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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Five Keys to Successful Social and Emotional Learning

Studies show that sustained and well-integrated social and emotional learning (SEL) engages students and improves achievement. Explore classroom practices that make up the most effective SEL programs.
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Five Keys to Successful Social and Emotional Learning (Transcript)

Pamela Randall: Social-emotional skills are the essential skills for success in school, work and life.

Natalie Walchuk: Social-emotional learning centers their mind and body. It reduces their emotional tension, so they can be open to new content and material. We find that academic outcomes increase exponentially when students are nurtured, loved and cared for. That we get much more out of them when we first address social-emotional needs. So for us, it's actually an academic intervention, and not just an emotional one.

Pamela: If we expect students to be college and career ready, it's important for us to focus on these skills and competencies: Self-Awareness; Self-Management; Social Awareness; Relationship Skills; and Responsible Decision-Making. Self-Awareness is the ability to identify your emotions. To be able to tie thoughts and feelings to behaviors.

Natalie: We find that Self-Awareness is one of the hardest things for young people. Being aware of their own body space, and the impact of their words and emotions on other people. So a lot of the work we do is reflective, through conflict mediation, through circles, through journaling. Having them see their own impact on the world, and then how to shift that or make a different choice next time.

Pamela: Self-Management is the ability to self-motivate, to have self-control, to regulate one's emotions.

Natalie: In a classroom, that may be a breathing exercise, or that might be counting to five, or taking a break.

Rose Ludwig: So with students who don't really know how to deal with their anger, or don't really know how to resolve conflict, we're giving them a tool that helps them deal with it in a less stressful way.

Pamela: Social Awareness is about embracing diversity, showing empathy for others. Activities might include service learning projects. Addressing social justice issues. Role playing is a great opportunity for students to address how a person might have felt in a conflict on the playground.

Teacher: We're going to see if other people have had some of the very same experiences around bullying that we've had.

Student: You're in my boat if you have a bully now.

Pamela: Relationship Skills are important in project-based learning. It's the ability to work cooperatively with someone, to resolve conflict.

Natalie: It's the one skill you need your whole life. You may not need calculus tomorrow, but you have to know how to work in a relationship, whether it's for a co-worker, or a life partner. You have to know how to handle conflict, and how to handle challenges.

Student: Sometimes at recess Maya would come over and like just start talking about us, and saying mean things.

Natalie: Is it your job to make Denay's job at school hard?

Student: No. I know it's a form of bullying. And sometimes I'll say, "Sorry" to her.

Natalie: So you choose to be someone's ally, and make a better choice.

Pamela: Responsible Decision-Making is considering the well-being for self and others. It's evaluating the consequences for various behaviors or actions. We do this through shared agreements. One-to-one problem-solving, or having students debate an issue.

Teacher: If you were like, "Hey, Kushida, can I-- how much does an egg cost in this class?" And you like took out your wallet, and I was like, "Eh, I think fifty bucks would work." Which one of us would be corrupt in that case?

Rebecca Heniser: We're truly teaching these students to be productive citizens. We're teaching them life skills. We're teaching them how to problem-solve effectively. We're teaching them how to be resilient.

Carlos Garcia: I think of all the billions of dollars we've spent on Title One, and all these intervention programs. And when all is said and done, what do we have to show for it? I think we're, you know, we're trying to teach technical things instead of devoting some of the resources to teach who you are as a person. Once you know who you are, then learning becomes exciting, because you've already established a discipline.

Pamela: It's important for teachers and Principals to understand that it can't be a binder off the shelf. It can't be something that happens from 2:15 to 4:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It has to be part of the school culture.

Natalie: Giving teachers flexibility, giving them a range of skills, giving them different ways that it can look, and allowing them to take their own personality and match that to what they want in their classroom has been the best way to get authentic true practice.

Carlos: If we continue to do what we've always done, we're always gonna get what we always got. Is that good enough? I don't think it's good enough for the 21st Century. We need to be the outliers to try things that have never been tried, and see if they work. What are we waiting for?

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More Edutopia Resources for Social and Emotional Learning

Find more resources and information on social and emotional learning at the website of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), or follow CASEL on Twitter.

Social and Emotional Learning Overview

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