What is SEL and how is it used in a classroom?


While SEL can be a controversial phrase, an overview of some activities your child might do under this methodology has been around for decades.

INDIANAPOLIS – Even before the pandemic, children were collapsing in American schools.

In 2019, almost a third of Hoosier students in Grades 6 to 12 reported feeling sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row.

After the coronavirus closed schools and students began working remotely for good, educators saw the distress blossom into a mental health crisis.

The kind of emotional distress felt among students, said Butler University associate professor Dr. Lori Desautel, affects student brains on a basic level.

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“We are currently witnessing, in a third year of a pandemic in our schools across this country, a social loss among our children. I am not talking about an academic loss. We are witnessing a truly indescribable social loss. Our children are struggling, and we see it through their behaviors. It’s almost like they forgot how to be with each other, ”she said.

As school districts searched for ways to meet the emotional needs of students in the midst of a nagging pandemic, a setting called Socio-Emotional Learning, or SEL, has come to the forefront of the conversation.

According to CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning of Chicago, socio-emotional learning is a methodology intended to help students make sense of their emotions.

The framework is rooted in neuroscience, designed to improve children’s emotional and behavioral health by engaging how children focus and regulate their emotions.

“It’s about teaching kids about their nervous system and its impact on how they feel. The way they think, ”Desautel said.

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Remember those jumping jacks we used to do sometimes before a big final in high school? In kindergarten, have you ever sat in a circle and shared how you felt for the day? Maybe your fifth grade teacher played classical music during reading hours.

These are all methodologies that SEL advocates in a classroom.

Ike Curry is president of the Social and Emotional Learning Alliance for Indiana and said that while the name SEL may be unknown, the way it is implemented in classrooms is not.

“SEL may look a lot different, SEL is nothing new. SEL has been the way teachers teach for all the time teachers have been in teaching. What it really is to build relationships with students. Create predictable and safe spaces for students, ”says Curry.

The most common framework implemented by school districts in the United States is CASEL, whose SEL framework involves five foundational skills that can be applied in the classroom, at home, and in student communities.

Indiana’s Social and Emotional Learning Skills added two skills to the five offered by CASEL, Mindset and Sensorimotor Integration.

“We all need to be able to manage our feelings and regulate our emotions. But these are not realistic when we enter school being upset or arrive at school literally going through a pandemic,” he said. declared Desautel.

Here is a guide to some of the most common SEL questions.

What is SEL, or socio-emotional learning?

Socio-emotional learning, or SEL, is a neuroscience-based educational framework that is designed to increase emotional skills and behavioral well-being in children of all ages.

In Indiana, socio-emotional learning provides the Indiana SEL framework of Seven Skills, a framework adopted by some school districts that gives teachers tools to engage student brains.

What Are the Skills of Indiana SEL?

There are a total of seven socio-emotional learning skills offered by the state of Indiana.

They are: sensorimotor integration, insight, regulation, collaboration, connection, critical thinking and state of mind.

Of these seven skills, are there any that should be taught in Indiana classrooms?

Three of the seven SEL skills should be taught, but only within a larger framework mandated by the state.

During the 2019-2020 school year, the State of Indiana adopted the Indiana Employability Skills Standards.

This is a set of 18 skills that required students to follow standards throughout K-12 years. According to the Indiana Department of Education, these 18 standards are organized into four key areas as part of a larger plan: Mindset – M, Work Ethics – US, Learning Strategies – LS. . Social and emotional skills, also known as SE zone, are included in this larger set of 18 skills.

These skills are regulation, collaboration and connection.

In addition to the Indiana Employability Skills Standards, other standards required for graduation are the Indiana Academic Standards.

SEL skills are not included in Indiana academic standards.

So, does the law require SALT to be taught in Indiana classrooms?

These three standards, Regulation, Collaboration, and Connection are, but only because they are included in the Indiana Employability Skills Standards.

Indiana Academic Standards and Indiana Employability Skills Standards are the only standards Indiana requires for high school graduation.

According to IC 20-26-3 and 511 IAC 6-7.1-2 (1), local school boards may approve additional requirements for their students.

What do these required skills really look like in a classroom? What is my child learning through SEL?

In 2018, the Indiana Department of Education and Butler’s College of Education released a Toolkit for Educators and Districts.

In this toolkit, there were sample activities and resources for educators on how to merge Indiana SEL skills into daily classroom activities.

We’ve broken down each SEL skill and highlighted the activities the kids could do in class.

  • Sensorimotor integration

The sensorimotor integration skill is the ability of students to have body awareness and recognize sensations in the body.

In these lessons, students are encouraged to recognize sensations in the body in a way that further prepares them to handle transitions, routines, and to improve emotional regulation by sensing how emotions feel in the body.

Possible activities to improve sensorimotor integration include animal walks, where students perform exercises on the animals for which they are named after them. It was a suggested activity for students who may be restless or in crisis.

Activities like panting fingers, working with plasticine, and meditating were also mentioned.

The SEL skill of insight highlights a student’s ability to understand how emotions affect thoughts and actions.

These lessons are used in the classroom to improve self-esteem, self-confidence and empathy.

Suggested activities include creating a personal collage to identify personal strengths or values, taking a free strength test, or keeping a journal.

Regulation is the ability to recognize and deal with one’s emotions. Classroom activities designed around regulation encourage students to develop positive self-control, positive self-discipline, and impulse control.

Possible regulation activities include creating an emotional planner by defining a one-day task and then assigning a particular emotion to that task. This allows students to analyze potential stressors throughout their day.

Field games like Red Light, Green Light, Simon Says and Freeze Dance can also be implemented to encourage emotional or impulse regulation in students.

It is the ability to work well with others in a group or team environment. Key skills for this skill include establishing positive communication and developing conflict resolution skills.

A teacher could create a scenario where students have to work together and solve a problem in order to be successful, such as being stranded on a desert island or getting lost at sea.

Students can also do activities with partners where one person tells a story and then the second asks a clarifying question.

This defined as the ability to have a strong social conscience.

Toolkit activities are created to give students the opportunity to take the perspective of others, while empathizing with people of diverse backgrounds and cultures.

The toolkit highlights activities that ask students to situate themselves in the larger context of their community.

These include creating an empathy map, discussions where students reflect on who is inside or outside their close circle of friends, and discuss barriers to empathy. .

It is the ability to make constructive choices and to acquire skills in decision-making and critical inquiry.

Examples of activities on this section include creating cause and effect diagrams, pros and cons, participating in advocacy programs in their community, and participating in other critical thinking skills.

This skill is defined as the ability to demonstrate cognitive flexibility and a willingness to learn.

In the classroom, students don’t just think about what they are learning. They reflect on how they learned it. Questions like, What strategies have I found the most effective for learning? What could I do differently next time?, are highlighted in the activities related to this skill.

Students and teachers are also encouraged to develop a growth mindset when it comes to academic achievement. Instead of viewing potential struggles as failure, students are encouraged to embrace the process and analyze what went wrong and led to failure.

Teachers are encouraged to be honest with students. Instead of saying “Good job” when students are performing poorly, they are encouraged to help the student implement strategies for success in the future.

Are SEL and Critical Race Theory the same thing?

No. Critical breed theory was also not included in any of the Indiana SEL documents observed by 13News.


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