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5 Practical Ways to Integrate & Prioritize SEL into Your School’s Master Schedule

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a crucial part of a student’s development. It provides a framework for helping young people learn how to manage their emotions, set and achieve goals, show empathy for others, maintain their relationships, make responsible decisions, and develop healthy self-identities.  

SEL should be an integral part of any school’s master schedule. However, that’s often easier said than done. With other educational priorities like standardized testing and state-mandated curricula at the forefront of administrators’ minds, finding the time to integrate SEL into the school day can be a nearly impossible task. But it’s not one without solutions. In fact, there are a variety of ways to naturally and easily implement SEL time into your school’s master schedule.  

Direct SEL Instruction 

The most common way to integrate SEL instruction is to set aside a specific time block each week devoted to SEL. For example: 

  • Elementary schools – Schools will utilize the homeroom period once a week for SEL instruction. 
  • Middle schools – Schools will replace one advisory period each week for SEL instruction. 
  • High schools – Schools will either set aside time during one period (for example, the first 15 minutes of second period every Tuesday) or replace one physical education or health period with SEL instruction. 

This is considered “direct SEL instruction,” and it requires the cooperation of administrators, educators and superintendents alike to develop school schedules that accommodate SEL curriculum. 

To properly implement direct SEL instruction, educators will have a set of curricula to follow each week that helps students acquire the skills and knowledge integral to social-emotional learning. While educators can develop their own curriculum, a better option is to use a self-guided program that has all the lessons and resources at their fingertips. 

Navigate360 Social-Emotional Learning provides a comprehensive library of lessons specific to age and the challenges students are facing, with immersive content scaffolded by grade. The CASEL-aligned lessons include topics such as effective communication, bullying prevention, mental health, digital civility, alcohol and drug use, college prep, social awareness, academic success and much more.

With Navigate360 Social-Emotional Learning, educators can easily weave SEL lessons into their busy school day, reinforcing the usefulness of SEL as a tool instead of a requirement. They can use predetermined time each day to teach the SEL lessons to the class, or students can complete the lessons on their own using a digital device. In doing so, students can engage with the material in front of them and have more ownership in the practice of learning and acquiring SEL skills. Navigate360 SEL solutions also feature teacher companion guides that accompany each lesson to help teachers take the content students learn online and apply it in the real world. 

Other Ways to Prioritize SEL 

Of course, not all school districts have the resources and time to provide direct SEL instruction. Setting aside a specific time block each week isn’t the only way to implement SEL. Here are some other practical tips school staff can use to prioritize SEL: 

Embed SEL Instruction into Academic Learning  

This method involves administrators deciding which SEL skills students should master based on their grade level and educators embedding short mini lessons into regular classroom learning. 

For example, if a middle school teacher wants to help his students learn how to set appropriate goals, he may introduce this concept when discussing a class project. The students will be encouraged to set their own personal goals to complete the project, and the teacher can assess how well students have mastered the concept of goal-setting based on the types of goals they set and whether the goals are accomplished. 

Examples of SEL in the classroom:  

  • Use storytelling and community circles to build relationships 
  • Create “cozy” or “calm down” corners in each classroom 
  • Hold a dedicated check-in and reflect circle time 
  • Conduct weekly mindfulness lessons 
  • Use a mood meter to help kids identify feelings 
  • Conduct regular mental health check-ins 
  • Add a box with fidget toys to keep the students’ bodies active and minds open to communication and comprehension 
  • Schedule movement breaks for students throughout the day 
  • Use instructive feedback and error correction as appropriate to teach and reinforce appropriate social-emotional skills 

For more tips on incorporating SEL into the school master schedule, see our ideas and best practices from a recent webinar. 

Create an SEL Advisory Period 

An optional student advisory period can happen at the beginning or end of the day and include a small group of students and a teacher. During each advisory period, the teacher will provide an SEL mini lesson and lead a discussion with the students to help them understand the concept and how to apply it in a real-world setting. 

Utilize School Counselors to Provide SEL Lessons 

School counselors can be a tremendous resource when it comes to SEL. They can rotate through classrooms and homerooms to deliver short SEL lessons to students and be available as a sounding board to those who may want to discuss SEL concepts in greater detail.  

Make SEL a Part of Every Faculty Meeting 

It’s important to note that educators, administrators and other school staff should be practicing social-emotional learning, too. After all, prioritizing SEL doesn’t begin and end in the classroom — it’s something that should be discussed, trained on and practiced by educators, administrators and other school staff. During every faculty meeting, devote time to discussing SEL topics like burnout, compassion fatigue, empathy, mental health and mindfulness. 

Navigate360 Social-Emotional Learning for Your School District 

To learn how Navigate360 Social-Emotional Learning can help your school district prioritize and integrate SEL into the master schedule, contact us today. 

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