Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a natural part of the learning process: how we feel can affect how we learn, and how we learn can affect how we feel. Social-emotional development has become a priority for many schools and districts. But because the school day is jam-packed with learning requirements, assessments, and instruction, many educators struggle to find ways to add SEL to an already busy schedule.

SEL shouldn’t be viewed as one more item added to a very full plate. It’s easy to find effective ways to build students’ social-emotional competence within normal daily teaching practices and core instruction.

Here are a few examples you can try with your students to teach SEL in your core instruction.

Teaching Strategy Role of SEL

Practice SEL in the Classroom

Classroom Discussions


Classroom discussions are an integral part of learning. This is where students learn skills like communication, respect, cooperation, relationship-building, and elaborative thinking.


In classroom content discussions, encourage students to…

·    practice active listening

·    reflect on what others have said before responding, and never interrupt

·    be conscious of facial expressions and body language (i.e. avoid fidgeting, make eye contact with the speaker, keep arms uncrossed and avoid other negative body language)

·    ask appropriate questions

Cooperative Learning


SEL and cooperative learning go hand-in-hand. They help students learn important interpersonal skills such as effective communication, respect, and self-regulation. Through small-group and role-playing activities, teach students to…

·  accept that people have different opinions, values, and attitudes

·  recognize and resist stereotypes

·  give and receive constructive feedback

·  promote social boundaries

·  peacefully resolve conflicts

·  take turns and act fairly toward one another

Differentiated Instruction Each student has a different level of social-emotional competence. SEL supports differentiated instruction by helping students become ready to learn. Include SEL in your differentiation practices:

·  Use social-emotional competence as a differentiating factor when creating small groups or teams.

·  Create SEL mini-lessons that focus on a particular skill, and assign students to participate according to their needs.

·  For each student, identify 2 – 3 skills to focus on improving. Provide opportunities to learn about and practice the skills, and check in regularly on their progress.



Reflection is an important part of the learning process. It helps students recognize where they are in their learning and identify areas where they need to improve to increase their knowledge and skills. There are many ways to incorporate SEL into students’ self-assessment. Here are a few activities to try:

·  At the end of each semester or quarter, have students grade themselves and explain the reasoning behind their “grade.” Then reveal the grade you’d give them. Ask students to respond to that grade and work together to set goals.

·  Have students identify areas of strength and where they need to improve in a particular subject area. Discuss ways they can leverage their strengths to do so.

·  Take 5 minutes at the end of a lesson to model reflection. Ask students to share what they learned and give feedback on what they liked/disliked. Discuss ways to improve the lesson.

These are just a few ways to build students’ social-emotional competence within your daily instruction. Check out our blog, Four Ideas to Integrate SEL into Your Core Curricula, for ideas on teaching SEL in core subjects like math and science. You can also check out our most popular resource, 12 Social and Emotional Learning Activities, for even more ideas on how to teach SEL throughout the school day.

Interested in learning more? Contact our SEL experts, and let’s have a conversation about creating an SEL program that meets the needs of your students and school.