Social Emotional Learning February 2020
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February 2020
Elementary Snapshot
Social Emotional Learning

People are paying more attention to the importance of social emotional learning (SEL) and realizing that these skills matter. The goal of teaching social and emotional skills is to build students' mental health and resilience—so as they grow, they can adapt and handle life's challenges. 
Certainly, schools and teachers have been providing more than academic learning for decades. However, research shows that by providing consistent, purposeful, and robust SEL programs students can benefit in multiple ways. Extensive research shows that SEL programs can promote academic achievement and positive social behavior as well as reduce conduct problems, substance abuse and emotional distress. 

Skills like bouncing back from being teased or sitting still in a group to listen to a story are all examples of healthy social and emotional development. They involve the ability to manage feelings and impulses which are needed to grow and learn.

 SEL is defined as a process wherein individuals learn to acquire the knowledge and skills to:

- Understand and manage their emotions
- Set and achieve positive goals
- Feel and show empathy for others
- Establish and maintain positive relationships
- Make responsible decisions

Social Emotional Learning is generally organized into 5 categories:

Self-awareness is being able to recognize and understand one‘s emotions and how they translate into our behaviors. This includes recognizing stress or negative emotions, being aware of one‘s abilities and weaknesses as well as a strong sense of self-efficacy and optimism.

Self-management takes self-awareness one step further into the ability to regulate one‘s feelings and behaviors. This can include controlling anger, handling stress, self-motivation, or persistence through setbacks.

Social awareness looks outward and is about empathizing with others and possessing a willingness to understand and respect the unique experiences, norms, and behaviors of others.

Relationships skills include creating and maintaining healthy relationships through cooperation, active listening, conflict resolution and communication.

Making responsible decisions includes making safe, healthy choices that align with one‘s healthy personal moral code and support personal well-being and the well-being of others.






In the 2018-2019 school year the K-5 Second Step program was rolled out in all of our elementary schools. Every school is at a different stage of implementation and we continue to provide training and support for school staff. 

Second Step is a research-based program rooted in social-emotional learning. It helps children sort through complicated emotions, make sound decisions, build positive relationships and manage strong feelings.
Second Step‘s holistic approach helps create a more empathetic society by providing education professionals and families with tools to take an active role in the social-emotional growth and safety of children. As a parent you may be receiving Second Step Home Links from your school. The Home Links serve as a bridge between school and home and provide parents with the opportunity to reinforce the SEL skills that are being learned at school.

The program provides instruction in SEL with units on skills for learning, empathy, emotion management, friendship skills, and problem solving. 

Skills for Learning

Focusing attention, listening, using self talk, and being assertive are skills students must integrate and apply in order to be successful in many different learning environments including school.


Being able to feel or understand what another person is feeling prepares students to manage their own strong emotions. This ability provides the base  for helpful and socially responsible coping strategies.

Managing Emotions

Using strategies that help students to calm down prevents strong emotions from escalating into challenging behaviours.  When students can calm their strong emotions such as anger or frustration they are able to use other skills like problem solving and making good choices.

Problem Solving and Friendships

Students who are able to be effective problem solvers tend to choose more respectful solutions to their problems. This helps to create a safer, more considerate school climate where more students can learn and be successful. Having strong interpersonal skills supports students in creating and maintaining friendships.
When students are better equipped to manage their own emotions,
form healthy relationships, make good decisions, and cope with everyday
social and academic challenges, they are better equipped to learn.





How Families Can Support SEL

In the same way that a strong school-wide SEL program helps children develop key skills for many settings, families can use their everyday interactions to build critical skills that will help children throughout their day.

Take time to talk about feelings, including your own, every day. Spend time reflecting on what happened during the day and how it made you feel. Example “This morning I got stuck in traffic on the way to work which made me frustrated.”
Teach your child how to ask for help. This lets your child know that it is okay to ask for help.

Identify feelings. You can use characters from books or movies to point out feelings. The movie “Inside Out “ can be a fun way to help your child spot emotions.

Teach your child appropriate ways to manage feelings. Some families create a safe place in the home, like a corner of a room with pillows or a stuffed animal, for children to calm down during a tantrum. You could teach your child to pause and take three big breaths when strong feelings rise.

Let your child problem solve. If your child’s block tower keeps falling or he or she gets into an argument with a peer on the playground, resist stepping in to fix the problem. Pause to give your child space to continue the challenging task or work out social issues. Step in if they ask for help or if things do not go well.
Create routines. Children feel safe when they know what to expect. Develop a consistent routine throughout the day. Some families may choose to create a visual schedule that shows the order things happen. 

Set a good example. Your child looks up to you to model acceptable behavior. Be sure to display the traits you want your child to have. Apologizing when you make a mistake, speaking kindly about others, saying please and thank you, or not yelling when you are angry teaches your child how to behave and relate with others.

Make time for play. Arrange time for your child to play with other similar aged children. Encourage  outdoor and imaginative play as much as possible.
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RESOURCES Used in Snapshot

Second Step
CASEL (Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning
Early Learning Monthly Newsletter
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