Key takeaways

  • Social Emotional Learning skills and approaches have to be modeled by the adults
  • Social Emotional Learning has to be incorporated into and exemplified throughout the curriculum
  • There are a range of activities that you can build into your classroom that will enhance the whole child and their Social Emotional Learning skills

As we expand the remit of education to meet the holistic needs of our children better, it's no longer sufficient to focus solely on academic achievement. As educators and school leaders, we understand the paramount importance of nurturing emotionally intelligent students who are well-rounded, empathetic, and prepared for life's challenges. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is the key to achieving this goal. It equips students with the emotional intelligence and thoughtfulness necessary for personal growth and academic success. This article emphasizes the pivotal role of educators and school leaders in effectively incorporating SEL strategies in the classroom.

1. Model what you want to see in your students

Social and emotional skills aren't just concepts to teach; they are qualities to embody. The first step in nurturing emotionally intelligent students is to model the behavior and attitudes we want to see in them. As educators, we are role models, and children need to witness SEL actively practiced by us. Emotional awareness, empathy, and thoughtful communication must be consistently demonstrated. When students see that you lead by example, they're more likely to embrace these qualities as well.

CASEL has provided an activity that can be completed as part of staff development to consider how to better model the SEL knowledge and skills we want to develop: Modeling SEL in interactions with students and Families

"Social and emotional skills aren't just concepts to teach; they are qualities to embody."

2. Curriculum integration

SEL isn't a stand-alone program; it should be integrated into the curriculum. This ensures that students see its relevance and application in various aspects of their education. Incorporating SEL into subjects like literature, history, or science not only reinforces its importance but also enhances learning outcomes. For example, literature can be used to explore characters' emotional journeys, while history can shed light on empathy through studying past events and experiences.

CASEL supplies some exemplar lessons at different ages/stages to show how SEL skills can be embedded into core curriculum lessons: Sample lesson plans from Casel

Incorporating social emotional skills learning into everyday routines

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3. Morning meetings and check-ins

Starting the day with a morning meeting or check-in sets a positive tone and fosters a sense of community. These rituals provide students with a safe space to express their emotions, share experiences, and connect with their peers. Ideas for SEL activities can include daily journaling, group discussions, or short mindfulness exercises. These practices empower students to communicate openly, develop empathy, and build meaningful relationships.

4. Emotional vocabulary and self-regulation

Expanding students' emotional vocabulary and teaching them to self-regulate are fundamental aspects of SEL. By helping students recognize and name their emotions, educators provide a framework for emotional understanding. It's equally important to teach students strategies for self-regulation and help them manage emotional states. Incorporating discussions about emotions and their expressions into lessons allows students to develop these crucial skills.

5. Conflict resolution skills

Teaching students how to resolve conflicts peacefully is central to SEL. Conflict resolution skills empower students to navigate interpersonal challenges effectively. Strategies, such as restorative approaches, encourage empathy, active listening, and problem-solving. The classroom should be a space where students learn to understand different perspectives and collaborate harmoniously. Providing scenarios and opportunities for practicing conflict resolution equips students with lifelong skills.

6. SEL literature and resources

Books, videos, and online resources are powerful tools for conveying SEL concepts. Making materials available that exemplify aspects of SEL can be an effective way to introduce/reinforce these concepts to students. Through storytelling and media, students can engage with characters and situations that illustrate emotional intelligence, resilience, and empathy. Selecting age-appropriate resources ensures that students can relate to and internalize SEL principles.

Evaluation and SEL skills assessment

Assessing SEL competencies is essential to measure students' progress. By tracking students' growth in empathy, self-awareness, and other SEL skills, educators can identify areas for improvement and tailor their teaching strategies accordingly. Regular SEL skills assessments and evaluations provide insights into the effectiveness/impact of the universal SEL strategies you are using and help students set and achieve SEL goals. SEL skills assessments will also help identify the students needing more tailored/specialized SEL interventions to meet their needs.


As educators and school leaders, we play a central role in fostering /developing the whole student. By modeling SEL behaviors and integrating SEL into the curriculum, we create a nurturing environment for our students. Assessing and tracking SEL competencies allows us to refine our approaches and SEL activities to better support student growth. The positive impact of SEL on students' academic success and personal development cannot be overstated and has repeatedly been backed up with research and evidence bases.

Author: Robin Jones-Ford

Posted: 24 Oct 2023

Estimated time to read: 4 mins

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