Benefits of Schoolwide SEL

Written by Charlie Merrow

June 10, 2020

Social-emotional Learning

Tips for Schoolwide SEL Implementation

What would your school look like with social and emotional learning (SEL) in every classroom and part of academics? This may sound like a dream to some. Yet, more and more schools are introducing SEL as a schoolwide approach. Let’s first dig into the benefits of schoolwide SEL.

Schoolwide approaches focus on preventing problems before they occur. Using SEL curricula schoolwide is a way to create a school rooted in relationships and communication. Some teachers may feel that SEL has no connection to math and science. But when students learn how to solve problems and communicate with their peers, they are using and growing in SEL and are better able to learn.

Research shows that when students learn SEL throughout their school day they have greater academic success, fewer behavior problems, and higher levels of positive social behaviors (Durlak, et al., 2011).

There are benefits of schoolwide SEL in all classrooms and in all parts of the day as well as in partnership with families and communities.

So you might be asking yourself, how could I get SEL implemented schoolwide at my school? We put together 5 tips for success on creating a schoolwide approach to SEL.


1. Get buy-in and create a team

In our admin blog on bringing SEL to your school, we brought up the importance of getting buy-in from staff and parents. Schoolwide SEL includes the entire school community. Take the time upfront to get people on board is key for any schoolwide intervention. As an administrator, it is also essential to not feel like you are doing all the work. Assemble an SEL team with teachers, mental health staff, and parents to review SEL curricula and be the champions of SEL at your school.


2. Choose your school’s model

Schoolwide SEL looks different for all schools. We recommend one of three approaches:

  • Every classroom, every teacher: The most common approach is to have all teachers use the same curriculum at a consistent time during the week. Our scope and sequence introduce the same concepts each week across all grade bands. The rationale here is that all students are learning the same skills and vocabulary and that teachers will be able to reinforce the ideas during the rest of the day.
  • SEL Specials:  In addition to art, music, and physical education, SEL can be a special class.. This approach has one teacher in charge of the SEL instruction for all grade bands with students coming each week to their classroom.
  • Mental Health Groups: School social workers and therapists can create small groups teaching SEL skills. This tier 2 or tier 3 approach can be especially helpful for students who need extra learning support.


3. Add SEL into the school schedule

Whatever model of schoolwide implementation your school chooses, make sure there is a consistent time for SEL. Schools that have time set aside are more likely to teach the necessary skills and see results.


4. Train teachers and student leaders

Training on any new intervention is critical and SEL is no exception. Teachers may view SEL as one more thing they need to do. But, most teachers are already building it into their classrooms and day-to-day routines. When selecting an SEL program, make sure it offers training on the curriculum as well as trauma-informed tips for teaching SEL. We have seen great success with the Empowering Education trainings in setting up teachers for success.

SEL can also be an opportunity for students to become leaders. Some schools have the fifth and sixth graders use the Empowering Minds curriculum to teach younger students. This builds community in the school as well as creates mentoring opportunities.


5. Reflect and make changes

Test how the program is working at your school and make necessary changes. If you notice a positive change, keep up the consistency. If you notice teachers are not using the program consider making SEL more of a priority at your school. We are always here to support schools looking to expand SEL, so reach out anytime for a consultation.

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Written by

Charlie Merrow

Charlie has over a decade of experience working in education across the world in North America, Asia, and Africa as a classroom teacher, curriculum specialist, university instructor, and educational researcher. His passion lies in promoting education equity and development through mindfulness and inclusive practices. Charlie has a MA in Special Education, is a PhD student studying Education, a licensed special education teacher, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and a certified yoga instructor.

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