Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an increasingly important part of the curriculum in many schools—and for good reason. SEL helps students develop key skills they’ll use to navigate personal and academic relationships as they move through school, including critical thinking, problem solving, and empathy.
When students learn self-management and social awareness, they’re automatically set up for more success, academically, personally, and professionally. SEL skills stay with students for life.
But because SEL isn’t a formal part of many districts’ curriculum, identifying the right SEL tools can be time-consuming.
That’s why we asked educators to share their favorite SEL tools and talk a little bit about why they like the tool and its offerings.
Social emotional learning programs
“We selected the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) from Aperture Education as our social-emotional learning assessment because it is easy to administer, is strengths-based, has a track record, and is aligned with our SEL curriculum. The DESSA data has been instrumental in helping us identify students’ SEL strengths as well as areas in which they may need additional support. It has become a key component of our SEL initiative.”
—Gina Hurley, Ed. D., executive director of social-emotional Learning and student services, Barnstable (MA) Public Schools
“When we first started using Kickboard, we wondered if our high schoolers would care about things like character traits. With Kickboard, they actually do. They care a great deal about what their balance is and where they stand in Kickboard. When they make a mistake and see demerits, it bothers them. It makes them want to show positive character traits and improve. During the semester we couldn’t use Kickboard, we really felt its absence in our school culture. Without a clear way to track these traits, they got lost in the shuffle. But with Kickboard, students care, which helps these traits become intrinsic. Each day, students want to do better and better.”
—Liz Hein, dean of students and culture, Carmen Northwest High School, Milwaukee
“Ridgeview Elementary has been implementing Conscious Discipline practices for the past two years. While our time implementing these practices is short, our successes that can be attributed to these practices are great. Conscious Discipline is a systems approach, focusing on both staff and students. Conscious Discipline understands the power of relationships and the need for connection. It teaches empathy and equips teachers with alternative approaches to discipline.”
—Dr. Tyler Shannon, head principal, Ridgeview Elementary, Liberty, Missouri
“SEL is a priority for Olathe Public Schools and the state of Kansas. We know that just like academic learning is assessed and progressed monitored, it’s just as important for schools to measure the social-emotional learning and development of all students. We chose Panorama Education to be our SEL measurement provider to be able to monitor subgroups like gender, race/ethnicity, ELL status, special education status, and grade level. We strive to triangulate our data with state and national norms, so the ability to use benchmarks in Panorama was valuable to us. At the time we were researching SEL measurement tools, we had adopted the Second Step program and began using Teaching Tolerance resources. Panorama Education aligns with these programs, as well as the CASEL competencies and standards. We appreciate the data Panorama can provide on a student-by-student basis, at the school level, and for our entire district. By using Panorama, we are elevating students’ voices and their perspectives on their social-emotional development.”
—Dr. Jessica Dain, assistant superintendent, Olathe (KS) Public Schools
“I am a new subscriber to The Social Express, and I asked my administration for a one-month trial. I am so glad I did! I will be using some of my social skills budget to have this available to me/my students next year. They love the webisodes and I can use them in my cross-categorical resource room! They make my job so much easier.”
—Kris Bonasera, elementary teacher, Independent School District 728 (MN)
“Love in a Big World (LBW) was and will continue to be an essential part of our school-based programming because of its unique approach in providing relevant, fun, and engaging social-emotional learning objectives for students of various ages. I began by using the LBW curriculum as part of an after-school program for girls at reVision, a non-profit program focusing on juvenile justice reform and the dismantling of the school-to-prison pipeline through mentoring and positive peer interaction. It not only allows me to discuss and engage students with highly relevant topics, but also promotes literacy through the use of stories and text that aid in comprehension. Moreover, the hands-on activities provide enrichment and support for the lessons while simultaneously fostering creative expression.”
—Tisha Wilson, director of school-based programs, reVision, Houston
“The KidConnect Classroom app has made a huge difference in the lives of my students and my classroom. Working with kids who have emotional and behavioral issues can be challenging. As a teacher, I needed to find something to help them that could be easy, quick, and effective. KidConnect is student-driven, allowing kids to use it on their own to better understand their emotions, the factors that lead to their behaviors, and alternative ways to manage their emotions. I was amazed at how quickly the app made a noticeable and positive change in their behavior.”
—Caroline Burkard, sixth-grade math teacher, Somerville (MA) Public Schools