5 Ways to Bring SEL Programs into Afterschool and Summer School

Social and emotional learning (SEL) shouldn’t stop once school lets out. There are many ways educators can incorporate SEL activities into afterschool and summer learning programs. In fact, because of the structure and close relationships many out-of-school settings provide, these can be ideal places to foster social-emotional skills in students. Below are five ways you can bring SEL into afterschool and summer learning. Pick one or more of our suggested strategies, and get started today!

Integrate SEL with Core Academics: Social emotional skills are implicitly woven into Common Core standards. Take, for example, a standard that states students must be able to justify conclusions, communicate findings to others, and respond to others’ arguments. When performing these tasks, students need strong social awareness, relationship, and responsible decision-making skills (as defined by CASEL). Teaching students how to creatively solve problems, analyze situations, communicate with and respect others, and evaluate and reflect (all different aspects of the social and emotional skills mentioned above) helps reinforce and teach the tenants of the standard.

Mentoring: Mentoring is critical to students’ social, emotional, and cognitive development. The smaller group settings of afterschool and summer programs are ideal for building effective mentoring programs. Foster strong connections — both adult-to-student and student-to-student — by creating a mentoring platform that builds student competency and provides support, encouragement, and advice. Learn more and get implementation ideas by watching our webinar with City Year about near peer mentors.

Remedial Instruction: Students who need remedial instruction after school or during the summer may be among those most in need of social emotional skills. Use these courses to engage at-risk students in the learning process through SEL programming. Assessments like Aperture Education’s DESSA can help afterschool and summer staff assess students’ social-emotional needs. Use the data to start a conversation with each student about areas that need improvement and how he or she can leverage strengths to make headway.

Ninth Grade Academies and Grade Transition Programs: Research shows that the majority of high school students who dropout actually begin the process during the transition from 8th to 9th grade. To help ease the transition from middle school to high school, many schools offer introductory academies during the summer. These programs can help students become familiar with the high school environment and learn about graduation requirements. Incorporating SEL into the programs can dramatically boost their effectiveness and success.

Professional Development: Summer is a perfect time to get school staff up to speed on SEL. Take advantage of any professional development hours your school has reserved before students return from break to discuss the importance of SEL and review strategies for assessing and teaching these skills. If you’re part of an afterschool or summer program, take advantage of the time you have right before students begin your program so you’re ready to implement SEL successfully. SEL programs don’t need to stop when the bell rings. Out-of-school staff can easily and effectively incorporate SEL activities into afterschool programs, summer school, and professional development sessions and often, these programs are most successful when implemented in conjunction with the work already being done during the school year.

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