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Social-Emotional Learning

Social-emotional learning (SEL) helps students to develop the intra- and interpersonal skills they need to flourish throughout their life. Through systematic SEL, from the early years to secondary school graduation, students can build knowledge and skills the following areas:

  • identification and management of emotions
  • stress management and coping
  • positive motivation and perseverance
  • healthy relationship skills
  • self-awareness and sense of identity
  • critical and creative thinking (executive functioning)

Explicit, whole-school efforts to teach SEL and to reinforce skills in daily school life have a positive impact on academic achievement and on student social, behavioural and emotional wellness.

Six key social-emotional learning skills to teach students

When students understand the relationship between thoughts, emotions and actions, and can accurately identify emotions in themselves and others, they are better able to express their feelings and regulate their behaviour.

Every day, students are exposed to big and small challenges and have an opportunity to learn and practice effective ways of coping at school.  Having a range of strategies to draw on in times of stress and transition helps with bouncing back, and overall resilience.

To achieve their goals, students need to aim high, stay positive, and persevere through difficult tasks and obstacles.  Adopting an optimistic view is a good habit of thought that can be learned and practiced at school.

Being able to build and maintain friendships, communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and work as part of a team are skills that are foundational at school, work, and beyond.  Relationship skills can be learned and practiced at school, and an explicit focus in this area can also benefit classroom culture and sense of belonging.

Supporting and practicing self awareness and encouraging self confidence can assist students in valuing their uniqueness and learning to appreciate their identity.  Having a sense of who they are, in the context of culture and community, may help students to see how they matter and can contribute to the world around them.

Every day in classrooms, educators have an opportunity to teach and reinforce skills related to planning, task focus, creative problem-solving, time-management, and organization.  These “executive functioning” skills help students to be successful in academic tasks and prepare them for increasingly complex demands and post-secondary destinations.

Learn more about SEL

Elementary educators: take our online course to build your mental health literacy. It includes a module on SEL.

How to embed social-emotional learning in your classroom and school

Your work to create a mentally healthy school and classroom will support students’ SEL. 

Check out our everyday practices resources for simple classroom activities that support SEL.

Download our social-emotional learning posters for quick, visual reminders of small actions we can all take to improve our mental health.

Benefits of social-emotional learning

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) provides an overview of research on the outcomes of SEL. In general, supporting SEL can

  • increase academic achievement
  • improve behaviour
  • yield impressive return-on-investment, in terms of educational as well as health/justice outcomes

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We will continue to expand our resources based on input. Please send us your ideas for topics to cover so we can meet your professional learning needs.

Need help now?

We don’t provide mental health advice, counselling or treatment. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department. You can also reach out to Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.