Are you a new teacher, a veteran educator or perhaps a seasoned school leader looking to implement new practices to help deepen students’ preparation for their futures? Introducing social and emotional learning (SEL) as a classroom, or better yet, a schoolwide practice is one way to support students in furthering their development.
SEL is the process through which students learn and then apply skills to understand and manage emotions, set goals, foster positive relationships and practice making good decisions. A strong SEL implementation will help students develop their skills with targeted instruction and structured supports. Efforts to support SEL skills with students happen in conjunction with academic support. SEL programs are grounded in 5 interrelated competencies that impact relationship and achievement, as identified by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). These specific SEL skills are important for student growth and academic success.
5 Key Competencies of SEL
A child’s realistic understanding of her/his strengths and limitations and consistent desire for improvement.
A child’s success in controlling his or her emotions and behaviors, to complete a task or success in a new or challenging situation.
A child’s consistent performance of socially acceptable actions that promote and maintain positive connections with others.
A child’s capacity to interact with others in a way that shows response for their ideas and behaviors, recognizes her/his impact on them and uses cooperation and tolerance in social situations.
Responsible Decision Making
A child’s approach to problem solving that involves learning from others and her/his own previous experiences, using her/his values to guide her/his action, and accepting responsibility for her/his decisions.
SEL in the Classroom
Implementing SEL in the classroom is a way to provide student-centered support. Once the decision is made to implement SEL in the classroom it can easily be implemented into instruction and class norms. Below you will find some steps toward implementing SEL in your classroom.
Establish a Team
As with any school effort, it’s stronger when done collaboratively. Whether you have a schoolwide team or a few teachers from your grade level partnering, having multiple perspectives when making decisions is powerful. It also models social awareness.
Set goals for your SEL effort that align to the schoolwide behavior expectations. Specific metrics will help you know if your effort has paid off and will guide continuous improvement.
- Example SEL Schoolwide Goal: During the first grading period, our school will increase by 50% the number of times staff acknowledge positive peer-to-peer interactions.
Define a Feedback & Data Collection Process
Determine how you will gather evidence to measure your goals. Some questions your team should clarify:
- What evidence do you need to collect that will help you attain your goals?
- Will you use a shared tally sheet or a behavior data collection system?
- What common strategies will you use to give students feedback on competencies when they’re demonstrated?
Ultimately, you’ll want to communicate and build excitement with the students to build synergy around your SEL goal.
Design an SEL Instructional Process:
Define for yourselves what SEL instruction will look like. You should determine which competencies to focus on and whether you will follow a written curriculum or make up your own instructional SEL plans. You will also want to make scheduling decisions–how frequently will you provide direct SEL instruction, how much time can you allow, and how will you integrate the learning in your day-to-day.
Light a fire with your colleagues! You can either begin with a small pilot to prove how powerful an SEL model can be or offer a professional development session for the whole school to roll out your plan. You should also plan to offer smaller doses of SEL collaborative learning in the way of observing, modeling, and peer check-ins. Remember to model optimism and encouragement as you help prepare each teacher to implement the SEL plan.
Students should be given opportunities to practice SEL skills throughout the day. This is important so they can apply what they learn and receive feedback. See below for some ways to allow students to practice.
Incorporate time to review efforts and the data you’ve collected with your SEL team and school leaders. Be open to feedback and what the data is suggesting. Slight modifications in your SEL practices when necessary will lead to better outcomes for student social-emotional well being. Implement the program. Be sure to also celebrate successes with students and staff!
Once you have established an action plan to incorporate SEL into the classroom, the next step is to put it into action. If you are thinking about ideas to support SEL daily, here are some examples of how to implement these ideas.
5 Fun SEL Tips:
Start the day with a check-in
I used feeling charts that encourage students to verbalize how they were starting their day.
Let students monitor their own progress
As an elementary teacher I would provide weekly charts for the students to check their success through the week. This really encouraged them to practice self-awareness.
Identify a calming corner
This was a space in my classroom that was comfy and inviting that students could visit when they were feeling overwhelmed or worked up. They could use this space to self-regulate.
During my lesson I would always incorporate an activity that students could do in pairs or small groups. This allowed them to practice building relationships with each other.
End the day with a check-out
Use a few minutes at the end of the day for students to reflect on their days. Perhaps, they can share positive feedback with others or identify if they met their own goals.
Implementing SEL programs in the classroom benefits students in so many ways. Teachers will see an increase in SEL skill development and evidence of positive attitudes, behaviors and relationship building. Stronger SEL skills will most assuredly lead to the academic growth all students deserve.