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The terms instructional practice and instructional strategy incorporate a wide range of techniques educators use to support student learning.

Consider adding ideas to the strategies in the second column. The ones already listed are the same strategies presented in a lesson. In the third column, focus on instructional strategies for teaching academics. Identify instructional strategies for helping students practice social-emotional skills while learning academic content. It is important to describe the strategy and not simply list it. For example, listing an instructional strategy like “cooperative groups” is the first step.You would then need to elaborate how cooperative groups can be used for students to practice the skills associated with the corresponding SEL  competency.

Relationship skills are one of the five Social Emotional Learning (SEL)  competencies, the other four include self-awareness, social awareness,  self- management, and responsible decision-making (CASEL, 2020).  Integrating these competencies into the daily functioning of the classroom lays the foundation for safe and supportive classroom culture.


Strategies for Developing a Safe and Nurturing Classroom Culture

(Add at least one strategy in each of the 5 competencies.)

Instructional Practices for Integrating SEL into Your Approach to Teaching and Learning Academic Content

(Identify at least 2 Instructional Practices in each of the 5 competencies.)


· Develop daily routines for practicing mindfulness and self-reflection.

· Implement the use of journal writing. Free writing, without a prompt, can help students identify and process emotions.

Add two additional strategies here:

Add two additional Instructional Practices:


· Allowing space and time for students to practice self-calming.

· Teaching students how to use tools for organization, such as the calendar on a phone or computer (or a paper calendar). Then providing time each day or class period to model and guide the use of organization tools.

· Giving students clear directions in more than one modality such as verbally and in writing or images.

Add two additional strategies here:

Add two additional Instructional Practices:

Social Awareness

· Developing norms (public agreements/ rules) in collaboration with students.

· Building group reflection on the norms into the daily routine.

· Building in routines for sharing about yourself and for students to share about themselves with each other.

Add two additional Instructional Practices:

Relationship Skills

· Using a neutral tone when conflict emerges, when redirecting students, or during discipline matters.

· Providing students with tools like sentence starters, lists of questions for prompting dialogue, and tips for discussions and working in groups.

· Greeting students at the classroom door, or being first online in the virtual classroom to greet students as they log in.

· Taking the time to learn about students’ interests and making reference to or asking about those interests from time-to-time.

Add two additional strategies here:

Add two additional Instructional Practices:

Responsible Decision Making

· Provide students with a safe space (physically and emotionally) to think through decisions.

· Offering tools to support decisi

to using programs that have evidence, measuring the extent to which a program was imple-
mented as designed, whether the entire program was implemented, staff training, level of
student engagement, and the appropriate use of adaptations (Durlak, 2015). Understanding
these issues is critical to having SEL programming lead to the outcomes you were hoping
for (Oberle et al., 2016). We encourage you to use Worksheets 4.1 and 4.2 as you apply this
chapter’s content to your site. This chapter broadly includes:

• Methods for creating a setting conducive to SEL through climate, relationships, and
organized classroom space and behavior management strategies.

• Procedures and strategies to ensure high- quality SEL classroom implementation.


Classrooms are a place where the climate is paramount to learning (Matsumura, Slater,
& Crosson, 2008). This means the extent to which students feel connected, safe, and sup-
ported. For students to develop academic and social– emotional competence, both instruc-
tional rigor and emotional support in teaching and learning are key (Matsumura et al.,
2008). Implementing an SEL program is one way to positively influence classroom climate,
because at the core of the material is curiosity and exploration of emotions and social inter-
actions as valid and something to be learned (e.g., Hagelskamp et al., 2013). There are spe-
cific strategies known to contribute to positive classroom climate in general that can also fit
into a larger SEL picture (Doll, Brehm, & Zucker, 2014; O’Conner et al., 2017). In this sec-
tion, we review the following two areas: (1) cultivating positive relationships with students,
student peers, and families; and (2) applying organizational strategies to promote order,
safety, connection, and predictability in classroom spaces and with student behavior.

Supportive Classrooms through Relationships and Engagement

Not only do relationships shape students’ overall development (Jones & Bouffard, 2012;
Rudasill, Reio, Stipanovic, & Taylor, 2010), but they can also influence classroom climate
(Doll et al., 2014). To better understand how supportive classrooms can be achieved to effec-
tively support SEL implementation, let us review the process by which relationships— and
a related term, attachment—can be developed. Students can be in supportive and less than
supportive relationships with adults, peers, and other youth. All parties engage in behaviors
that can promote (or undermine) relationships, leading to differing degrees in the quality of
attachment (Cassidy, 2016).

Attachment is typically viewed within a framework of an adult reliably responding to
a child’s need (thereby creating a “safe haven”) and providing a “secure base” from which a
child can explore his or her environment, a task that is necessary to learn and

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In recent years, many K-12 educators have turned to
social-emotional learning (SEL) as a means of pro-
viding support to students who suffer from trauma
(Jagers, Rivas-Drake, & Borowski, 2018). In fact, among

It’s time for the SEL movement to adopt lessons and principles
from the practice of trauma-informed instruction.

By Erica Pawlo, Ava Lorenzo, Brian Eichert, and Maurice J. Elias

schools that have implemented SEL programs, the vast
majority serve significant numbers of traumatized stu-
dents (American Institutes for Research, 2015). Ironically,
though, SEL programs themselves are not necessarily

ERICA PAWLO ([email protected]) is a school psychologist at Warren Township Schools, Warren, NJ. AVA LORENZO ([email protected])

is a licensed psychologist at the Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development (SECD) Lab, Piscataway, NJ. BRIAN EICHERT ([email protected]

gmail.com) is a behavior specialist for the South Brunswick School District, South Brunswick, NJ. MAURICE J. ELIAS ([email protected];

@secdlab; @SELinSchools) is a professor of psychology and director of the Social-Emotional Learning Lab at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.


38 Kappan November 2019


designed for this purpose.
It seems, then, that the answer is for these schools to

seek out SEL programs that have been tailored specifically
to meet the needs of traumatized children. However, the
fact is that trauma can affect students in any school, at
any time, making it impossible to
predict which schools will require
such a specialized approach. What’s
really needed, we believe, is for all
SEL programs and activities to be

Intensity matters
To a large extent, the basic tenets of
SEL overlap with the principles of
trauma-informed instruction. Where they have differed are
on questions of intensity — both the intensity of the stress
children are experiencing and the intensity of the instruc-
tion required to help them.

For individuals with trauma, ordinary emotional and
social skills often are superseded by trauma-responsive



Universal Strategies for Trauma-Sensitive

As we walked from the car to the entrance of the amusement
park, I eyed the roller coaster of all roller coasters. “Honey, I

know you are super excited to ride all these rides. Just know that
I may not be able to join you on some because I honestly feel
sick just looking at that one.” “Then maybe you should stop

looking at it, Mom.”
–A conversation with my daughter, age 8

s Pepper’s team began to change how they understood Pepper and eventually started
to change their approach in how they worked with her, she began to show slow but
real progress at school. It was steps forward, steps back, and then steps forward

again, as it often is for severely traumatized youth. But overall, her team felt encouraged by
how this little one was growing and changing in response to the adults’ commitment to
helping her feel safe, be connected, and get regulated. In fact, Pepper was showing signs of
severe dysregulation less and less often, and several months into their decision to provide
more coregulatory support, Pepper started to demonstrate academic gains. Although still in
need of individualized instruction and multiple supports, Pepper was now a beginning reader.
Her number sense and skills in relation to both addition and subtraction were also improving.
Writing continued to be very difficult for her, but with small-group modified instruction, as
well as much individual support as part of her IEP, she was working on that. Pepper still
displayed significant behavior concerns some days, but outbursts were occurring less often,
and their intensity and duration were definitely showing a downward trend. More often than

Alexander, J. (2019). Building trauma-sensitive schools : Your guide to creating safe, supportive learning environments for all students. Brookes Publishing.
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not, those closest in relationship with Pepper understood exactly what tended to dysregulate
her, noticed those cues sooner rather than later, and were able to not only help her by way of
coregulation but were also beginning to teach her self-regulation skills such as belly
breathing. Even though Pepper’s peer relationships were still quite problematic, her
relationships with adults were showing slow but marked improvement. Above all else,
Pepper’s entire team felt hopeful about her progress and were feeling a renewed sense of
purpose in their work with all kids. They were so inspired, in fact, that both her general
education and special ed

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