Supporting English Learners with Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

Research-Based Strategies to Empower Your English Learners with SEL

As an emphasis on strong social and emotional learning (SEL) instruction grows in PreK-12 schools, educators are exploring how they can best tailor that instruction to specific student populations. English Learners (ELs) are by no means a monogamous group: according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education, English Learners in public schools speak over 400 different languages. They face a unique set of challenges — they are more likely to be classified as having a specific learning disability, speech, or language impairment, and homeless, Title I, and migrant students are more likely to be ELs than the overall population (1). Some English Learners have undergone trauma as a result of migratory experiences, and many face challenges related to cultural differences from peers. Supporting the unique PreK-12 experiences of English Learners requires a fresh look at any approach to social and emotional learning.

In the resource below, experts in the field explore the challenges and opportunities of social and emotional learning for English Learners as well as research-based approaches to SEL instruction. Ed Lamprich, McGraw-Hill Education VP of EL Strategy, Laura Lukens, an ELL coordinator from Kansas who specializes in supporting students through trauma, and Christine Gouveia, an applied learning scientist, all contributed their expertise to the piece. We encourage you to download it in full, but in the meantime, here are a few things you can expect to find:

The relationship between SEL and achievement

The contributors review the existing research that demonstrates the connections between SEL and academic achievement, including its role in closing achievement gaps.

Ensuring students feel safe and respected

In this section, the experts review cultural and linguistic diversity of the EL population, the emerging need for increased professional learning opportunities to enable teachers to meet the learning needs of such a diverse population, and the importance of a positive classroom environment.

Navigating cultural differences

Culturally-responsive teaching is key to supporting English Learners. In this portion of the resource, you’ll find a discussion of the influence culture has on the classroom, and how specific principles of social and emotional instruction can support teachers in fostering a classroom environment that empowers students from varying cultural backgrounds.

Dealing with trauma

For ELs who have experienced trauma, research-based SEL practices are key. ELL Coordinator Laura Lukens describes her work with trauma-sensitive teaching practices, and the growth she has seen among her students.

Family engagement

Lastly, the experts review the role of family engagement in supporting English Learners socially and emotionally. Establishing a productive, positive relationship between school, family, and community is important for any student to thrive, but can bring special challenges and opportunities when it comes to the families of ELs.

Download the full resource here:

(1) “Our Nation’s English Learners.” U.S. Department of Education, United States of America Department of Education, 29 Jan. 2018,