Skill Instruction

We wanted social emotional learning to help us change the culture in our school, but we’ve realized that the change starts with us. SEL has brought our staff closer together.

5th Grade Teacher in Alaska

What is this section about?

Skill development is key to mitigating impacts of stress and trauma.1 A significant factor common to resilient children – including those living in adverse conditions – is the ability to self-regulate attention, emotions, and behaviors.2 Development of social-emotional competencies in early childhood is correlated with improved learning and academic success, mental health, and general well-being.3 Skill instruction for school-age students is also associated with similar positive outcomes, including an 11 percentage point increase on standardized tests.4 Ongoing research shows that the impacts continue even after the initial social-emotional skill instruction.

Some schools have counselors or social workers that can assist with social emotional skill development. Whether a school has a counselor or not, all school staff have a role in reinforcing these essential skills with students throughout the school day. Partnerships between school staff, families and the community strengthen skill development and ensure that skill instruction is culturally affirming. This section provides tools and resources to support a systems approach to skill building that contributes to resilience and helps students engage in learning.


  1. Murray, D.W., et al. (2015). Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress Report 4: Implications for Programs and Practice. OPRE Report # 2016- 97, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. Cole, S.F. et al. (2009) Helping Traumatized Children Learn, Boston, MA: Massachusetts Advocates for Children.
  3. Rhoades, B.L., et al. (2011) Examining the link between preschool social emotional competence and first grade academic achievement: The role of attention skills. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 26(2): 182-191; Shonkoff, J. & Phillips D. (2000) From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, Washington, DC: National Academies Press (US); and Zins, J.E. et al. (2004) The Scientific Base Linking Social and Emotional Learning to School Success. In J. E. Zins, R. P. Weissberg, M. C. Wang, & H. J. Walberg (Eds.), Building academic success on social and emotional learning: What does the research say? (pp. 3-22). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  4. Durlak, J.A., et al. (2011) The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A metaanalysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82: 405-432.

Community Adaptations

The content of this chapter is offered to district leaders, school staff, and community members with the understanding that all have a role in the work of teaching and modeling self regulation, relationship skills, decision making and self awareness skills. The intention is to provide resources for schools so that whether there is a counselor or not, each staff member is prepared for their role in supporting student skill development. These resources may need to be adapted to make the practices culturally relevant and align with each community’s strengths, norms, and expectations.

What can leadership do?

Click each section below for more info.

A. Develop a shared understanding of how SEL skills build resilience and are the foundation for engagement in learning. Create school-wide buy-in and a common language for SEL.
Alaska SEL Standards

  • The Case for SEL
    Sample presentation introducing SEL and its evidence base can be adapted for a range of audiences, including district leaders and potential community partners or funders.
    Source: CASEL. Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
B. Foster the collective belief that everyone, no matter their role in the school community (administrators; teachers; paraprofessionals; bus drivers; cafeteria, office and maintenance staff; families; community members), can intentionally model and promote SEL skills in students and adults.
  • The Principal’s Role in SEL (article and webinar)
    Create an environment that infuses SEL into every part of students’ educational experience.
    Source: National Association of Elementary Principals
  • Modeling SEL for Students
    Staff members collectively brainstorm how they can model each SEL competency in their interactions with students.
    Source: Greater Good in Education
  • Social and Emotional Learning in the Daily Life of Classrooms
    Facilitator guide and materials for a 6-hour session outlining ways to integrate SEL into policy and planning, draw connections between SEL and instructional priorities, and guide teachers to reflect on their own teaching practices and SEL competencies.
    Source: CASEL. Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
C. Partner with families and communities to localize and/or indigenize SEL approaches and curriculum to reflect place-based community values and culture.
  • Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools
    Developed by Alaska Native educators, this resource provides a way for schools and communities to examine the extent to which they are attending to the educational and cultural well-being of students in their care.
    Source: Alaska Native Knowledge Network
  • Coordinating SEL Work with Community Partners
    This tool offers guidance on how an SEL team can leverage community partnerships by developing an inventory of partnerships, finding opportunities to deepen SEL alignment and practice, and planning for communication and continuous improvement.
    Source: CASEL. Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
D. Designate time in school structures, routines, and schedule (eg morning meetings or advisory groups built into the schedule) for intentional and documented SEL skill instruction at all grade levels. Utilize both community-based and evidence-based best practices for SEL skill development.
  • SEL Learning Walk Protocol (Anchorage School District)
    Anchorage School District’s protocol for preparing and facilitating an SEL walkthrough to look for signs of high-quality schoolwide SEL implementation by observing for the indicators of schoolwide SEL.
    Source: Anchorage School district
  • SEL Practices Readiness Inventory
    This is an informal inventory designed to help staff evaluate how well their current practices support social and emotional learning.
    Source: University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development (University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development)
  • Social and Emotional Learning in the Daily Life of Classrooms
    The module provides six hours of material, including hands-on activities, for integrating social and emotional learning into existing initiatives, including teacher evaluation, State Standards implementation, and professional learning.
    Source: Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at the American Institute for Research
  • Selecting an Evidence-Based Program
    This tool offers guiding questions to determine whether an evidence-based program answers the needs of students, families, teachers, school, and district.
    Source: CASEL. Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
E. Assess students’ SEL skills and monitor effectiveness of the structures in place to develop these skills. Engage in continuous quality improvement.
  • SEL Assessment Guide
    An interactive tool to help practitioners select and effectively use currently available assessments of students’ SEL competencies. Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • Data Sources to Analyze SEL Implementation and Outcomes
    A breakdown of how to gather data and use it to measure quality of implementation, program content, academic, attendance, & behavior outcomes, and student SEL skill growth, with useful links to additional resources.
    Source: CASEL. Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • SEL Data Reflection Protocol
    Structured reflection process for SEL teams and other school stakeholders to observe trends and discuss ideas for continuous improvement of SEL implementation.
    Source: CASEL. Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.

What can staff do?

Click each section below for more info.

A. Reflect on and grow your own SEL and self-regulation skills. Model healthy SEL skills with colleagues, students and families.
  • Self-Assessing Social and Emotional Instruction and Competencies
    Online tool to self-assess and reflect on 10 teaching practices that support social and emotional learning for students and strengthening adult SEL competencies to implement the 10 teaching practices successfully
    Source: Center on Great Teachers & Leaders at the American Institute for Research
  • Teaching Self-Regulation by Modeling
    When teachers explicitly recognize and respond to their emotions in class, students learn to engage in these processes themselves.
    Source: Edutopia
  • Four Tools for Interrupting Implicit Bias
    As culturally responsive educators we educate ourselves about implicit bias – how it operates and what we can do to interrupt it.
    Source: Zaretta Hammond Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain
B. Foster supportive relationships and safe learning environments (classrooms, common spaces, office) as the foundation of SEL skill development.
  • Positive School Relationships
    Practices for fostering a positive school climate where students and staff feel a sense of connection and belonging
    Source: Greater Good in Education
  • Developmental Relationships Framework
    The Search Institute has identified five elements—expressed in 20 specific actions—that make relationships powerful in young people’s lives.
    Source: Search Institute
  • Building Developmental Relationships During the COVID-19 Crisis
    Staff in schools and youth programs do not need to and should not stop seeking to build developmental relationships with young people while they are at home during the nation’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. This resource gives helpful steps to maintain relationships during COVID 19.
  • Relationship Mapping Strategy
    A how to guide to relationship mapping. An activity from Harvard School of Education that supports staff-student connections
    Source: Harvard Graduate School of Education

C. Partner with families and communities in adapting classroom SEL practices to reflect community values and cultures
  • Making SEL Culturally Competent
    Teaching students about oppression and critical consciousness is a vital component of social-emotional learning.
    Source: Edutopia
  • Self-Assessment Checklist – Cultural Competence
    This checklist provides examples of the kinds of values and practices that foster an environment that is aware and respectful of cultural diversity
    Source: Georgetown University’s National Center for Cultural Competence.
  • Family Engagement and SEL
    Enhancing social-emotional learning with a whole-school, whole-family, whole-day approach
    Source: Harvard Graduate School of Education
D. Directly and explicitly teach SEL and self-regulation skills. Create opportunities for students to reflect on and discuss the SEL skills they are learning and practicing.
  • Alaska eLearning Tools & Techniques Micro-Modules
    These micro-modules offer hands-on activities educators can use in their classrooms. Topics include Emotional Intelligence, Classroom Practice, Self-regulation, and Mind-Body Connection
    Source: Alaska Department of Education and Early Development
  • Explicit SEL Instruction
    Evidence-based SEL instruction is safe, active, focused, and explicit.
    Source: CASEL. Access to this free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.

Lesson Plans & Activities for Explicit Skill Instruction
  • Student Well-Being
    Practices for developing students’ social and emotional well-being, ethical decision-making skills, kindness, gratitude, and other prosocial qualities
    Source: Greater Good in Education
  • TeachableMoment Lessons
    Timely resources to help K-12 educators encourage social responsibility and foster social & emotional learning.
    Source: Morningside Center for Social responsibility
  • SEL Toolkits for Educators
    Tools, toolkits and webinars related to SEL competencies to help educators act on what is known today about social-emotional learning and whole child development that can help school systems improve outcomes for all students.
    Source: Transforming Education

Self-Regulation Skills
  • How to Teach Self-Regulation
    To succeed in school, students need to be able to focus, control their emotions, and adjust to change.
    Source: Edutopia

Reflection and Debriefing
  • Reflecting on SEL Skills
    Students are led in a debriefing conversation reflecting on SEL skills touched upon during the activity in which they have just participated
    Source: Greater Good in Education
E. Intentionally integrate SEL into academics and classroom routines. Infuse SEL skill development throughout the school day so that students are putting their SEL skills into practice on a regular basis.
Anchorage School District SEL Academic Journal

Newsletter connecting educators with SEL in new and useful ways.

Source: Anchorage School District


  • SEL Integration Approach for Classroom Educators
    The SEL Integration Approach guides classroom educators in how to integrate SEL into academic curriculum and daily classroom routines. Using this approach, teachers can support students’ development of social-emotional skills in ways that are applicable across various areas of their lives, more sustainable over time, and flexible to changing goals and priorities across the lifespan.
    Source: Transforming Education
  • SEL Integrated Lesson Planning Checklist
    This tool helps teachers identify where within lesson plans SEL practices are already present, or where they might be included.
    Source: CASEL. Access to this free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • The Art of SEL Cards: Reflections with an Equity Lens
    The SEL Team in Sacramento City USD created a set of cards, bound with a key ring, to help adults reflect on their mindsets, practices, and ways that they’re integrating SEL and equity into academics.
    Source: CASEL, Sacramento Unified School District
    Access to this free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.

Additional Resources for Leadership

  • Framework for Culturally Responsive SEL
    A framework based on the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools and on culturally responsive learning environment, policy, content and pedagogy, family partnerships, and professional development
    Source: Association of Alaska School Boards
  • Districtwide SEL Essentials for Superintendents
    Practical guidance and resources specifically tailored for top district leaders. At its heart are 10 high-leverage superintendent actions that promote a districtwide SEL movement and systemic, high-quality implementation.
    Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • District Resource Center
    Helps school districts make social emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of every student’s education.
    Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • Oakland Unified School District Principal Framework
    While all leaders are first and foremost instructional leaders, there are other leadership dimensions that are often less tangible and quantifiable such as leadership for visionary change, healthy relationships, and culture.
    Source: CASEL, Oakland Unified School District
    Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • The Impact of Social and Emotional Learning (video)
    In this video, district and CASEL leadership highlight data that demonstrates improvements in attendance, completion, and academic growth, and reductions in suspensions and expulsions.
    Source: CASEL
    Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • The Neuroscience of SEL (Video)
    20-minute lecture by Richard Davidson on the neuroscience of emotions and emotional response, and how SEL trains and changes the brain.
    Source: CASEL
    Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • Alaska Native Knowledge Network
    Native Pathways to Education, Alaska Native Cultural Resources, Indigenous Knowledge Systems
    Source: Alaska Native Knowledge Network
  • Stop Talking
    Alaska Native teaching and learning practices offer fresh insights for educators who care about the state of our world and seek to make education more relevant and engaging.
    Source: UAA Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence
  • Recommended SEL Reading for Staff
    Recommended reading for staff development. Topics include Introducing the Importance of SEL, SEL and Equity, SEL and Academic Integration, Restorative Practices, Adult SEL, and Partnering with Families for SEL.
    Source: CASEL
    Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • Recommended SEL Videos
    This list contains links to videos that can be used to introduce SEL, strengthen commitment, and discuss key topics with stakeholder groups.
    Source: CASEL
    Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • CASEL Guide to Schoolwide SEL: Implementation Timeline
    Schoolwide SEL implementation is an ongoing process. This timeline is intended to offer broad guidance for how schools might engage with the CASEL School Guide focus areas throughout the school year to drive systemic implementation.
    Source: CASEL
    Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs
    The CASEL Guide provides a systematic framework for evaluating the quality of social and emotional programs and applies this framework to identify and rate well-designed, evidence-based SEL programs
    Source: CASEL
    Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • Goal-Setting and Relationships are Part of District’s Academic Core (video)
    Washoe County School District is featured in this video from Edweek, describing the district’s process for developing SEL metrics for instructional purposes and growth.
    Source: CASEL, Washoe County School District
    Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • Making Use of Existing Outcome Data
    Suggestions for using data that districts already collect to monitor progress and outcomes of SEL, with reflection questions.
    Source: CASEL
    Access to the free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.

Additional Resources for Staff

  • Adult SEL Toolkit 
    Adults are asking for more support understanding SEL and developing these skills for themselves. That’s why we put together this toolkit aligned to CASEL’s Focus Area 2 for SEL implementation.
    Source: Panorama
  • 5 Keys to Challenging Implicit Bias
    Challenge implicit biases by identifying your own, teaching colleagues about them, observing gap-closing teachers, stopping “tone policing,” and tuning into such biases at your school.
    Source: Edutopia
  • SEL: Creating Safe & Supportive Learning Environments (video)
    Creating a safe, supportive environment for social and emotional learning (SEL) is inherent in CASEL’s focus on integrating SEL into all aspects of school and district practice through a systemic approach.
    Source: CASEL
  • Curriculum For Teaching Emotional Self-regulation
    The high school lesson plans can be used for analyzing virtually any piece of literature depicting characters facing emotional situations and interpersonal conflict.
    Source: School Social Work Network
  • Classroom Self-Assessment
    This tool can be used to assess strengths and areas to develop for promoting SEL through explicit instruction, integration into academic instruction, and a supportive classroom climate.
    Source: CASEL
    Access to this free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • SEL 3 Signature Practices Playbook
    CASEL’s full guide to using the three Signature SEL practices, including a library of example activities and ideas and templates for adapting the playbook for your district.
    Source: CASEL
    Access to this free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • Adult SEL Posters
    Minneapolis Public Schools developed a set of posters describing how adults exercise social and emotional skills in 5 core areas.
    Source: CASEL, Minneapolis Public Schools
    Access to this free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • SEL Toolkit: Family Engagement
    Social emotional learning equips students with lifelong skills that carry on outside the classroom. Engaging families helps strengthen these skills and create opportunities for children to identify and express their emotions at home. 
    Source: Move This World
    Access to this free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • SEL 101 for Parents
    An informational video to inform parents about SEL in schools and provide them with insights into SEL in their own parenting practices in order to support their children’s social and emotional development. Also available in Spanish.
    Source: CASEL
    Access to this free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.
  • Edutopia 
    Search for videos, articles, tools under SEL in the topic menu
    Source: Edutopia
  • Prosocial Academic Instruction
    Practices for integrating social-emotional learning, mindfulness, ethics, kindness, gratitude, and other prosocial qualities into academic content and pedagogy
    Source: Greater Good in Education
  • SEL 3 Signature Practices (video – Classroom version)
    Video describing the SEL 3 Signature Practices (welcoming inclusion activity, engaging practices, and optimistic closure) and how to use them in a classroom setting.
    Source: CASEL
    Access to this free resource simply requires registering on the site to download.