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For Educators By Educators: Addressing External Influences and SEL

Riverside Insights
Written By Riverside Insights
On Sep 1, 2022
4 minute read
Addressing External Influences and Social-Emotional Learning

Students best absorb and retain academic instruction when they feel calm, safe, heard, and seen. The concept of prioritizing student well-being and social-emotional learning (SEL) ahead of academics became more mainstream in the past few years, but it remains a gray area.


To provide more color and shape to social-emotional learning, we pooled together the expertise of a few of our former educators here at Riverside Insights: Anna Houseman, Ashli Florek, Christina Jordan, and Kendall Forsberg.


Our roundtable agreed that it helps to think long term. As Forsberg says, “When I didn’t focus on SEL with my students, I found myself putting out a lot of fires and being reactive to their needs rather than fireproofing them and being proactive. Taking ten minutes a day to work on SEL is not going to cause learning loss, but not addressing SEL at all will.”


Jordan adds, “Part of our job as educators is to make sure we help students become contributing, functioning members of society, which includes getting along with others, having emotional awareness, having empathy for other people, accepting each other’s differences, and embracing each other’s strengths.”


Even if your school doesn’t have a formal SEL program or curriculum, Florek suggests asking yourself a few questions: “How does your classroom’s physical environment support an emotionally-safe space for all students? How do you promote supportive relationships in all classroom interactions and spotlight healthy behaviors and responsible decision-making with positive narration or other tactics? Think about how you want to reflect SEL in your classrooms and run with it.”

    For specifics in the classroom, we gathered eleven best practices for success in SEL to unlock students’ full potential for growth:  1.	Sharing “Roses and Thorns”  a.	Lowlights and highlights with an optional anonymous box 2.	Give students ownership of classroom rules a.	“It allows students to hold each other accountable in a supportive, safe, and loving way.” – Houseman 3.	Help students pinpoint emotions a.	“Ashamed, nervous, embarrassed, and tired can feel similar for students, and labeling a specific emotion helps students learn to express their feelings and lets teachers intervene appropriately.” – Forsberg 4.	Use a 1-10 range for emotions  a.	Like hospitals use for severity of pain 5.	Ask emotionally-wrought students to count to ten a.	“Students can’t process their emotions when they’re in a high-stress response, and by counting to ten, students can often avoid their emotion-ridden spirals.” – Forsberg 6.	Set up a system of red, yellow, and green lights a.	Allows students to silently communicate when they’re ready to talk 7.	Create a newsletter for parents a.	Opens the classroom content to parents and fosters continued conversation at home 8.	Take care of your own well-being a.	Schedule alone time for yourself and talk with colleagues through each other’s struggles and successes 9.	Collect weekly journals from students and respond with comments a.	Establishes a confidential trust between students and teachers 10.	Tattle Teddy/Reflection Center a.	“As a form of self-regulation, students can go tell Tattle Teddy (a picture of a teddy bear on the wall) what upset them instead of lashing out at others. It gives them time to cool off and rejoin the class when they’re ready.” – Florek 11.	Have fun! a.	“Have fun with your students sometimes! We focus so much on all the stuff going on that we forget to have fun with the kids.” – Jordan       Download the Handout Here

Bonus Practice: Focus on one schoolwide value per month       

    “We implemented a positive behavior intervention through an acronym of our mascot, a bear: belonging, empathy, academics, and responsibility. The school community focused on those values, and we’d highlight one per month.

      “The school principal would stop students and teachers in the hall and ask, ‘This month we’re working on empathy. What does that mean? What does it look or sound like when you see someone showing empathy? Have you seen anyone in the building this week showing empathy, or have you shown empathy?’

      “It really drove those values home to the students.” – Jordan



Stay tuned for future blogs as we recap our summer webinar series, For Educators, By Educators (FEBE), and highlight the best practices and tactical tips our educators have found successful. To continue the conversation, follow our LinkedIn group, "From Insights to Action: A Riverside Insights Network," to connect with the Riverside Insights educators featured in this blog.

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