Social Emotional Learning – What is it?

      STEAM Night Mark Twain, 2019

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a term we hear with increasing frequency as it relates to student well-being. If districts have not been practicing it, they are now required to implement it in some form in order to receive federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds (Cares Act funds for schools).

As outlined by the Lake Washington School District, SEL is a process by which students learn social and self-awareness, management, engagement and advocacy.

First, the “self” portion – SEL helps students identify personal strengths, manage emotions and deal with stress in constructive ways. Students are taught to see themselves as capable and set goals to self-monitor on the path to achievement. They work on self-advocacy, constructive decision making and problem solving.

The “social” part of SEL includes recognizing similarities in others and respecting differences, making constructive choices in social interactions and demonstrating strategies to productively contribute to school and community.

What Does a Lesson on SEL Look Like?

LWSD uses the Second Step curriculum to implement Social Emotional Learning.

Problem solving story and activity for a 4th grade classroom:

second-step-elementary-digital-g04-u4-17a-handout.pdf (

Lesson for 8th grade SEL on the topic of bullying:

second-step-middle-school-g8-u2-10-student-handout.pdf (

These are just two examples of Social Emotional Learning plans for a classroom. We are all aware of the mental health emergency our children and youth face. Whether students are adjusting to in-person learning or the new online school, social and emotional wellness supports are needed to help students focus on learning through a continued public health emergency.  Some kids were last in school buildings as 3rd graders and have just walked in to 5th grade classrooms. Or imagine an eighth grader stepping foot inside a high school for the first time as a sophomore. From a developmental standpoint, the differences are stark.

As the district assess kids academically and creates plans for them to advance individually, social emotional wellness is an important pathway to achievement.

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