George Lucas Educational Foundation

Social and Emotional Learning 101

Emotional intelligence must be developed in children before any other learning can effectively take place.
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Man 1: How many of you know a boy or girl here at school who gets picked on and left out and never included and laughed at all the time?

Narrator: School can be a mean and dangerous place.

Man 1: Raise your hands high, high.

Narrator: Evidenced by headline grabbing tragedies and subtle daily slights.

Student 1: Gina, why don't you shut up?

Who cares what you think?

Narrator: Fortunately, there is growing consensus that teaching social and emotional skills in school can make a difference.

Teacher 1: We're gonna use it as a tool to help us solve problems.

Narrator: And there are a number of programs, like Resolution Conflict Creatively, that teach those schools.

Teacher 1: -- to the room and said, "You're gonna wear those old rages to school?"

Linda Lantieri: We are talking about a whole new vision of education that says that educating the heart is as important as educating the mind.

And so it's about equipping young people with the kinds of skills they need to both identify and manage their emotions, to communicate those emotions effectively, and to resolve conflict nonviolently.

Student 2: It's mine.

Student 3: No, it's mine.

Narrator: As part of a school wide effort to create a positive environment, fourth graders at Brooklyn's PS Twenty Four act as peace helpers, teaching younger students how to handle conflicts.

Alexus: When the peace helpers were helping solve the conflict, what did you see the peace helpers do?

I'm still learning, 'cause if I go into sixth grade next year, I need to learn how to control my anger, 'cause I have a serious temper problem.

Daniel Goleman: Emotional intelligence is just a key human skill, but it also turns out that kids who are better able to manage their emotions, for example, actually can pay attention better, can take in information better, can remember better. In other words, it helps you learn better.

Narrator: Benefits of social emotional learning programs include improved academic performance and attitudes towards school, a reduction in violence, bullying and other negative behaviors, and an improved school environment for children and adults.

Teacher 2: We're just seeing great behavior, so--

Narrator: As part of a district wide mandate, schools in Anchorage, Alaska, have adopted comprehensive social emotional learning curriculum standards.

Vickie Blakeney: I'm a curriculum coordinator, so I am seen in the same office as the language arts coordinator, the math coordinator, the health coordinator, et cetera, to show just visually, politically, everything else, that we are gonna value this like we value any of our other curricula. A lot of my job is to look at the already adopted curriculum and say, "Okay, here's a place where, if I was teaching this reading lesson, I could also hit this social emotional learning center at the same time."

Teacher 2: What are some of the cool headed thoughts he could have?

Michael Graham: We're all under the gun to improve our test results, the academics, but it's a whole lot more fun to start focusing on that connection with kids and helping people feel good about where they are. The other will follow. Our teachers, I think, are much happier. They like their kids.

Teacher 2: Good job, kiddo. Excellent.

Practice being cool headed this weekend.

Vickie Blakeney: There's research out now that shows that kids involved in intentional social emotional programs, like we're trying to do right here, scored on average ten percent higher on their standardized tests. So what are we giving up? We're giving up, you know, higher referrals, we're giving up violence in our schools.

What are we getting? Kids who come to school because they wanna come to school, and kids who know how to act when they get into the schools. And hopefully, kids who will go into their futures with a better chance at success.

Student 1: Gina, I would like to keep on being friends.

Teacher 1: And freeze. All right, yeah. Nice job.


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Edutopia Staff

Editor's Note: Linda Lantieri, featured in this video as the co-founder of Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP), is now director of the Inner Resilience Program and a program consultant with CASEL. (Read an interview with Lantieri about defusing stress in children.)

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Comments (7) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Paulette Melvin's picture

I really like the the idea of Social and Emotional Learning because not only should we equip students with knowledge and facts, we should also equip them with knowledge to be better individuals. We should teach them not to tease and make fun of others and if it does happen teach them simply how to turn the other cheek. Let them know it all right to say, I don't like it when you call me names. I had to go through it myself as a child being the "fat girl in the class."

Troy Webb's picture
Troy Webb
High School Principal

This is a great effort to make students more...competent in working with each other; my only problem with the typical format for teaching students involves role play. Role play is too limited and tends to be a waste of instructional time; I can't find a connection to role playing and reduction in violence. If we drop role-playing and focus on creating more systematic instructional opportunities that promote cooperation we can teach content and teach interpersonal skills. I agree that it is paramount for schools to have social emotional instruction. We can't fix the academics if we aren't paying attention to all the needs of the stakeholders. This means that leaders must be versed in social emotional systems construction. Professional development and school programs can be valuable tools but as the video discussed leaders must follow up with support. This can be done in PLCs and developing strong RTI systems that include thinking about the student's needs as part of three tiered model.

Michael A. Bailey's picture
Michael A. Bailey
Linkage Coordinator, Middletown City Schools


Seeking small group (10-15) exercises/tools (SEL) to motivate students (9th, 7th and 5th graders). These students meet with me several times a week for 30 -45 minutes then return to their scheduled classes.

Monique Moss's picture
Monique Moss
Special Ed (E/BD) teacher of grades 3-5 from Gainesville, Florida

Teaching children how to monitor their own emotions is key to improving behaviors. Once they learn this, they feel so proud of themselves. I believe all schools, no matter what grade-levels, should have an EI training or mentoring program

Selena Trotter's picture

I absolutely agree with this being brought into our schools, and our homes. Especially when the kids are twelve and under. I work with a wide variety of ages, and it becomes apparent that after 13 or 14, kids often become jaded and set in their ways. This is not to say they cannot change, but that change is a lot harder to work through. When we can build these words and actions into children's habits as they are young, it is a lot easier for us to continue this work throughout their education and hopefully into adulthood. No one is going to be perfect, but as long as they know that we are all trying to better ourselves, and we're all doing it, it makes children strive to be part of that. Kids want to be nice and have friends.

brahim elouafi's picture
brahim elouafi
teacher of English at a high school Morocco

it gors without saying that SELL(social emotional life learning ) is of paramount pertinence to educational system worldwide

I am Bullyproof -Lessia Bonn's picture

This is fantastic. I believe too often we don't give kids enough credit. Nobody wants to be a bully. Nobody wants to be angry all the time. Kids who get into trouble so often just have no idea what to do with their runaway emotions. Could it be we're finally learning as a society that emotional learning is no less important than math? Baby steps but great steps.

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