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social and emotional learning

17 instructional practices for social and emotional learning

New guide offers a look at 25 social and emotional learning programs to help practitioners hone their own programs.

Interest around social and emotional learning continues to expand, due in part to recognition that positive social and emotional skills can help improve students’ behavioral and academic outcomes in school.

Now, educators can take a look at 25 evidence-based social and emotional learning programs to learn about curricular content and other features that they can use to help students develop key social and emotional skills such as self-control, empathy, flexible mindsets, and conflict resolution.

Navigating SEL from the Inside Out: Looking Inside & Across 25 Leading SEL Programs: A Practical Resource for Schools and OST Providers is intended for elementary schools and out-of-school-time (OST) providers. It aims to give practitioners resources to compare what is taught, and how it is taught, across programs. It also explains how social and emotional learning programs can be adapted to OST settings.

The guide was written by Stephanie Jones, an associate professor in human development and urban education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a team of Harvard researchers. Jones is a recognized expert and frequent speaker on social and emotional learning.

“What this resource provides is a window into what different [social and emotional] programs focus on and how they do it. This type of information is critical for those who want to cultivate and foster these essential skills within and across different contexts,” Jones said.

(Next page: 17 instructional strategies and 7 roadblocks)

Along with a look at 25 programs, the guide outlines 17 instructional strategies that can be used in social and emotional learning programs.

Instructional practices that help students develop social and emotional skills include:
1. Discussion: Might focus on how people feel or act in given situations or how social and emotional themes relate to students’ own lives
2. Didactic Instruction: Might include teaching modeling
3. Book/Story: Stories may illustrate particular themes
4. Vocabulary: Activities are used to teach language, words or terms related to social and emotional concepts
5. Tools/Handouts: Tools or materials can help students visualize concepts in a concrete way
6. Writing: Students could write about personal experiences related to a social or emotional theme
7. Drawing: The focus is on artistic expression, such as asking students to draw something that makes them happy, rather than depicting a narrative experience
8. Art/Creative Project: A project other than drawing could include using clay, or working collaboratively, to represent various concepts
9. Visual Display: Charts, posters or other displays can establish or reinforce routines in the classroom
10. Video: Videos are often used to prompt discussion around emotions and appropriate behaviors
11. Song: Typically used to reinforce social and emotional themes, such as leading students through steps for calm breathing techniques
12. Skill Practice: Students actively practice social emotional skills or strategies outside of using games or role-playing
13. Role-Play: Often used to act out emotions or demonstrate/practice emotion regulation strategies
14. Game: Can be used to reinforce social and emotional themes, build skills, or transition students into or out of a lesson
15. Kinesthetic: These activities involve movement and physical activity
16. Teacher Choice: Could include building a lesson around a template, such as selecting a social and emotional learning topic and related activities when the lesson structure is otherwise left open
17. Other: Any activity not included above, such as visualization exercises or meditation

The report also gives an overview of 7 common roadblocks and implementation challenges:
1. Ensuring sufficient exposure and intensity
2. Prioritizing and integrating social and emotional learning in daily practices
3. Extending social and emotional learning beyond classrooms
4. Ensuring sufficient staff support and training
5. Facilitating program ownership and buy-in
6. Using data to inform decision-making
7. Applying and transferring skills

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