12 apps to help students improve their self-control

Building social and emotional learning (SEL) skills such as self-control requires face-to-face interaction, meaningful discussion, and reflection. Edtech is no complete substitute for that, but there are tools that can supplement the development of character in the classroom and at home. According to the Character Lab, self-control is controlling one’s own responses so they align with short- and long-term goals.

While some tools focus specifically on self-control, the websites and apps that you use daily (in all subjects) can be used to promote mindfulness, too. You don’t have to stop using the tools you love or toss out your lesson or curricular plans to start developing SEL. Below we have included some tips, tools, and actionable ideas for seamlessly integrating self-control and life-skills-building into your content classroom.

Why self-control?

Having self-control (some prefer the term “self-regulation”) is about appropriately managing your thoughts, feelings, and impulses. It starts with being consistently mindful of yourself and others and working toward a high emotional intelligence. So much of the way we use technology today challenges the idea of restraint, from tweeting in anger to posting for “likes.” There has been a large body of research suggesting that self-control is a key factor in determining success as an adult, so many schools are creating programs that address it, including this school that is embracing glitter jars and breathing balls. Whether or not we get caught up in what self-control is, most teachers would agree there is value when students are able to regulate themselves, leading to increased focus and accountability for their actions.…Read More

5 easy ways to get parents involved in SEL

Social-emotional learning (SEL) equips students with the skills to regulate their emotions, build resilience to stress and challenges, make responsible decisions, collaborate well with others, and empathize and communicate effectively with their peers—all the skills needed to live a healthy and productive life.

SEL is becoming the foundation of many schools across the globe. However, building these core social emotional skills takes time. Like all other skills, social-emotional skills need to be nurtured and learning needs to be ritualized.

SEL shouldn’t stop when the final bell rings. It is critical that we involve parents in social-emotional practices so that students can apply these concepts to life outside the classroom and also witness these important behaviors being modeled through their loved ones. How can we help families foster these skills at home?…Read More

SEL + restorative practices = a safe, supportive school climate

Zero tolerance policies, while trying to keep kids accountable for their actions, often result in suspensions for even minor infractions like dress code violations or being tardy. While these behaviors warrant attention, Fatima Rogers, principal of Charles W. Henry School in Philadelphia, and Jody Greenblatt, Esq., deputy of school climate and safety, School District of Philadelphia, questioned what their conduct code and other discipline methods actually did to help students. Working with the Committee for Children, they’re piloting a program merging social emotional learning (SEL) and Restorative Practice (RP) in school. Their goal, as explained in the edWebinar, “SEL and Restorative Practices: Schoolwide Integration Strategies,” is to not only give students the emotional toolkit they need but to also provide a behavioral framework that focuses on support over punishment.

During the presentation, Rogers and Greenblatt discussed several keys to successful implementation of SEL and RP.

  • Focus on all school relationships. While the main goal is to improve student and staff interaction, they also worked on administration and staff as well as staff-to-staff relationships. By concentrating on relationships at all three levels, the overall school culture benefited.
  • An outside coach can offer a new perspective. Truly integrating SEL and RP requires intense work, especially from the staff. Having a third party can provide a fresh take on a school’s progress and objective insights into what is and isn’t working.
  • Planning shouldn’t happen overnight. In preparation, the new practices were introduced in stages. First, the staff met the coach and learned more about SEL and restorative practices. Then, after planning meetings with the leadership team, staff spent two of their four summer PD days in training. During the school year they have monthly check-in meetings, and they also do an overall evaluation at the end of the year.
  • Make time for SEL. While the RP can be integrated throughout the school week, students need dedicated time for SEL lessons. At Henry, they have SEL lessons every Monday morning with follow up throughout the week.
  • Align lessons to school-specific goals. For instance, elementary-age kids might need lessons in empathy and emotion management. Kindergartners who’ve never been in school before might need basic skills for learning. Middle schoolers might work on peer-conflict resolution.
  • Don’t change the code of conduct in name only. As part of embracing restorative practices, administrators eliminated suspensions for grades K-2 and severely decreased suspendable infractions for the other grades. More important, they removed the old offenses as choices from the school discipline system. This gives teachers no option but to use restorative strategies.

Since the pilot program was initiated in the 2017-18 school year, suspensions at Henry have decreased from 48 in 2016-17 to two so far in 2018-19. In addition, the number of students with 95 percent+ attendance has increased to 426. But despite the success, the administrators aren’t pulling back on the training. All new teachers have RP in their contracts, and all teacher groups devote at least one meeting a month to RP and SEL.…Read More

Teacher training does wonders for students’ emotional regulation

When teachers participated in a training program focused on pro-social classroom behavior, their students became more socially competent and better able to regulate their emotions than students in classrooms without trained teachers, according to new research from the University of Missouri (MU).

Past research shows that students who are able to regulate their emotions are more likely to be academically successful.

Wendy Reinke and Keith Herman, professors in MU’s College of Education, studied more than 100 teachers and 1,817 students from kindergarten to third grade to see if teachers could support students’ emotional and behavioral growth through the Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management Program.…Read More

The 14 most innovative SEL districts, part 2

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published on the Move This World blog on November 1, 2018.]

Make sure you read “The 14 most innovative SEL districts, part 1.”

In this article, we will be highlighting districts that have shown tremendous commitment to the well being of their students and staff. These 14 districts are being recognized for their efforts in social emotional learning (SEL) and their dedication to creating safe learning environments where individuals feel empowered to express themselves, and where effective teaching and learning can occur.…Read More

The 14 Most Innovative SEL Districts, Part 1

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published on the Move This World blog on November 1, 2018. Come back tomorrow for part 2.]

In this article, we will be highlighting districts that have shown tremendous commitment to the well being of their students and staff. These 14 districts are being recognized for their efforts in social emotional learning (SEL) and their dedication to creating safe learning environments where individuals feel empowered to express themselves, and where effective teaching and learning can occur.

What is SEL? As defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), social emotional learning is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.…Read More

We all teach SEL: Empathy activities & tools for students

Building social and emotional learning (SEL) skills such as empathy requires face-to-face interactions, meaningful discussion, and reflection. Edtech is no complete substitute for that, but there are tools that can supplement the development of character in the classroom and at home. According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, empathy is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.

While some tools focus specifically on empathy, the websites and apps that you use daily (in all subjects) can be used to promote perspective taking, too. You don’t have to stop using the tools you love or toss out your lesson or curricular plans to start developing SEL. Below we have included some tips, tools, and actionable ideas for seamlessly integrating empathy and life skills-building into your content classroom.

Why empathy?
Classrooms are complex, collaborative, and diverse spaces. An enriching, engaging, and supportive classroom environment is one in which students reflect on themselves and their peers as learners and as people, full of similarities and differences. A group culture that encourages trust and friendship—that practices empathy—functions better as a whole and can better tackle tough concepts. Some schools are recognizing how impactful empathy can be, like the one in Pennsylvania where students shared their deepest, most painful secrets before 500 of their peers. The leaders of this school believe that events like this—free of criticism or judgment—create openness and understanding rather than discord and isolation. It’s through this cultivation of empathic students that schools become communities.…Read More

Here’s how teachers think SEL can truly help students

A resounding majority of administrators, teachers, and parents say they believe social and emotional learning (SEL) is just as important as academic learning.

SEL is the process that helps students understand and regulate their emotions, understand different points of view and show empathy toward others, and develop intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies. Many believe these skills contribute to safer and more positive schools and communities.

Of the more than 1,000 people surveyed in McGraw-Hill Education’s 2018 Social and Emotional Learning Report, 96 percent of administrators, 93 percent of teachers, and 81 percent of parents overwhelmingly say SEL is as necessary as core academic subjects.…Read More

Resources for creating a school culture of empathy, inclusion, and kindness

Since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we’ve heard from many educators who are looking for resources to support students’ social and emotional development. To help, we’ve collected our best social and emotional learning (SEL) resources for building a culture of safety, kindness, and upstanding in your school.

SEL Educator Toolkit
SEL skills aren’t core content, but they’re at the core of all content. Find lessons, activities, classroom tools, and family resources to help students learn about character strengths and develop empathy, compassion, integrity, and more.

Digital Citizenship and SEL
A key aspect of digital citizenship is thinking critically when faced with digital dilemmas. Navigating these challenges isn’t only about rules and procedures; it’s about character. Help students examine challenging online situations with this discussion guide.…Read More

SEL should be an easy sell for U.S. schools and districts

In light of tragic events that have put a spotlight on school safety issues, it’s more important than ever to understand the value of students’ social and emotional learning (SEL). While many districts have started conversations about SEL and its correlation to student success, it’s time to start acting.

The majority of students face daunting socioeconomic and emotional pressures. An alarmingly high number of students experience trauma at home, and their attitudes towards learning can vary due to these outside factors. In fact, studies show that up to 60 percent of all high school students are “chronically disengaged” from their own learning.

Our constantly evolving digital world is another factor that plays into student achievement. Cyberbullying has become more and more common, and a remarkable 20 percent of middle school students reported seriously contemplating suicide in a survey conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center. Although these statistics are frightening, districts are finding ways to implement support into curriculum to avoid these and other tragedies.…Read More

6 key principles for a successful SEL program

A social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum adds valuable lessons to a student’s normal school day that will help propel them beyond academic success and onto success in life. No matter the program, there are common practices that lead to creating a successful and sustainable SEL environment. The presenters of “7 Must-Haves for Successful and Sustainable Social-Emotional Learning” reviewed these common practices and shared how they work in their district and school.

1. Leadership must be committed to the program.
Leadership does not have to be the school leaders; it can be the students themselves. In District Lead School Counselor Dr. O’Tasha Morgan’s district, students started to take on leadership roles and achieve more after the district implemented a mentoring program. The mentoring program gives students a chance to participate in community activities, engage in conversation with students in different grades, and demonstrate their SEL learning overall.

2. Professional development (PD) is mandatory.
Faculty and staff need to have PD on what SEL is all about and why it’s important. If they can identify with the PD in a way that impacts their personal lives, that’s a win-win situation. “Any time we can do the PD—it’s one of the only things that changes the teachers, as opposed to just kind of helping them strengthen their curriculum knowledge,” said Dr. Morgan. Derrick Hershey, principal at Shiloh Point Elementary School in Georgia, added that you can’t just provide teachers with a resource; you have to offer training to really dig into the subject.…Read More

5 best practices for teaching challenging subjects

One of the most effective ways to cultivate skills such as empathy, problem solving, and emotion management is to help students productively struggle through an examination of the real and complex subjects that have and continue to face the world. Conversations on topics like racism, genocide, school shootings, and other forms of violence are not easy; however, honest dialogue can lead to increased understanding and compassion for the human experience.

As a former high school teacher now working with Echoes & Reflections, an organization that helps middle and high school educators build their confidence and capacity to teach the Holocaust effectively, I’ve discovered some best practices for teaching challenging subjects.

1. Prepare academically and emotionally
Teaching complex subject matter without the right tools and guidance can be detrimental to students’ understanding. Teachers can avoid this with equal parts emotional and academic preparation.…Read More