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  • Lee McDonald

Drive Instruction with SEL Standards


It goes without saying that the alignment of instruction to standards is a critical component of teaching and learning. Not only do standards drive instruction, they guide teachers through planning and preparation, implementation of lesson plans and the assessment of learning.


As a school district, an important first step for the integration of social and emotional learning in the classroom is the adoption of agreed upon SEL standards. Establishing standards will go a long way in building a culture for SEL, creating a common language around SEL and establishing expectations for SEL. Let’s look at how with these three steps...


Establish a collaborative team. Begin by gathering a team of instructional leaders who know and understand SEL best. This includes teachers, supervisors and principals who represent various grade levels and content areas. Add in pupil support staff such as school counselors, social workers and psychologists who bring a perspective on child and adolescent development. Seek student and parent representation to share school and systematic experiences. And don’t forget other members of the school community who may bring an outside expertise. This could include the town librarian, a local pediatrician or the director of recreation.


Form, storm, norm, perform, adjourn. Understand the popular theory for group effectiveness. Map out a timeline for the work. Know the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Identify goals and objectives. Build trust among team members. Celebrate success. Embed reflective practices. Take time to norm for effectiveness by discussing what SEL is, how it supports learning and why it is important for students and adults alike. Begin the conversation by reviewing the SEL standards that many schools, districts and states have already created and adopted. After all, there is no sense in recreating the wheel.


Start with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a non-profit advocacy group for SEL that provides guidance on what students should know and be able to do in terms of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships skills and responsible decision making.


The Anchorage, Alaska School District offers an example of K-12 SEL standards.


The state of Illinois has adopted one of the nation’s more comprehensive set of SEL standards.


Ask essential questions. Take a deeper dive to guide your thinking, navigate decision making and create a vision for what SEL standards will look like in your district. Start with the below questions and come up with your own for a better sense of direction, purpose and relevance.


What SEL competencies do we want students to know and understand?

When should our students reach specific SEL benchmarks?

What are the essential SEL skills we want our graduates to have?

Where do SEL standards align with our district’s academic standards?

How do SEL standards connect to our current instructional practices?

How will we integrate SEL standards within the district’s curriculum?

Who will provide professional development on SEL standards?

How do SEL standards support the district’s mission and goals?

Will we adopt a board of education policy for SEL standards?


#SEL #WholeChild

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