Teaching and reinforcing SEL concepts within core content helps students engage in learning and develop more meaningful connections to academic material. To help you get started, we’ve outlined ideas on how to embed SEL into the core subjects English language arts (ELA), math, social studies, and science. Get started today, and you’ll be amazed at the difference in your students’ achievement!

English Language Arts and SEL

There are many ways SEL can enrich and enhance ELA instruction. Each of the five SEL competencies established by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning’s (CASEL) are relevant to ELA and support analyzing and understanding texts, developing a strong vocabulary, critical thinking skills, perspective-taking, communication, and more.

Take Action: Integrate SEL and ELA instruction by having students create a double-entry journal in which they examine a storybook character’s emotions. Have the students analyze how those emotions affect the character’s relationships and any outcomes that materialize because of the emotions. In doing so, students gain insight into how the emotions affect the characters’ lives, which makes it easier for students to reflect on how their own emotions impact the world around them. This lesson can be used with students of all ages.

If you need more lesson ideas on how to teach SEL alongside ELA, check out CASEL’s list of lesson ideas and activities that support SEL and ELA integration.

 Incorporating SEL with Math

Students who struggle with math need strong social and emotional skills so they can persevere through challenging problems. Self-efficacy is a particularly important skill for math, since students need confidence in their abilities. Students also need strong analytical, evaluation, and reflection skills so they are equipped to handle increasingly complex exercises. Relationship and stress-management skills are also important, since students need to be able to deescalate their stress levels when they get frustrated and ask for help if they get stuck.

Take Action: Here is a video about a teacher who integrated SEL into math instruction by creating a cooperative learning environment. Use this model to get inspired on how to integrate math and SEL in your classroom.

SEL and Social Studies

Like ELA and math, SEL supports social studies instruction because it engages students in learning and deepens their understanding of academic material. Students need to rely on a variety of SEL skills in social studies, especially perspective-taking, appreciating diversity, empathy, communication, and social engagement.

Take Action: In this lesson, students learn how to a newspaper article and apply critical thinking skills to analyze a current or historical event. Students will build decision-making and problem-solving skills while learning about media communication and history/current events in a more personal and engaging way.

Using SEL in Science

A powerful way to get students excited about science is by helping them understand the many ways science sustains and improves our everyday lives. Like math, science requires many of the same intrapersonal SEL skills. Integrate SEL in your science lessons to improve problem-solving, evaluation, and analytical skills.

Take Action: Teach and reinforce biology concepts by having students grow a community garden where they donate plants and fruits/vegetables to a local food bank or other nonprofit organization. They can also work with community members for neighborhood beautification projects where they plant trees, hedge plants, and flowers around the community. This project reinforces SEL concepts such as social engagement, relationship-building, teamwork, and the importance of giving back to the community.

Teaching SEL alongside your core content will not only deepen student engagement and learning but will also help students develop non-academic skills they need to succeed in life. Try out our ideas and have fun finding additional ways to integrate SEL in your core curricula!


Want even more content like this? Download our Back-to-School Guide now!

Grab Your Copy!