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Social and emotional learning (SEL) includes learning to be aware of and manage emotions, work well with others, and work hard when faced with challenges. Youth programs develop SEL skills by
- creating opportunities for young people to engage in real-world projects,
- work in teams,
- take on meaningful roles,
- face challenges, and
- experience the emotional ups and downs that come along the way.
This toolkit includes activities, templates and tools organized around four ways to help support staff and youth in SEL. It was developed to go along with the 3-hour training, Social and Emotional Learning in Practice and related issue briefs. It is designed primarily for those working with youth in middle school, but with small changes the activities can be used for other age groups too. See the Introduction for an overview of how the toolkit was made. It can be read from start to finish, but it is not meant to be used in order. Select activities that meet your needs and fit with your program design. Get the most out of it by taking the Readiness Inventory first. Your responses will help identify sections of the toolkit that will be most helpful.
This toolkit can be reproduced for educational purposes, but use this citation: Walker, K., Olson, B., & Herman, M. (2019). Social and Emotional Learning in Practice: A Toolkit of Practical Strategies and Resources (2nd ed.). St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota Extension.
Expertise in social and emotional learning (SEL) begins with a foundation in good youth development practices and grows as you gain a deeper understanding. Staff need to be fluent in the concepts and language of SEL in order to be effective. This section has activities to help your staff build their understanding and fluency of SEL, recognize their cultural values and recognize how their program supports and aligns with high quality youth programs that support SEL skills.
Your program environment and culture play an important part in social and emotional learning (SEL). You can influence the culture of your program by paying attention to the ways that routines, behavior expectations, and conflict resolution processes within your program support SEL. This section includes tools and templates to help staff establish expectations, give feedback, and reflect.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) takes place when youth are engaged in activities that allow them to practice and develop skills from the Ways of Being model. Use this section to include program activities that focus on developing all four of the Ways of Being. These activities allow youth to explore their individual and community identity (Ways I Am), practice sharing gratitude and communicate feelings (Ways of Feeling), learn about empathy and set group norms (Ways of Relating), and develop clear goals and work towards agreement (Ways of Doing).
Using data to improve social and emotional learning (SEL) is an important tool in supporting youths' growth. This section includes tools and templates to help staff gather and use data for improvement. It includes creating a data dashboard by using reflective activities to measure change over time, having youth assess and provide feedback to the adults that support them, and a checklist to help select SEL outcome measurement tools.