Website review by Ericka D, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2019

Emotional ABCs Classroom

Strong learning approach to mastering SEL competencies

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K–4 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Character & SEL

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Pros: Well-organized and structured pedagogy for learning the first social and emotional competencies.

Cons: Some activities feel a bit unrelated to the content, and it's unclear if the program should be for whole-group instruction or independent practice.

Bottom Line: Excellent program for teaching young kids emotion identification, regulation, and social relationships.

Teachers can use Emotional ABCs Classroom as part of a social studies or wellness lesson, or even during morning work time as students are coming into the classroom. Because the lessons can be "print and go," they require little prep and can be implemented in a day's time. Consider using one of these lessons for a substitute teacher and include the printable lesson layout in sub plans. It may also be beneficial to combine a grade level with small class sizes to play the instructional video and then have students practice independently. Since each student creates their own avatar, 1-to-1 devices may be beneficial, but if you don't have those, let students trade off and partner up. Any way you choose to use this program will benefit your students.

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Emotional ABCs Classroom is an online-based social and emotional learning (SEL) program. It begins by asking students to choose an avatar and password and begin the first lesson in Unit 1. The Emotional ABCs program has 10 units, each with several lessons. The lessons typically begin with a teachable video clip that introduces context and a skill. As students progress through the lesson, a meter tracks their progress. Students can also earn prizes along the way and unlock games or extra activities.

Units 1 through 4 focus on the building blocks of social and emotional competencies and highlight emotion identification in self and others. Unit 5 begins by teaching students the tool of breathing to calm strong feelings. Units 6 through 7 teach and reinforce the Toolbar (a concept related to "play, pause, rewind"), which allows students to better manage their emotions. Finally, the end units include a "playbook" that helps demonstrate choices students could make during emotionally charged situations.

The structure and pedagogical approach to Emotional ABCs Classroom is excellent. Teachers familiar with the scaffolded approach to learning emotions will be familiar with social and emotional competencies from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Based on these SEL competencies, students must first master emotion identification and awareness before moving on to self-regulation and later social relationships. All of these skills layer on top of each other to provide an incredible foundation for children as they expand their social-emotional knowledge. Not only does the site provide stories and examples for students to learn, but it also provides visuals of body language, audio clips of vocal tone, and more for students to begin recognizing the nuances of social interaction with self and others. Additionally, the way the program normalizes emotions as part of daily, natural life feels empowering to students who experience a range of emotions.

Emotional ABCs provides a robust scope and sequence with extension activities and lesson plans for teachers. The best part is that these lessons can be "pick up and go" or more nuanced, depending on the educator's preference. However, because the program switches from analogies like weather to then "plays" from a sports lens, the conceptual framework can be a bit hard to follow. And some of the extra activities feel a bit unrelated to learning (e.g., puzzles, coloring sheets, etc.). But it's hard to fault such a robust and excellent program for providing brain breaks for students.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Creating their own avatar and password immediately fascinates students and is developmentally appropriate, much like the rest of the content. Students will learn without even realizing it.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

The sequence of the program truly teaches social and emotional competencies in a captivating way. Some activities may feel a bit unrelated to content (e.g., coloring sheets), but most incorporate a strong learning approach.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Help is built into the program with hints, question marks, and tutorials. Content is presented with a multi-modal approach, making learning accessible for all.

Common Sense reviewer
Ericka D Counselor, psychologist, or social worker

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