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Social Emotional Learning

Social Emotional Learning

Social Emotional Learning and Character Education

What is Social Emotional Learning?
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) refers to a comprehensive process for helping students to develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness. These skills include recognizing and managing one's own emotions, developing empathy and caring for others, establishing and maintaining positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and navigating challenging situations in a constructive and ethical manner. Character education, the developmental of ethical virtues, is a critical component of SEL.

SEL Skill Sets
Self-awareness: accurately assessing one's feelings, interests, values, and strengths; maintaining a well-grounded sense of self-confidence

Self-management: regulating one's emotions to handle stress, control impulses, and persevere in overcoming obstacles; setting and monitoring progress toward personal and academic goals; expressing emotions appropriately

Social awareness: being able to take the perspective of and empathize with others; recognizing and appreciating individual and group similarities and differences; recognizing and using family, school, and community resources

Relationship skills: establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding relationships based on cooperation; resisting in appropriate social pressure; preventing, managing, and resolving interpersonal conflict; seeking help when needed

Responsible decision-making: making decisions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, appropriate social norms, respect for others, and likely consequences of various actions; applying decision-making skills to academic and social situations; contributing to the well-being of one’s school and community.

Why teach SEL skills?
The Illinois State Board of Education mandates that all Illinois public school systems implement a comprehensive SEL curriculum targeting the development of students' self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship, and decision-making skills. Furthermore, research supports a strong positive relationship between effective SEL instruction and a number of positive outcomes (e.g., increased academic achievement, positive school climate, lower drug and alcohol usage, lower discipline issues).

The literature on SEL suggests that SEL in the schools is most effectively addressed through a) the development of a positive and support school climate/culture, b) the use of an effective direct instructional curriculum and, c) opportunities for students to practice SEL-related skills and behaviors in a meaningful way.

For more information on the benefits and research behind SEL, please visit the CASEL website

How does District 29 address SEL?

District 29 staff address SEL through a continuous focus on: a) promoting a positive school climate and culture; b) implementing a variety of direct instruction curricula to target SEL skills in a developmentally appropriate manner; and c) engaging students in meaningful opportunities to practice SEL skills.

District 29 staff work hard to develop strong personal relationships with students, to engage them in the culture of the school community, and to support and encourage them as they develop their academic, social, behavioral, kinesthetic, and artistic talents. Staff also provide a variety regularly scheduled SEL direct instruction lessons across the grade levels targeting the development of specific SEL skills. Finally, District 29 offer students opportunities to engage in meaningful SEL-related activities through projects, classes, and activities.

See below for more information on SEL activities at a specific grade level, or contact Susan George,
SEL in Kindergarten
The Middlefork kindergarten program provides a positive and caring environment in which students can develop and strengthen their social and emotional skills on a daily basis. This is accomplished through developmentally appropriate lessons and activities, self-directed experimentation, and play. Additionally, character education lessons are taught every other week in each kindergarten class. Warm fuzzies are introduced at the beginning of the year. This is an activity in which students take turns giving a compliment to another student in the circle. Every character education lesson from kindergarten through third grade begins with warm fuzzies. Needless to say, by the time they reach third grade, students have become quite adept at giving and receiving sincere compliments!

The character education curriculum in kindergarten emphasizes identifying and managing emotions, working cooperatively, joining in play,helping others, listening, taking turns and sharing, respecting differences,self-respect, and making positive decisions. Lessons typically consist of a story, a teacher-led discussion, and a related activity.

SEL in 1st Grade
The child-centered and supportive environment of first grade allows students to further build their social and emotional skills. Thoughtful and interactive units (such as those on families, heroes, and the rain forest) enhance self-awareness and social awareness. A community service project teaches the importance of helping others. Explorers Club, a favorite unit for many students, allows students to identify and explore their unique interests and strengths.

Character education lessons are taught each week in first grade. We begin the year by learning about “bucket-filling.” This unit is based on the book, “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud. According to the book, everyone carries around an invisible bucket, and we feel good when our buckets are full. We fill others’ buckets by saying or doing kind things. Spreading this kindness and positivity also helps to fill our own buckets. Bucket dipping, on the other hand, is when we say or do things that hurt another person’s feelings. The idea of bucket-filling and bucket-dipping is a concept that students can understand and embrace, and we frequently refer to these terms throughout the year. Subsequent topics in first grade character education include: managing and expressing anger, friendship, manners, respect for self and others, tattling vs. telling, bullying, making mistakes, responsibility, problem solving, and cooperation. All lessons begin with warm fuzzies (an activity in which students take turns giving a compliment to another student in the circle). This is followed by a story, a teacher-led discussion, and an activity.

SEL in 2nd Grade
The second grade SEL curriculum consists of lessons that are given every other week throughout the school year. The lessons follow a specific format that provides consistency in the way skills are taught and the language used, as targeted skills change. Each lesson begins with warm fuzzies, a circle activity of giving compliments to each other. This is followed by the teacher reading a picture book, a teacher led discussion, concluding with a a child-centered activity. The second grade curriculum strongly emphasizes friendship skills, social inclusion, handling bullying, respecting differences, and team-building. The children at this stage are building their vocabulary and developing an understanding of the SEL concepts.

The concepts of SEL are also integrated into the regular curriculum throughout the year during Language Arts and Social Studies. The second grade students begin the school by reading books and completing activities about friendship and bullies. There is a major unit studying the age of King Arthur that integrates Language Arts, Social Studies and Character Education. The children learn about loyalty, fortitude, responsibility, cooperation and compassion during the course of this unit. Most of the second grades also spend time studying Martin Luther King, Jr. learning about respecting differences, fortitude and peaceful cooperation. The second grade is also involved in collecting gifts for families for the Northwest Settlement House. SEL is pervasive throughout the year, fostering a sense of community.

SEL in 3rd Grade
The third grade SEL curriculum consists of lessons that are given every other week throughout the school year. The lessons follow a specific format that provides consistency in the way the skills are taught and the language used as targeted skills change. Each lesson begins with warm fuzzies, a circle activity of giving compliments to each other. This is followed by the teacher reading a picture book, a student and teacher led discussion, concluding with developmentally appropriate, child-centered activity. The third grade curriculum builds on what was taught in second grade emphasizing the same topics, but delving deeper into the meanings of the vocabulary and the analysis of the concepts. For example, the third graders learn about the three kinds of power a bully might use, physical, emotional, and social power. The students are taught new ways to try to find their own solutions to social issues. They are given a chance to practice these through role-plays and creating skits. The children at this stage are able to use the vocabulary and concepts to compare situations and relationships in a practice setting to real occurrences in their lives. They are beginning to be able to transfer their knowledge and skills to use in real situations throughout the school day.

SEL is integrated into the regular curriculum throughout the year during Language Arts and Social Studies. At the beginning of the year there is a Social Studies unit that focuses on communities. The students learn how people need to cooperate and be responsible in order for a community to thrive. Following this is a major Social Studies and Language Arts unit on Jamestown. Within this unit the children learn conflict resolution skills and the importance of respecting cultural differences. This unit parallels the Character Education curriculum which further reinforces the life-long lessons of tolerance, respect, identity and cooperation.

SEL Across the Grades: DOLPHIN PODS
Once per month the entire school community gathers in PlayPod groups to strengthen friendships and engage in positive play activities across the grade levels. PlayPods are comprised of 12-14 students each, and students are mixed from among the four grade levels. Each PlayPod also has two teacher leaders. Students are assigned to a PlayPod in kindergarten and remain with their Pod throughout their Middlefork years. One only has to witness one kindergartner doing the dolphin wave to a third grade student to know the positive impact of the PlayPod program on the Middlefork school climate!