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. (2017). Social and Emotional Learning in Practice: A Toolkit of Practical Strategies and Resources. 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.
Facilitate a discussion with staff about the Ways of Being model to deepen their understanding of SEL.
Teach staff about SEL with these summaries of the Ways of Being model.
Spark a conversation with staff using these stories about youth and SEL.
Reflect on how your program supports social and emotional skill development.
Identify personal cultural values and preferences that influence SEL.
Assess your ability to be aware of, understand, and manage your emotions.
Explore and share the ways that your program is designed to be SAFE-R.
Discover the alignment between the Youth Program Quality Pyramid and SEL.
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).
The stories of seven characters can be used to spark conversation with youth about the social and emotional skills used in the stories and in their own SEL development.
Use this activity with youth to think critically about how they see themselves and how they believe the world sees them.
Help youth engage in expressing their identity as an aspect of their "Ways I Am."
Help youth deepen their understanding of how their community informs their identity.
Create a space for participants to practice expressing appreciation.
A communication tool used to address issues/conflict through a one-on-one conversation.
Explore the differences between empathy and sympathy.
Participants acknowledge what they can bring to the group and identify the meaning of their commitment.
Identify a short-term goal and create steps to complete that goal..
Reach an agreement regarding a program, project or initiative that the youth will put into action.
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.