What does Social Emotional Learning (SEL) have to do with Grammar?

First, let’s clarify what Social and Emotional Learning is. As defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL 
is based on the understanding that the best learning emerges in the context 
of supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging, and meaningful. Social and emotional skills are critical to being a good student, citizen and worker, aiding the effective understanding of managing emotions in order to feel empathy, connect with others and make responsible decisions.

Social and emotional learning begins in preschool and continues 
through High School. Classroom teachers can help students develop 
social and emotional understanding by directly teaching these skills, 
with engaging lesson material and coordinating the reinforcement 
of family and community.

CASEL has identified five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective and behavioral competencies:
• Self-awareness
• Self management
• Social awareness
• Relationship skills
• Responsible decision making

Making a grammar lesson interesting.

The Common Core State Standards emphasize grammar and language study, but what kind of grammar instruction keeps students engaged and makes them better writers? Sean Ruday’s “Five Recommendations for Teaching Common Core Grammar to Elementary Students” are as follows:

1. Show students examples of grammatical concepts used in literature.
2. Discuss how the authors of those works use grammatical concepts 
as “tools” to enhance their writing.
3. Discuss how the literary works would look if those grammatical concepts were not used.
4. Ask students to use specific grammatical concepts in their own writing.
5. Ask students to reflect on how those concepts enhance their works.

The UnStealer is a great example of a fun grammar lesson that also includes social and emotional themes.

Is social and emotional learning integrated into Common Core?

The article, How to integrate Social-Emotional Learning into Common Core by Vicki Zakrzewski, states that utilizing the Common Core doesn’t mean educators should abandon SEL — in fact, just the opposite might be true.

While not explicitly calling them “social-emotional skills,” many of the Common Core Language Arts Standards give teachers the opportunity to incorporate mini-lessons on emotions, communication, relationships, and other social-emotional skills directly into their language arts curriculum.

See examples below:

Common Core English Language Arts Standard

Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

Corresponding SEL “self-awareness”, “social awareness”, and “responsible decision-making” skills:
• Label and recognize own and others’ emotions
• Analyze emotions and how they affect others
• Evaluate others’ emotional reactions
• Reflect on how current choices affect future

Why is Social and Emotional Learning important?

“ Teachers enter the profession to provide a well-rounded education and support the whole student, which includes social and emotional skills development. SEL is a critical part of every child’s growth, both as students and as contributing members of society. Teachers have shared with us how important this is — now it’s up to all of us to support them in this essential work. ” — Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers.

Further reading and links

Donna Wilson, Founder/Creative Director The Happy Dandelion
Co-Creator of
The UnStealer, recognized as an ALA, American Association of School Librarians Best App for Teaching and Learning.