social and emotional literacy (sel)

Social and Emotional Literacy, or SEL, is in all we do: How we make friends, resolve conflicts, and step confidently into new experiences. Our program, developed and supported by our school counselor, teachers, and administrators draws on a variety of resources to help children develop both as individuals and as members of the community.

We believe that social-emotional work is integral to children’s development, so it is implemented throughout our curriculum and valued as part of the academic program. The vision and goals of SEL are upheld by all members of the school community, with teachers being responsible for formal implementation in their classrooms.

Teachers might use morning meetings, principles from the Responsive Classroom program, or skills from the Toolbox (such as mindful breathing, respecting personal space, and empathy) to integrate SEL into the life of their classroom and to guide student behavior in all things.

Featured Activity: Facing Fears

In 6th grade, students are in the midst of preparing for the transition from Middle Division to Upper Division. SEL discussions have grown increasingly sophisticated through their years at Mark Day. For example, science and SEL are merged during a lesson on genetics, bringing the question about whether fears and phobias are learned behaviors or genetic. Taught by Counselor and SEL Coordinator Theresa Hall and 6th grade science teacher Tim Evans, the lesson starts with a discussion around the questions, "if you have learned to be afraid, can you unlearn it?" and, "if it's genetic, can you manage it?"

San Francisco-based organization save nature.org brings exotic insects into the classroom, where students get to notice any fears they may have and practice their SEL skills to manage them. Students can gently hold the insects or pass if they wish. Every year, students surprise themselves by how well their SEL skills help them when a fear emerges.

Featured Activity: Mindful Moments

For kids and adults alike, it is often difficult to force ourselves to have a meditative mid-day moment. But it has been proven that even a few minutes of steady breathing in a quiet, safe place can be incredibly beneficial for the brain - specifically, it stimulates the brain to be more productive and creative.

Here at Mark Day, 2nd and 3rd graders practice "Mindful Moments." This is a time when students go to a place in the classroom where they feel they can calm their bodies and breathe deeply. They can lie down or sit on the floor, or relax at their desks. With their eyes closed, they use their breathing tool while listening to calming music or envisioning their quiet safe place. Afterward, students feel relaxed and ready for the rest of the day. It is not uncommon to hear students request to have a mindful moment.

Featured Activity: Personal Space Tag

One lesson young children being to understand is how important it is to respect others' personal space, and have their own personal space respected. Not surprisingly, 1st graders often struggle with personal space. Though we recognize this as part of their normal development, it is an appropriate time to learn these skills, and we take special time to focus on it throughout the SEL program. Children begin to learn about what personal space is, why it matters, and how we have different "personal space bubbles" for different situations and people.

One fun activity we use to teach this is a game of personal space tag. Students each wear a hula hoop, which represents their personal space bubble, then try to tag their peers with their hula hoop without getting tagged themselves. Tagging each other requires focus on both their own space bubble and each other's. This is a fun and engaging way to recognize their space in relation to others.