The Appendix offers myriad other items that will be helpful for you as you progress in your SEL implementation.
Have an additional resource we should include? Please share it with us at SELDallas@bigthought.org.
Culture & Climate
Everyone contributes to building their campus climate and culture; leadership, however, plays a strong role in developing a positive (or negative) climate and culture for both students and staff members. Because campus climate and culture-building are an ongoing, dynamic process, leaders need to always be intentional about how they are actively fostering a positive environment and which practices contribute to their campus climate and culture. The SEL Steering Committee can support the ongoing development of healthy campus culture through implementation of SEL practices (for both staff and students) and feedback for continual improvement. It is valuable to collect both qualitative and quantitative feedback to inform decision-making and build collaborative, inclusive learning environments where both students and staff members can thrive. Remember to develop alignment between in- and out-of-school spaces by including school-based climate practices (e.g., chants, cheers, house systems, etc.) in afterschool programs and vice versa.
A calming area is a quiet area of a room equipped with resources to help a student or adult de-escalate and/or practice self-management when upset, frustrated, or feeling overwhelmed. Calming areas may also be called calming zones, peace areas, or peace corners, but the primary goal is the same across all names: provide a quiet, private place for individuals to pause, reset, and refocus. Calming areas can exist in all areas of the campus to promote opportunities for self-regulation.
Respect agreements are documents with collaborative group norms that are developed and agreed upon by an entire group. For in-school and out of school time, this means that educators develop group norms in partnership with their students (or for staff members, supervisors and staff member teams develop collaborative group norms for meetings, etc.). Rather than having a set of rules given to students, respect agreements provide an opportunity for educators and students to discuss and agree upon expectations for student-to-student interactions, student-educator interactions, and everyone’s interactions with the learning space. By collecting input and developing consensus on group expectations, participants are likely to have greater understanding of their own group norms and develop a stronger sense of community. Respect agreements may also be called group norms, group learning agreements, or even a “Classroom Bill of Rights.”
Mood Meter/ Emotional Check-Ins:
A mood meter is a tool for guiding an emotional “check-in” for adults and children. The mood meter shows a range of feelings along levels of pleasantness and overall energy. Emotions change throughout the day based on our thoughts, and, ultimately, determine our actions. Therefore, it is important to learn to identify emotions and consider the potential impact that our emotions may have on others. Everyone’s emotions are unique to their own circumstances and experiences, and there is no “ideal” area on the mood meter. In this way, participants should never be shamed or encouraged to change their emotion. Rather, the intention of the mood meter is to build emotional literacy of students and adults by providing a tool that encourages individuals to:
Guidance from RULER (Brackett et al., 2013) suggests that the green and yellow quadrants are where we want to spend much of our time (mood) in school. A typical school day, however, will present a variety of emotions, and noticing them is critical to student engagement and learning. (Sample Mood Meter )
Student Meeting History and Cultural Connection:
The morning meeting and community meeting practices used across our district have indigenous roots. The circle process that many non-Native people are using today is rooted in the tradition of “talking circles” that Indigenous Peoples in North America use and have used for millennia. Similarly, the “Talking Piece” is also an indigenous practice adopted by restorative practices. Dr. Loretta Standley, of the Cherokee Nation, states, “the art of Native communication style values cooperation over competition which reflects areas of their lifestyles. When engaging in conversation they listen intently generally looking down and do not focus on eye contact until the person speaking has finished.” As further explained in an article published by the publication Indian Country Today: “listening and understanding instills respect for those in attendance. As a result, at meetings or ceremonies, no one is left out of the process unless they have no comment. This methodology becomes a shared commitment.” Learn more about the history of “The Circle” and of the Talking Piece.
Responsive Classroom defines “morning meeting” as a deliberate way (with a specific process) to begin the school day, during which all classroom members – grown-ups and students – gather in a circle, greet one another, and listen and respond to each other’s news. Teachers may use this time to gather data, such as who is present and who is absent, who is smiling and who is having a hard time smiling. Many non-academic issues can be addressed in a supportive manner to ensure that children are able emotionally to meet the challenges of the day.
The term “morning meeting” is used in elementary settings to refer to the time of the day reserved for building relationships in the learning environment, whether it’s in or out of school. Conducting morning meetings is a practice that creates an environment where students feel safe and have a sense of importance and belonging.
Morning meetings enhance connections between students and the teacher, build social and emotional skills (such as respect, communication, and impulse control), and strengthen academic competence in a fun, interactive and learner-centered manner. Students develop empathy by learning about each other and laughing together, which helps to reduce attention-seeking behavior and relational aggression. See the suggested format for conducting a morning meeting from Responsive Classroom in the following sample document. (Sample Morning Meeting Planning Document)
The term “community meeting” is used in secondary settings to refer to the time of the day reserved for building relationships in the classroom. Community meetings help create a trusting classroom environment. During community meetings, students have ample opportunities to practice all SEL competencies. Community meetings serve various functions, such as providing student-centered opportunities to develop listening and communication skills, strengthen student relationships with each other and the teacher, as well as provide facilitators with insight for addressing spoken needs. Students and educators are able to expand their empathy and develop perspective-taking skills.
CASEL defines SEL Signature Practices as three components: welcoming activities, engaging practices, and optimistic closures. Together, these practices provide regular time and space for students (and adults) to build skills across all five SEL competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship building, and responsible decision-making.
Signature Practices can be applied to any group learning environment whether in-person or online: with students in an afterschool activity or an online reading activity, or with staff members in a staff meeting or during a grade level meeting. Moreover, Signature Practices are an excellent opportunity for rotating leadership: allowing students to choose and lead the welcoming activity, rotating staff members to facilitate the welcoming and optimistic closures for a meeting, etc. We have compiled examples of each practice and highlighted additional external resources for easy access.
Welcoming activities provide dedicated time for students and staff members to get to know each other, find commonalities, and share about recent experiences to build community. Below are example discussion questions and other welcoming activity ideas to consider when planning a staff meeting, a lesson, or beginning an activity in the OST environment.
Note that welcoming activities can be facilitated virtually: students/participants can share responses to questions via chat box or sharing in a “circle” (and the speaker chooses the next person to share out in their virtual meeting space).
Example Discussion Questions
Discussion questions can also be linked to upcoming learning/meeting content to guide participants into the right mindset or focus area.
Example Mindset/Focus Area Questions
Example Welcoming Activities
Engaging practices are a range of tools to promote collaboration, guide active learning in individual/partner/small group/whole group settings, and encourage regular brain breaks. Our brains are constantly searching for novelty. By applying a variety of engaging practices to classroom, afterschool, and meeting environments, we can lead enhanced learning opportunities with greater student/participant voice and involvement.
Examples of Engaging Practices
Examples of Brain Breaks
For both students and adults, reflection is a valuable component of any learning experience, including afterschool activities, learning new content, or collaborating with others on lesson plan development, among many others. Leading a brief closure activity helps with identifying meaningful takeaways, connecting with others about their experiences, and even metacognition (or “thinking about thinking”) to reflect on how you learned. Moreover, optimistic closures can build greater self-awareness, social awareness, and responsible decision-making skills.
Examples of Optimistic Closures
Share an Appreciation, Apology, or Aha!
Note that CASEL has developed an SEL 3 Signature Practices Playbook, which provides more information and examples for all Signature Practices.
The Dallas ISD Board of Trustees has enacted LOCAL policy (EHAA LOCAL), which states that district efforts for SEL implementation will center on CASEL’s five core SEL competencies. At this time, the Dallas ISD SEL department offers the following curriculum recommendations with “in-house” department knowledge and experience with implementing each curriculum:
There are many other SEL-explicit skills instruction programs available for consideration, and the CASEL Program Guide provides an overview of multiple CASEL-approved curriculum options that meet their criteria for providing quality SEL skill development in students. Within Dallas ISD, there are other SEL curriculums such as “Second Step” and “Leader in Me” that individual campus teams may choose to implement. The content below is based on the SEL Dallas team’s experience.
Elementary Curriculum Options
Sanford Harmony (Grades PreK-6): Denny Sanford is a philanthropist who aspires to have Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills taught in every classroom in the United States. His organization, Sanford Harmony, is now working to promote SEL worldwide, and offers curriculum for Pre-K-6th grade classrooms and professional learning opportunities through Sanford’s Inspirational Pathways. Additional training in philanthropy and opportunities for advanced degrees in education with an emphasis on Social and Emotional Learning are offered through National University. At this time, there is no cost associated with implementing Sanford Harmony or accessing their online curriculum and support.
Leader in Me (Grades K-6th; Options for Grades K-12): Leader in Me is a CASEL-approved, evidence-based curriculum developed by Franklin Covey focused on a comprehensive school improvement model. Leader in Me aims to give educators a new paradigm for teaching students based on the following shifts:
Note that there are annual costs associated with the Leader in Me curriculum, staff training, and ongoing support. For additional information, including pricing, visit Leader in Me.
Secondary Curriculum Options
Positive Action (Grades 6-8): Positive Action is a modular social and emotional learning program that embeds academic content in lessons designed to develop an intrinsic interest in learning and promote prosocial behavior. Note that there is a cost associated with purchasing Positive Action curriculum.
Random Acts of Kindness (Grades 6-8): The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has created free, open-source resources for educators to use to teach SEL skills. These resources are CASEL-approved and suggested as a Tier I intervention designed to help schools create a culture of kindness. Within each unit, students are taught six core kindness concepts: respect, caring, inclusiveness, integrity, responsibility, and courage. Access resources here at Random Acts of Kindness.
Community Matters: A Facing History and Ourselves Approach to Advisory (Grades 8-10): The Community Matters curriculum is designed around social and emotional foundational practices and supports student academic and social growth through lessons that will allow honest discussions, perspective-taking, and questioning. Key tenets of this curriculum allow students to build understanding and empathy; break down stereotypes; discover their voices; develop the skills necessary for academic and community success; build civic agency; and find new ways to participate in the school and local community. We recommend teaching these lessons during advisory period with facilitators who are trained in advisory facilitation. Facing History developed Community Matters: A Facing History Approach to Advisory and related activities/resources to equip educators with the necessary facilitation skills.
Dallas ISD’s approach to comprehensive SEL implementation includes integrating SEL into ongoing learning content and related activities to regularly reinforce SEL skills and concepts. Some examples include:
When adults emphasize these regular connections to SEL, they guide students to building their knowledge and understanding of skills within every SEL competency. Moreover, as facilitators use interactive and collaborative pedagogies, they allow students to drive their learning by collaborating with each other, asking questions, and participating in their own sense-making of new concepts and ideas. Ultimately, these practices strengthen the teaching and learning of academic, enrichment, and social and emotional learning content.