Social and Emotional Learning in Practice: A Toolkit of Practical Strategies and Resources
Social and emotional learning (SEL) helps youth to be aware of and manage emotions, work well with others and work hard when faced with challenges. Youth programs can help youth to develop SEL skills by creating opportunities for them to:
- Engage in real-world projects
- Work in teams
- Take on meaningful roles
- Face challenges
- Experience the emotional ups and downs along the way
This toolkit includes activities, templates and tools organized around four ways to help support staff and youth in SEL. It goes along with the 3-hour training Social and Emotional Learning in Practice and related issue briefs. It is mainly for those working with youth in middle school, but with small changes, activities can be used with other age groups too. See the Introduction for an overview of how the toolkit was made. You can read it from start to finish, but you need not use it in order. Select activities that meet your needs and fit with your program design. Make the most of it by taking the Readiness Inventory first. Your responses will help identify sections of the toolkit that will be most helpful.
Expertise in SEL begins with a foundation in good youth development practices and grows as you gain a deeper understanding. You need to be fluent in the concepts and language of SEL to be effective.
This video walks you through the first section of the toolkit, Equipping Staff. Activities help staff to understand their own social and emotional skills and those of youth. Build your understanding and fluency of SEL, attend to your own SEL skills and cultural values, consider how your program sequence supports SEL skill building and aligns with the features of 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 video walks you through the second section of the toolkit, Creating the Learning Environment. This section includes tools and templates to help staff establish group and individual level expectations, give effective feedback and integrate reflection and emotion management It also has icebreaker activities with an SEL-spin.
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.
This video walks you through the third section of the toolkit, Designing Impactful Learning Experiences. These activities allow youth to:
- Explore their individual and community identity (Ways I Am)
- Practice sharing gratitude, express and understand and manage emotions, and communicate one’s feelings (Ways of Feeling)
- Learn about empathy, teamwork and set group norms (Ways of Relating)
- Develop clear goals and work towards consensus (Ways of Doing)
Also included: tools to build an emotion word bank and an SEL reading list for youth.
Using data to improve SEL is an important tool in supporting youths' growth.
This video walks you through the fourth section of the toolkit, which is focused on Using Data for Improvement.
This section includes tools and templates to help staff gather and use data for improvement. This is different from formal, high-stakes outcome assessment or program evaluation. This section 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 in learning social and emotional skills, several creative data collection strategies, a SEL SMART goals tracker and a checklist to help select SEL outcome measurement tools.
To access the SEL Toolkit, please complete the following form. Our toolkit remains a free download, but we often get requests to purchase hard copies. It is now available at shop4-h.org with discounted bulk pricing.
Your information will not be shared and will be used for continuous improvement of the SEL Toolkit.
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.