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  • Stacey Benz

What are Social Emotional Learning Strategies?

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

Just a few short months ago, Social Emotional Learning, also known as SEL, may have only been known by some educators, administrators, school boards and community members. And, while the coronavirus pandemic has impacted so many areas of education, one small positive has been the focus on social emotional learning for students and staff. Now more than ever, ensuring the social emotional health of students is a priority for all.

In the past, it was not uncommon for the expectation to be that students “just know” how to make decisions and how to behave in school. This has changed, and experts agree that it is essential to not only teach academics to all students, but also to teach social emotional skills during their school years.

CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) is a leader in all-things SEL. Their social emotional learning wheel defines the five competencies students (and adults for that matter!) need “to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.” It would be hard to argue that these aren’t necessary skills for our students to acquire and attain, ensuring they are successful in both school and life.

And yet, while most educators wouldn’t argue with the importance of student’s SEL, finding the time to incorporate instruction into the school day can be challenging. With state requirements to meet grade level standards, the priority in school is often on academic skills. But did you know that social emotional learning also leads to improved academic outcomes and behaviors? More than 200 studies have researched and evaluated the impact of SEL on academic achievement, including increased test scores, and an increase in students setting high academic goals for themselves.

Helping students to understand how their brain works can be an important part of SEL. When students are equipped with the tools to recognize behaviors, situations, and outcomes, they are more likely to respond in a manner that has better outcomes for themselves, and their school community. (TCEC) has developed a kindergarten – 5th grade SEL curriculum, The Power of Three (P3), which does just that! Imagine if students were given the power to recognize the tools they have within themselves to confidently face challenges and difficult choices. The Power of Three social emotional learning curriculum is built with the CASEL framework in mind and can easily be integrated into a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS). P3 provides Tier I direct instruction to all students, with an option for tier II interventions for struggling SEL students, making SEL instruction and implementation POWERful.

One aspect of social emotional learning that can make a significant difference is understanding your students’ unique characteristics. Making personal connections with your students and creating a positive environment can be integral to not only promoting a student’s social emotional well-being, but also their access to academic success. TCEC has developed the Expectations Student Self-Assessment that provides information about what motivates a student, and ways to reinforce relationships with individual students.

All students deserve the opportunity to receive instruction and support for their social and emotional health so they may be their very best! As a school leader or teacher, your commitment to social emotional learning has a significant impact on the culture and climate of your school, and for students to have the tools they need to access their best academic achievements.

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