• Sebastian Giraldo

Developing Contextually Relevant SEL Activities for Northeast Nigerian Classrooms

By Tara Stafford Ocansey.

A key component of the SENSE Activity is to improve social emotional competencies among pupils and their teachers, as well as improve psychosocial well-being among pupils, their teachers, and communities. During the SENSE activity Rapid Assessment in 2019, 57% of teachers reported having children in their class who have experienced loss, and 49% of teachers reported having children in their class who have experienced some sort of trauma or violence. When teachers are effective, they can help buffer against potential long-term damage of exposure to stress and adversity among their pupils by offering reliable day-to-day routines in a safe environment that can help learners feel hope.[1]

Even as Gombe and Adamawa have emerged from the worst of the Boko Haram conflict, children are still exposed to co-occurring risk factors, such as poverty and parents with low levels of education, that have been shown to be predictors of unfavorable outcomes.[2]These risk factors combined with residual trauma from prior exposure to conflict and crisis create a cumulative risk for children that must be addressed by efforts to promote their psychosocial well-being and equip them with social emotional skills if they are expected to succeed in school and in life. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has emerged as an effective process for cultivating the necessary skillsi, attitudes, competencies and knowledge to learn and build their resilience, well-being and success, and can therefore be viewed as a foundational component of a robust psychosocial support ecosystem. Research shows that SEL is most effective when integrated into routine education practices, with explicit learning goals pursued through sequenced, active approaches, and that these approaches can improve academic performance.[3]

Teachers learn how to facilitate the “Elephant Trunk” SEL Activity for teaching teamwork skills while reinforcing core content knowledge, October 2019.

Among children in the SENSE activity LGAs, 30% of teachers reported in the SENSE activity Rapid Assessment that they believe their students lacked confidence in their abilities to succeed in school. This project therefore aims to weave SEL and PSS into teacher training practices, school monitoring, classroom practice and the teaching of literacy in order promote the necessary foundation of psychosocial well-being and confidence among both teachers and pupils that enables effective teaching and learning.

In the early phase of the project, the CSD team conducted a review of relevant SEL models, followed by a facilitated group design process, which involved key education stakeholders from Adamawa and Gombe, to decide on key competency areas and skills most critical for pupils in northeast Nigeria, as discussed in our earlier blog here. The draft Teachers’ SEL Activity Guide that was developed following this framework development process considered the kinds of common teaching practices reported by teachers during the Rapid Assessment conducted at the start of the activity.

Among the teacher respondents to the Rapid Assessment, 87% reported doing storytelling in their classrooms. When asked about teaching of various SEL concepts, 61% reported teaching lessons on how to deal with conflict, 58% on teaching self-confidence, and 56% on teaching lessons about caring for others from different backgrounds. When asked to give examples of the kinds of materials or activities they used to discuss the examples of SEL topics presented in the assessment, a majority of teachers referred to the curriculum. For example on the question about content address conflict resolution 45% of teachers referred to the social studies curriculum, 6% to civics curriculum, 3% to English, 2% to math, and 1% health and physical education. For each SEL content area, significant portions of surveyed teachers referred to more specific activities, such as storytelling (up to 21%), advice and counseling (up to 15%), dramas/role-playing/songs (up to 4%), and art and drawing activities (up to 3%).

With the aims of building on lessons learned from other projects in the region and designing an approach that is rooted in contextually familiar teaching and learning activities, the Teachers’ SEL Activity Guide includes both standalone SEL activities, such as songs, mindfulness activities, and brain building games, as well as integrated SEL activities that can support learning in reading and other subjects while also building SEL competencies. Integrated SEL activities include SEL-infused versions of activities frequently cited by teachers in the Rapid Assessment, such as storytelling discussion using SEL stories and role-play, which have been adapted to align to the RANA and Mu Karanta literacy materials being used in the activity.

The latest version of the Teachers’ SEL Activity Guide can be found here, including the activities outlined above, as well as tips for infusing SEL principles in classroom management. The guide will continually be improved as implementation sheds more light on which activities seem to be best suited to teachers’ and learners’ needs and capacities.


[1] Masten, A. (2006). Promoting resilience in development: A general framework for systems of care. Promoting Resilience in Child Welfare. University of Ottawa Press. [2] Durlak, J. A., R. P. Weissberg, A. B. Dymnicki, R. D. Taylor,. and K.B. Schellinger. 2011. The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82, no 1, 405–432.

[3] INEE. 2016. INEE background paper on psychosocial support and social and emotional learning for children & youth in emergency settings. New York: INEE. Retrieved from; Shonkoff, Jack P. and Andrew S. Garner. 2012. “The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress.” Pediatrics 129, no 1, e232-e246. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-2663

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