George Lucas Educational Foundation

Looking for suitable SEL curriculum

Looking for suitable SEL curriculum

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I’m a math instructor at San Jose Job Corps, a federal training program for “at risk” youth 16-24. We have small open-enrollment, open-exit classes. Students typically stay between a few weeks to a few months. In order to find ways to improve out statics, we’re exploring the realm of SEL. Recently, one of my colleagues and I have started to take note of some social-emotional problems displayed in our classes. (below) I’m under a deadline of next Friday to find a list of SEL that will potentially work for our students. Your assistance will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance! Student #1 finishes assignment and just sits quietly waiting for me, but does not even alert me that he is finished, says, “I do make real dumb mistakes with fractions. I always have.” Student #2 prefers to draw on board or go to computer to check email before finishing work, also takes at least one bathroom break every period, has trouble following directions and wants to put feet on chair or sleep in class Student #3 wants to draw all period, cannot follow my directions to study first and then draw, has no interest in doing math, problems with multiplication tables, distracted by all passersby Student #4 obsessed with texting, arrives late for class Student #5 talks all period and will not follow my instructions Student #6 takes ten minutes to settle down, says hi to everybody and gives hugs, socializes a lot, distracted easily Student #7 arrives late, more interested in new job coming up than doing math Student #8 Feels too cold in the room even though it’s 70°F and would not want to do anything. Doesn’t feel good and doesn’t want to be told by the teacher to start working. Doesn’t turn off cell phone after repeated reminders. Tells the teacher that it’s important to have her cell phone on and that she should be treated like an adult, not a child. Student #9 Attention drifts to other people talking in class even in the middle of doing a problem with the teacher. Student #10 Absent often. Sleeps in class. Texting always. Sits by another peer and shows personal rather than professional interaction. Doesn’t see the value of taking the class. Student #11 Slow learner. Has trouble understanding some materials. Doesn’t communicate proactively and avoids teacher inquiries. Sleeps in class in order to mask deficiency. Other problems that interfere with learning are not enough sleep (fear, worries, playing video game, watching video or not enough hours) doesn’t eat breakfast (I don’t like it. I woke up late, etc.)

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Kati Delahanty's picture

Hi Perple,
I'm familiar with Job Corps, and given the transient nature of your school, it's really hard to establish routines and rituals. But I really think that what is at the heart of these behaviors is a genuine mistrust of teachers (and maybe adults in general). Building trusting relationships with young adults whose default responses are to AVOID (due to fear of failure and other things) is incredibly difficult but certainly doable.

I don't know of a specific and established curriculum, but I do know that it would be valuable to do an entire unit of study devoted to identifying, creating, and maintaining a good learning environment. I've done a lot on this in my classroom. I spend the first three weeks of school just on what it means to be a part of a strong learning community and environment. We analyze clips from TV shows and movies that show both unsuccessful and successful learning environments. It's amazing what students realize about what good and effective teaching and learning looks like when they are objective observers. I use an episode from HBO's "The Wire" season 4. I teach older students too, so I don't need parental permission to show these clips (they are all over 17). But I've used clips from other TV shows and PG-13 movies as well. We do a lot of writing about what makes a good learning environment and what destroys a good learning environment. We've written This I Believe essays and educational and political autobiographies.

We've role played and analyzed different scenarios (much like the ones you have listed above). And it sets up the urgency for students to create the successful learning environments for themselves.

All of these assignments get the students thinking about what they need in order to learn. We uncover what they need from their teachers, what teachers need from them, and, most importantly, what they need from themselves.

Even though I start the year like this, I continue to address habits of mind, peer-to-peer interactions, and whole-class community issues all year long.

I'm not sure if this helps. I'll ask around to see if I can find a published and comprehensive curriculum that fits with your needs!

Perple Lu's picture
Perple Lu
San Jose Job Corps math teacher

Thank, you, Kati. This is sound advice. I'll try it out.

Betsy Boone's picture

Hello. I just saw this post and wonder if you have found a suitable curriculum option. Have you looked at the Leaps product yet? This web-based software offers lesson plans, progress monitoring, assessments and reporting. Hope this helps!

Andy Wade's picture

Hi Betsy and all -- please also check out the CASEL website and specifically "Safe and Sound" publication for tips on how to select an SEL program that meets your needs, as well as reviews of 80 evidence based programs.  The publication is now being updated -- the SEL universe has gotten much larger since 2003 - but it will still provide good tips and a consistent basis for weighing the pros and cons. You can download most of what you need free.  The new edition will be out late this year.

CASEL doesn't recommend one program over another, but we do know the research shows that good implementation of a quality, evidence-based program makes a difference -- that's where you see the gains.  Every school is different, but good SEL programs are set up so you can adapt and tailor to your needs -- provided you do a little work on the front end.  Happy hunting. 

Andy Wade, CASEL public affairs


Marilyn Miller's picture

Here's a great SEL Curriculum I found that is geared towards younger students. I have been using it with my 6th and 7th graders to talk about social issues and it has really helped me with classroom management and creating an atmosphere of acceptance.
Hope that helps.

Linda Saleski's picture

Dear Perple,
I work in a program with similar a similar transient student body. We have used materials and implemented the Boystown Education Model with great success for over 16 years. It is quite doable in our kind of environment.

Patrick McMillan's picture
Patrick McMillan
Single dad (2 boys, 12 yrs & 9 yrs) Denver, Colorado

I will be releasing my second character ed program soon for at home and classroom use. The first is designed for 3rd to 5th grade and the second is for 6th through 8th. See for details on both. Both programs take a positive psychological approach to developing emotional intelligence using activities and exercises that help focus on signature strengths, compassion, empathy, optimism and emotional awareness.

Hope I can help:)

Jenny Wiley's picture

'Activating Social, Emotional and Academic Learning' is a free conference that will be held on October 7, 2010 at the Synapse Institute at 3375 Edison Way, Menlo Park, CA from 8:30-5. The EQ Conference will continue on October 8th and 9th featuring leaders in education and business. The founders of the Synapse Institute are the founders of The Nueva School in San Mateo, and created the Social Emotional Learning Curriculum, "Self Science - Getting Started with Social Emotional Learning" which was one of two curricula recommended in Daniel Goleman's book, "Emotional Intelligence" back in the 90's. It is a very well developed and well proven curriculum for K-12 with teacher training, parenting education workshops, assessements for school climate, adults and youth. Please see for upcoming details on this free conference featuring change makers from around the world.

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