Departments

Social Emotional Learning Skills

What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is the lifelong process of learning how to: 

  • develop a healthy identity
  • manage emotions
  • achieve goals
  • show empathy
  • have supportive relationships
  • make responsible decisions

SEL Starts at Home

Families are a child’s first teachers. As children grow, parents and families continue to support the social emotional lives of their children in the home.

SEL continues at school. School is another environment that offers opportunities to learn about emotions, show empathy for others, and contribute to the community.

Why focus on SEL at school? When students feel connected to their teachers, peers, and school, the learning networks in their brain become stronger. Emotions and relationships can either motivate students to engage in learning, or, if unmanaged, interfere with learning, memory, and positive behaviors. Decades of research tells us that social emotional skills are critical to both academic learning and to the competencies our children will need to be successful in career and civic life. Children’s social emotional development is best supported when parents and families, schools, and community partners all work together.

SEL continues in the community. Community institutions play an essential role in supporting healthy child development and in allowing student learning to continue across the many settings in which children learn.

WA Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

Everyday SEL at Home

It’s normal to respond to the challenges of this time with a range of feelings and needs. We hope the 3 simple tips below might help create daily routines for supporting your household’s wellness.

Elementary: Kindergarten – 1st Grade

Be an Emotion Scientist

Noticing how you feel makes it easier to make choices about what to do. Practicing this skill every day helps us notice how we feel in times of stress so we can make choices we feel good about.

Say how you feel! To figure out how you feel you can pay attention to:

  • How your body feels
  • Your thoughts
  • Your emotions

You and the adults you’re with can use the Mood Meter to help figure out how you feel.

Set Goals and Celebrate

Persevering, learning from mistakes, and paying attention to what works helps us accomplish the things we need to get done. Celebrating makes doing things more fun!

  • Set goals with the help of the adults you’re with and celebrate accomplishing those goals!
  • Each day think about one thing you’d like to do such as a household chore, an outside activity, or a learning activity.
  • As you do that activity notice that you’re accomplishing your goal!
  • Celebrate by telling yourself you’ve done a great job.
  • On days you don’t accomplish your goal, forgive yourself and try again another day!

Solve Problems with Kindness

Problems give us a chance to practice listening, empathy and saying what we need.

As you play and learn there will be problems. Problems give you a chance to be your “best self”. To be your best self, you and the adults you’re with can:

  • Notice how you and others feel
  • Listen to other people’s ideas
  • Say your ideas and ask for help with kindness.

When you are being your “best self” you and the people around you might feel better and have more fun!

Elementary: 2nd – 3rd Grade

Be an Emotion Scientist

Noticing how you feel makes it easier to make choices about what to do. Practicing this skill every day helps us notice how we feel in times of stress so we can make choices we feel good about.

Once a day, say how you feel to yourself or to the people around you. To figure out how you feel you can observe:

  • How your body feels
  • Your thoughts
  • Your emotions

You and the people you’re with can use the Mood Meter to help figure out how you feel. Notice if saying your feeling changes how you feel.

Set Goals and Celebrate

Persevering, learning from mistakes, and paying attention to what works helps us accomplish the things we need to get done. Celebrating makes doing things more fun!

  • You may have household chores, schoolwork and physical activities to do.
  • Set 1 or 2 goals for yourself each day. Examples are reading or moving your
    body for 20 minutes.
  • Make a plan to accomplish your goals by writing down when you’ll do them.
  • Celebrate when you accomplish your goals by telling yourself you’ve done a great job!
  • On days you don’t accomplish your goals, forgive yourself and try again!

Solve Problems with Kindness

Problems give us a chance to practice listening, empathy and saying what we need. 

As you play, work, and learn there will be problems. Problems give you a chance to be your “best self”. To be your best self you can:

  • Notice how you and others feel
  • Listen to other people’s ideas
  • Say your ideas and ask for help with kindness

You might need to take a Meta Moment and pause if you’re feeling upset. That will help you speak kindly and have empathy for those around you.

When you are being your “best self” you can do two important things: solve the problem and feel proud of being kind. You and the people around you might have more fun together too!

Elementary: 4th – 5th Grade

Be an Emotion Scientist

Noticing how you feel makes it easier to make choices about what to do. Practicing this skill every day helps us notice how we feel in times of stress so we can make choices we feel good about.

Once a day, become aware of how you feel. Observe:

  • Your body sensations
  • Your thoughts
  • Your emotions

You and the people you’re with can use the Mood Meter to help figure out how you feel. Consider how your feelings affect what you’re doing. Decide if you’d like to keep the feeling you’re having or shift to a different feeling. Decide what you’ll do to keep or change your feeling.

Set Goals and Celebrate

Persevering, learning from mistakes, and paying attention to what works helps us accomplish the things we need to get done. Celebrating makes doing things more fun!

  • You may have household chores, schoolwork and physical activities to do and you get to set goals and create plans to get it all done.
  • Set 2-3 goals for each week and create a plan to accomplish them.
  • Write down your goals and the tasks you’ll do each day. You might plan when you’ll do the things on your list.
  • Celebrate each time you complete a task on your plan by telling yourself you’re making great progress!
  • When you don’t complete a task, forgive yourself and start again.
  • Celebrate when you accomplish your week’s goals by noticing how you feel and reflecting on what you did well!
  • Share your accomplishments with the people around you!

Solve Problems with Kindness

Problems give us a chance to practice listening, empathy and saying what we need. 

As you play, work, and learn there will be problems. Problems give you a chance to be your “best self”. To be your best self you can:

  • Notice how you and others feel by saying how you feel and having empathy for others
  • Listen to other people’s ideas
  • Say your ideas and ask for help with kindness. You might use “I statements” such as, “I feel frustrated because I want a turn, can I please go next?” or “I don’t understand this, can you please explain it to me?”

You might need to take a Meta Moment and pause if you’re feeling upset. Remember the strategies that help you most. They might be taking a deep breath, getting a drink of water, or telling yourself that you can do hard things.

When you are being your “best self” you can do two important things: solve the problem and feel proud of yourself for being kind. You might learn a little about what helps to solve problems at home and what doesn’t.

You can keep track of what works and practice those things alone or with the people around you. Being your “best self” and solving problems with kindness will help you have more fun and feel better with people at home.

Middle School

Self Awareness and Your Emotions 

When you understand how you’re feeling, you’re developing self-awareness. This will help you identify sources of emotional strain, how you’re affected and most importantly, how to positively manage stress.

Each day monitor your emotions through an emotion check in with yourself or others. Talk about how you are feeling and why, and work to label these emotions. Recognize how you demonstrate these feelings through your body and thoughts so that you can increase your self-awareness

Recognize your personal triumphs in how you are dealing with your moods and emotions during this time. Exchange with others the techniques or habits that are helping you and to get ideas.

Talk to a trusted adult if you are feeling anxious or down, or if you recognize that someone you know is having a hard time.

To heighten your sense of self-awareness within school and society, write down or have a conversation with a friend of family member involving how you describe your individual identity.

Set Goals and Celebrate Accomplishing Them

When you set goals you are sending the message to your heart and brain that you are willing to accomplish things. No matter the goal, what is important is that you recognize your hard work and celebrate your success. 

Set 1-2 daily or weekly goals that are realistic and provide a sense of accomplishment. Write these down or share them with someone who will hold you accountable.

Examples of goals can be academic, like reading or completing math problems online, exercising for 20 minutes each day, or assisting with chores.
When setting goals, reflect upon your identity, as described in the above category of Self Awareness & Emotions. How does your identity guide your goals and your ability and resources to accomplish them? Write or discuss what supports do you need to reach your goals. Discuss with a friend or trusted adult as to how to develop a plan to accomplish the goals you set.

Reward yourself and celebrate when you reach your goals! When you don’t, practice self-compassion and forgiveness, but always persevere!

Solve Problems Effectively and with Kindness

Solving problems with clear communication and kindness ensures that everyone gives and receives respect.

Remember that having problems or arguments with others are a normal part of life. Practice positive, consistent communication and stay solution-focused.

Focus on positive self-talk and practicing kindness and patience when solving personal or social problems.

Think about researching empathy and how differences between folks from different backgrounds may contribute to how a problematic situation is viewed. Why might some not understand the perceptions of others? Write or talk about or discuss positive ways that students and adults can see things from other perspectives to foster empathy, respect, and value diversity.

For example, perhaps two individuals are reacting differently to what is going on in the world right now, with one being angry and one scared. These two people need to take the time to explore why the other feels each way, digging deep and trying to understand other perspectives.

Conflict resolution is about finding solutions and not about changing someone’s view to match yours. When you do not share the same opinions,
see if you can understand the other person and stay respectful.

High School

Self Awareness and Your Emotions

When you understand how you’re feeling, you’re developing self-awareness. This will help you identify sources of emotional strain, how you’re affected and most importantly, how to positively manage stress.

Monitor your emotions through an emotion check in with yourself or others. Talk about how you are feeling and why, and work to label these emotions. Recognize how you demonstrate feelings so that you can increase your self-awareness. Notice what triggers negative emotions in you, such as news media. Consider limiting those things.

Take a mindful moment for yourself each day. You can do this in a variety of ways. One suggestion is to try and find a quiet place at home, sit comfortably, and practice deep breathing, paying attention to the experiences of each of your five senses. Mindfulness can help keep you focused and less distracted when you fully commit to the task at hand, such as mindfully exercising.

Explore the depths of your self-awareness through reflecting upon how your identity (ex. race/ethnicity, culture, gender, sexuality, social class, or disability) has impacted your identity.

Be sure to reach out to a trusted adult if feelings of sadness interfere with your daily routines, as these could indicate something more serious is going on.

Set Goals and Celebrate Accomplishing Them

When you set goals you are sending the message to your heart and brain that you are willing to accomplish things. No matter the goal, what is important is that you recognize your hard work and celebrate your success. 

Set 2-3 daily or weekly goals that fuel your academic, social, emotional, and physical well-being. Consider starting an accountability group with your family or friends using an app. Don’t be afraid to keep things simple!

Connect your strengths to goals so that you remain motivated. Recognize your limitations and areas in which you’d like to improve. If you are disorganized, think about setting goals such as cleaning your room and helping around the house. And if you have younger siblings, try and help them set their own goals or work together on the same ones.
Reward yourself and celebrate when you reach your goals, but if you don’t practice self-compassion and forgiveness, but always persevere.

Write or discuss with a friend or trusted adult how your identity, as described in the above category of Self Awareness & Emotions. How has your identity impacted the development of goals? Write or discuss what support you need in overcoming obstacles and make a plan that you feel empowers you to accomplish the goals you set.

Solve Problems Effectively and with Kindness

Solving problems with clear communication and kindness ensures that everyone gives and receives respect.

Conflicts with others is a natural part of life. Work on effectively communicating with others when conflict arises and do so keeping in mind the words you choose and keeping them clear and kind. Maintain respect for yourself and others!

Think about a problem you may have had or that you see as problematic based on identities. Research reasons why folks may have these perceptions. Try and make a list of how people can show positive support to remedy these issues.

Consider how you and others may view problems based on your experiences within your self-defined identity, and through how others may identify you. Think about discrimination and stereotypes, as well as expressions of tolerance and kindness. Write about or discuss how to solve problems with kindness and have open, respectful conversations with others.

Connect kindness to a higher purpose when it comes to problem-solving. Tell your story and listen to others. How are your stories the same? Different? Sharing stories about yourself with others is a great way to develop empathy and connect.

You may want to ask yourself how you can connect kindness to other problems you’re trying to solve. Tapping into civic engagement is a common way that folks try to solve larger problems. How can kindness be used to address problems, while leaving others with hope, agency, and connections?

When you experience problems within yourself or with others, be sure to identify solutions that keep you and others safe and avoid bringing further emotional or physical harm.

SEL at School

Social emotional skills are modeled, taught, and practiced throughout the school day through four approaches: 

  • Creating Safe and Welcoming Climates 
  • Classroom Practices that Foster Equity and Belonging 
  • Instructional Practices that Weave SEL into Academics
  • Stand-Alone SEL Skills Lessons 

Social Emotional Skills 

We focus on the learning the six skills identified by WA Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, including:

  1. Self-Awareness
    Identify one’s emotions, personal assets, areas for growth, and potential external resources and supports
  2. Self-Management
    Regulating emotions, thoughts, and behaviors
  3. Self-Efficacy
    Motivating oneself to persevere, and see oneself as capable
  4. Social Awareness
    Taking the perspective of and empathizing with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures
  5. Social Management
    Making safe and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions
  6. Social Engagement
    Considering others and showing a desire to contribute to the well-being of school and community

SEL Programs 

We use a number of programs to support Social Emotional Learning, including:

SEL for Return to Full-Time In-Person Learning

School leaders and staff have been equipped with recommended activities and resources to prioritize social emotional wellness during the first few days and weeks of school. Teachers have been called upon to do what they do best – to create culturally-responsive, safe, stable, and nurturing classroom environments and relationships. 

Through class circles, advisory lessons, and schoolwide practices, students will get to share their feelings, celebrate each other’s identities, and develop caring communities.  

Sample Elementary Class Circle Activity
Abridged Teacher Instructions:

  • Invite students to share how they’re feeling. 
  • Before doing so, ask students to list ways to show they’re listening to each other with care. 
  • Let students know it’s normal to have a range of feelings and it’s OK to share their feelings at school.
  • Invite students to share how it feels when others listen to them with care.

Sample Secondary Advisory Lesson 
Lesson Title: We’re Back! (But What Happens Now?)
Lesson Covers the Following Questions: 

  • How have my feelings about school changed this past year?
  • Do I feel like I have more or less control over myself and situations?
  • What are some goals that I can achieve that are within my control?
  • Who can I talk to if I’m struggling with my feelings?

Articles

How to Support Kids Who are Anxious About Returning to School
What Students Will Need as the Year Begins

SPS SEL Videos


Contacts

Kai Kunkel
Social Emotional Learning Coordinator
kbkunkel@seattleschools.org

Hyam Elsaharty
Social Emotional Learning Consulting Teacher
hselsaharty@seattleschools.org

Lisa Love
Health Education Manager
llove@seattleschools.org


SEL Resources

Staff Resources (login required)

WA SEL Implementation Brief for Families

CASEL – Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning

WA Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction SEL Page