguals. Listenwise exposes them to multiple perspectives and allows them to make connections from the text to the narrators, intonation, rhythm, and tone.

– ELD teacher, Lake Dallas ISD, Texas

One of the benefits of Listenwise is that a lot of the audio are conversations or interviews, so students get to hear how to initiate a conversation — how to ask a follow-up question, how to just continue to add on to the conversation and really get into the richness of language. The speakers within the Listenwise audio continue to ask follow-up questions, and just with that transcript as an additional piece that supports the language, then students can see how two people interact with each other and how they continue to build a conversation.

EL Coordinator, Palm Springs USD, California

Building SEL skills with English learners not only complements language acquisition but also equips students with essential life skills. Listenwise can be a valuable partner in this journey with our rich library of podcasts and video lessons on various subjects that complement SEL goals. 

Learn more about how Listenwise can help your English learners meet listening and speaking standards and support the development of writing skills.

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