Integrating SEL Into Your Curriculum Strategies You Need to Know

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Integrating SEL Into Curriculum

Integrating social and emotional learning into curriculum can be done without losing instructional time and tedious preparation, according to the book Integrating SEL into Your Curriculum Practical Lesson Plans for Grades 3–5 by John Dacey, Gian Criscitiello, and Maureen Devlin,. There is growing agreement on embedding SEL into the general curriculum, for its own sake, and for the many ways it facilitates Academic Learning. For example, research by the influential Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has found that there are average gains of 11 to 17% in AL when it is blended with SEL.3 As the new Guide to SEL Programs Studies,4 also by CASEL, puts it:

“Social and emotional learning can serve as an organizing principle for coordinating all of a school’s academic, youth development, and prevention activities.”

Criteria for Integrating SEL and Curriculum Strategies

For SEL strategies to be integrated into Academic Learning, even if only from time to time, several criteria must be met:

  • Teachers are busy. AL/SEL lessons must be well organized and easy to implement. Assuming all teachers already know the AL part of their curriculum, the SEL strategies in our lessons should require no more than 30 minutes of preparation time.
  • SEL must not interfere with academic learning (remember, SEL typically improves academic scores by between 11 and 17%).
  • The relevancy of SEL to the required academic objectives must be apparent to the teacher (and to student teachers). Today, learning standards vary from school to school, state to state, and country to country. However, the three most popular are the Common Core State Standards6 (CCSS), the International Baccalaureate7 (IB) standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards8 (NGSS). We have paraphrased AL goals in each of our lessons based on these three similar international standards because we know you are getting students ready for the globally interconnected world in which they will live.
  • SEL must promote an atmosphere that fosters creativity, cooperation, concentration, and critical thinking.
  • The strategy should include only the subject matter for which all students are tested, and Science (including psychology), Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math (STEAM).

Format of Each of the Strategies

In each of our strategies, we describe seven elements:

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  • Number and name of strategy (e.g., 2A Math Confidence)
  • Academic goal by area covered (language arts, science, and mathematics ELA; STEAM)
  • SEL goal by area covered (one of the eight 6Seconds strategies based originally on the five CASEL areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making
  • Materials needed (e.g., Reproducible 5B1: Sharing Tough Situations)
  • Engage (What exactly is the information being presented in this activity?)
  • Activate (What does it mean to students?)
  • Reflect (What do they want to do about it?)


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