In schools that dedicate time for social and emotional learning, teachers across all content areas might share a common SEL course. For example, all 9th grade teachers (social students, mathematics, physical education, etc.) have a 9th grade homeroom or advisory group. In these instances, collaborative planning can yield effective curriculum that fits the needs of the particular school setting – without significantly adding to teacher workload. However, collaborative planning time can be hard to come by. Meeting a few times over the summer break can ease the burden of planning for SEL instruction and elevate the quality of SEL lessons.

When Tom and I have invested in collaborative SEL planning time, we’ve found the following steps extremely helpful:

  1. Begin with a short list of 4-7 clearly stated positive character traits that you feel are essential for your students’ success. The field of positive psychology offers many suggestions for character strengths and virtues. You can even take a free survey that estimates your own character strengths.
  2. Write learning targets for each trait. For example, for perseverance, “I can keep trying.”
  3. Write short-term supporting targets for each trait. One of our perseverance supporting targets is, “I accept feedback and revise my work and thinking.”
  4. Work with your team to determine a routine for your SEL lessons. A consistent format normalizes learning for students and facilitates shared planning. Tom and I have adapted the morning meeting and circle of power and respect routines from Origins, a favorite SEL professional development powerhouse.
  5. Divide and conquer. Have each member of your team write a handful of SEL lessons.
  6. Provide your lesson library to every teacher who will be leading an SEL class, even if they didn’t attend the planning sessions. Ask for time during opening week to explicate your plan to the larger teaching team so everyone understands the resource you’ve created.
  7. We like Google Docs for maintaining an accessible digital library of our SEL lessons. After a few years, you will have a vast resource to keep your program’s momentum going.

When I have trouble getting started, I browse Origins’ online library of games, which I find very adaptable for developing meaningful initiatives (see Tom’s post on the value of the debrief for more on the difference between games and initiatives). Tom uses the Creative Whack Pack to spark his imagination. But for both of us, the best technique for overcoming writers’ block is a good conversation with our SEL team. Many hands make light work.


Summer Planning for Effective SEL Instruction

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