After school buildings were closed last month, a school counselor at Carlisle Elementary started making YouTube videos to help teach her students about social-emotional learning (SEL).
Marie Weller said when she was gathering the education materials she’d need to keep teaching students over the closure, she took something she wasn’t even sure she’d use — puppets.
“When we were notified that the schools would be closing, I grabbed some books and resources I typically use to plan lessons,” Weller said. “I pulled some books related to anxiety off the shelf, then at the last minute threw my puppets in my bag. I rarely use them, so I’m not sure why they even made the take-home list.”
Weller said her lessons help students manage their thoughts, emotions, and actions to fit the right social situation.
“Many of my lessons are based on social thinking concepts with a bit of educational neuroscience sprinkled in,” Weller said. “Social thinking is understanding how the social world works and adjusting your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to fit what is expected in different settings or situations. My lessons also include a lot of kid-friendly information on how their brains work.”
Weller said the lessons are critical for elementary school students.
“There is an enormous sense of power that comes with realizing that we can control our brains, and by extension, our feelings and actions,” Weller said. “Rather than feeling overwhelmed with a big emotion, a kid can identify the part of the brain that is reacting and can use strategies to regulate the emotion. And we’ve all been coping with big emotions lately, with more or less success depending on the day.”
Weller said she struggled at first with providing SEL lessons to her students in an online environment.
“For me, the transition from in-person to online teaching felt awkward,” she said. “I love creating lessons that engage kids. I like to incorporate activities, games, and demonstrations into my SEL lessons to make the learning stick. As I was trying to come up with a way to duplicate (or at least mimic) what I do in the classroom, I decided to try teaching an actual SEL lesson from my kitchen.”
Weller began making weekly videos for her students in her kitchen using the puppets and other props. So far she has covered “Using Your Social Filter,” the fight/flight/freeze responses, and “Teaching and Taming Your Brain,” which focused on teaching students to focus and stay calm.
“I began with ‘Using Your Social Filter,’ a topic that I had previously taught in the classroom,” Weller said. “Typically, I interact with the students during the lesson, which is how the puppets found their way into my lessons. I am not a puppeteer, but instead use the puppets to demonstrate or to personalize specific examples.”
Weller has made three videos so far and plans to make more. She said she didn’t expect such a big reception to them.
“When I finished the first video, I sent it to a handful of family members and close friends,” she said. “My daughter, who works with young dancers in Milwaukee, asked if she could share it with parents. The social media response was encouraging, so with my daughter’s encouragement, I decided to post my lessons on YouTube for anyone who wants to use them.”
Weller said her alma mater, Ball State University, even reached out and wrote an article about her lessons.
“I never expected this kind of attention for couple of SEL lessons,” she said. “But I do love that people are finding some value in my creativity.”
Ashley Simon, a social skills specialist at Carlisle, said the videos and the lessons they teach are important for students.
“I believe the lessons are vital to the social and emotional learning of students,” Simon said. “The video curriculum is an exciting way to engage students and helps make learning the skills fun. Having students learn self-regulation skills can help them in the classroom and in their everyday lives to manage various stressors and frustrations they may face.”
Weller said the lessons are not just for students and can be used by anyone to help deal with their emotions.
“Social thinking and emotional regulation are important things to learn whether you are 5 or 55,” Weller said. “So that’s been the jumping off point for ‘Little Life Lessons from Mrs. Weller’s Kitchen.’”
Weller’s videos can be found by searching for the Marie Weller YouTube channel or at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBw4sDEb3GAcXIxdrr4GzeA.