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Focus Area 3


Foster supportive classroom environments that engage in explicit SEL and integrate SEL throughout instruction.

Because students spend the majority of their school day in classrooms, schoolwide SEL implementation requires cultivating supportive classroom environments and teaching practices that effectively engage students in deep academic, social and emotional learning.

As students move between classrooms, common language and aligned practices help reinforce social and emotional learning. When all classrooms provide supportive learning environments and hiqh-quality, consistent opportunities for SEL, students are better able to internalize what they’ve learned.

If you have already begun strategies for promoting students’ SEL in classrooms, use the rubric or the questions below to identify areas for continuous improvement: 

Do teachers use inclusive, relationship-centered, developmentally appropriate and culturally responsive practices to create supportive classroom environments that supports, honors, and acknowledges the cultural assets, contributions, and needs of all students?

Are shared agreements in each classroom collaboratively developed, modeled by adults and students, woven into daily routines and practices, and regularly communicated to students and their families?

Do teachers dedicate time to learning about their students’ lived experiences, cultural backgrounds, life circumstances and the local community context, and use SEL instruction to provide opportunities for students to explore and celebrate cultural identity, and advocate for justice?

Do teachers promote SEL competencies to help students engage with and understand challenging academic content, including providing daily opportunities for students to engage in collaborative group work, inclusive class discussions, and reflection?

Based on your responses, you can use this section to identify strategies for deepening SEL instruction and practice across classrooms.

CASEL identifies three essential areas of hiqh-quality, SEL-focused classrooms. This section will provide your school team with guidance and resources to support teachers in developing aligned strategies for these areas:

A supportive classroom climate where students feel emotionally safe, part of a community of learners, motivated and challenged. This type of environment creates a strong foundation for students to engage fully and take academic risks (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017). This includes:

  • Community-building
  • Belonging and emotional safety
  • Student-centered discipline

Integration of SEL into academic instruction that weaves deep academic learning with opportunities for students to understand their own emotions, empathize with diverse perspectives, cultivate trusting relationships, solve problems constructively, and make decisions while considering the needs of others. This includes:

  • Fostering academic mindsets
  • Aligning SEL and academic objectives
  • Using interactive pedagogy

Explicit SEL instruction that provides consistent opportunities to cultivate, practice, and reflect on social and emotional competencies in ways that are developmentally appropriate and culturally responsive.

Evidence-based programs can support one or all three areas of the SEL-focused classroom. Your team may also choose to supplement a program with additional strategies contained in these sections.


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