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School districts are widely emphasizing Social Emotional Learning (SEL) as part of learning goals and educational outcomes. In addition, a push to cultivate culturally responsive and sustaining classrooms is changing the way educators center the experiences and perspectives of their students in day-to-day teaching.

Social Emotional Learning or SEL is “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” (CASEL)

Guided by five core competencies: Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making, the SEL learning framework helps students develop healthy connections to others, positive associations to school, and the tools needed to regulate one’s behavior. 

Culturally Responsive-Sustaining education (CRSE) is built on the transformative research of
Gloria Ladson-Billings, Geneva Gay, Django Paris, and H. Samy Alim among others. It is rooted in the view of learning where students’ identities, cultures, and experiences are elevated as assets to powerful educational experiences. CRSE centers the diverse expressions of students and seeks to affirm and sustain their unique backgrounds and communities of origin

As Social Studies educators work to provide rich Social Emotional Learning experiences for students AND elevate students’ experiences, perspectives, and cultures, there are powerful opportunities to engage the SEL competencies to create a more culturally responsive-sustaining classroom. Below are specific strategies aligned to the SEL framework that can be utilized to ensure that multiple expressions of diversity are affirmed and celebrated.

Self Awareness

As students develop the SELF AWARENESS competency, they are able to connect feelings to behaviors and understand that actions have consequences. 

Engage your students in creating a classroom environment that highlights the contributions of many different groups of people. Discuss how the cultures and identities of your students can be represented and elevated year-round, and not solely during specific months or designated holidays. Construct class norms and processes WITH student input and examine how societies across time have ensured representation from all members. 

Read 5 Ways to Celebrate Women’s History Month in the Classroom by Meg Honey

Self Management

As students develop the SELF MANAGEMENT competency, they are able to set and accomplish goals as well as engage tools to cultivate calmness. Students regulate their emotions, overcome challenges, and effectively take part in learning activities.

Provide students with opportunities to engage in discussion around challenging topics, especially those that address issues of privilege, access, and power. Engage learning tools that support students in empathetic thinking, active listening, and consideration of multiple perspectives. 

Project Imagine is a digital immersive solution to engage students with primary sources and help them explore the past.


Social Awareness

As students develop the SOCIAL AWARENESS competency, they are able to recognize and address issues of social justice. Students participate in community-based engagement learning and recognize how life experiences shape one’s decision making. Students understand the importance of embracing diversity and model empathetic thinking.  

Offer students learning experiences to connect historic events with contemporary challenges. Have them explore community organizations to discuss how policy-making processes and initiatives can address issues of inequity. 

Relationship Skills

As students develop the RELATIONSHIP SKILLS competency, they are able to work collaboratively, deal with challenges, address conflict, and understand allyship.

Provide students with Project Based Learning, collaborative presentation, and small group discussion opportunities to ensure that a variety of learning styles and strengths are honored. Construct tools so that students can share how they contributed to a project and offer feedback on their peers’ contributions. 

In preparation for class discussion and presentations, provide students with space to receive input in small groups.
Responsible Decision Making

As students develop the RESPONSIBLE DECISION-MAKING competency, they are able to participate in productive and respectful discourse and analyze the consequences of actions. 

Actively seek out and engage source material that centers the identities of your students, with particular attention on readings that detail historic decision-making. Have students consider how a person’s personal experiences, family of origin, and economic status impacted and informed decisions.

Read Using EdTech to Foster Historical Empathy by Meg Honey

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Meg Honey

Meg Honey

Director of Professional Learning Content

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

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