Integrate SEL Programming with Existing Systems to the Greatest Extent Possible
Because the skills associated with these competencies are critical to students being able to successfully navigate the school day (as well as time spent at home and out in the community), integrating SEL instruction within our daily programming can maximize the efficiency of our instruction and increase the potential for generalization across settings and all areas of their lives. Educators should maximize opportunities to integrate SEL programming into existing academic and behavioral support systems.
For example, a teacher planning to have students work in groups on a project could integrate SEL by doing the following during the introduction of the lesson:
- Have students review the instructions, various activities, and final assignment and identify any areas that may be particularly difficult for them. Students write a short reflection on the identified difficulty and their rationale (self-reflection). In addition, students identify three ways they’ll deal with any challenges and how they’ll access help if needed (self-management).
- Students then can identify the role they’d like to take in the group (e.g., note-taker, reporter, researcher) based on their strengths and sketch out a timeline for how they’ll meet the responsibilities of that role (self-management and responsible decision-making).
- While assigning groups, the teacher can conduct short sessions on the requisite social skills for group work (e.g., listening, sharing, providing feedback) and create a mechanism so each group reflects daily on what worked for the group and what didn’t (relationship skills and social awareness). Assessment of the final project should include evaluation of SEL competencies and related growth.
In addition, most schools and classrooms have existing behavior support structures where SEL integration would be a natural addition. For example, schools and classrooms using a positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) framework likely have broad expectations related to “Being Respectful” and “Being Responsible.” Instruction in self-awareness, self-management, and responsible decision-making could easily be integrated with instruction in “Being Responsible;” instruction in relationship skills and social awareness could be part of instruction related to “Being Respectful.” At SESI, we use PBIS as a framework for supporting students’ behaviors, and SEL instruction is a key practice within that system.