Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

Social and Emotional Learning "is a process for helping children and adults develop the fundamental skills for success in life".

These skills include "recognizing and managing our emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically" according to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

Social and Emotional Learning should be an important focus in schools.

Here are some resources to address SEL needs.

  • Promoting Kindness - To promote social and emotional learning, Laurie Heyden, school psychologist in Bristol-Warren, has started a Kindness Club.  One way to support social emotional health is to do something to uplift others.  Laurie runs a Kindness Club at Rockwell School during recess.  There are 71 members from grades 3-5.  The goal is to empower children to make a difference for others through creative acts of kindness.  She meets with small groups of students (from the same pod) to do activities that bring joy to others.  This year they made kindness shells to put in the community for others to find, jingle bell necklaces for the RI Vets Home residents before the holidays, Valentine’s Day cards for the Vets Home residents, and beaded friendship bracelets for nursing home residents.  

    Students interested in joining the Kindness Club must complete a short application form, signed by their parent.  Each student understands and agrees they will meet during recess, 4 times during the year, to do Kindness Club activities. 

    Connection to SEL Standards: The Kindness Club aligns with RI SEL Standards:  Competencies for School and Life Success, specifically Social Awareness - Standard 3E - "I contribute productively to my school, family, workplace and community."  Kindness Club creates an opportunity for students to "demonstrate consideration of others and a desire to contribute to the well-being of others at my school and in my community" and "to identify a school, community or global need and generate possible solutions",  The Kindness Club is helping to meet the need by providing comfort to those in the community that may suffering from loneliness. 

    An excerpt from the newsletter Laurie has created highlights the Kindness Club.  For more information, you can contact her at

  • A Virtual Wellness Room can help students (and adults) regain control over their emotions.  A visitor to the room can click on various items and see peaceful waterfalls or relaxing fish swimming in an aquarium, hear calming stories, or participate in breathing exercises.  Developed by Karen Festa, Social-Emotional Learning Coordinator, Narragansett Public Schools

  • Virtual Calming Room - This site, developed by Tabitha Watjean, SEL Coordinator for East Providence Schools, has links to calming sounds and music, visual relaxation, mindfulness, guided meditation, animal cams, movement breaks, coloring and creativity and puzzles and games.  The sites can be beneficial to students, families, faculty and staff to manage stress, anxiety, feelings and emotions. 

  • CASEL has a number of resources, including information on establishing School-Wide SEL and District-Wide SEL

  • SEL Resources from CASEL- This web page from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) includes resources for parents / caregivers and educators.

​Social and Emotional Learning and SEL skills are important in the workplace. 

Click on the links below to view videos on what some RI employers have to say about each SEL competency and the workplace.  Each one is under 4 minutes and can be shown to students. 

Thank you to the Leadership Rhode Island Class of 2019 members who worked to produce these videos: Ashlee Accetta, Dave Bain, Andrew Bicknell, Keri Borba, Michael Calabro, Eric Charlesworth, David Glade, Hilary Jones and Nirva Lafortune.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.  (, 2020)

Each school and district must follow the Rhode Island Basic Education Plan (BEP). This plan requires that schools create a climate of safety, security and belonging for all students and adults, thereby establishing an environment that builds respectful relationships, enhances productive learning and teaching, promotes school engagement, and promotes academic success.  

"Each LEA shall ensure that schools promote a positive climate with emphasis on mutual respect, self‐control, good attendance, order and organization, and proper security.  Each LEA shall develop protocols that … ensure that students and adults make positive behavioral choices and that are conducive to a safe and nurturing environment that promotes academic success.” (RI Basic Education Plan)

The importance of Social and Emotional Learning is reflected in the Teacher Evaluation system. Teachers are required to create a classroom environment of respect and rapport that promotes a positive culture for learning and results in students actively engaged and taking pride in their work.

The Early Learning Standards include a domain, or area, focused on Social and Emotional Development which addresses children’s relationships with others- adults and other children- their sense of personal identity and self-confidence, and their ability to regulate emotions and behavior.

Research shows that Social and Emotional Learning can have a positive impact on school climate and promote a host of academic, social, and emotional benefits for students.  Durlak, Weissberg et al.'s recent meta-analysis of 213 rigorous studies of SEL in schools indicates that students receiving quality SEL instruction demonstrated:

  • Better academic performanceAchievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction;
  • Improved attitudes and behaviors: greater motivation to learn, deeper commitment to school, increased time devoted to schoolwork, and better classroom behavior;
  • Fewer negative behaviors: increase on task behaviors, decreased disruptive class behavior, noncompliance, aggression, delinquent acts, and disciplinary referrals; and
  • Reduced emotional distress: fewer reports of student depression, anxiety, stress, and social withdrawal. (

Social and Emotional skills are implicitly embedded in the Common Core State Standards. If our students are to successfully access the standards, they must learn many social and emotional competencies. Many students coming to school have not yet learned the specific skills and so the direct and deliberate teaching of these skills is necessary.

Click here for examples of how Social and Emotional Learning skills are critical for success in meeting Common Core State Standards.

Research also indicates that SEL programs with the best outcomes are:  multi-year in duration, use interactive instructional methods, and are integrated into the life of the school rather than being implemented as marginal add-ons. 

Instruction in SEL skills can be provided through explicit instruction, often within a specific curricular program, or embedded into general teaching practices or within the academic content.  School-wide practices can also provide a positive environment to teach and promote SEL skills. 

There are various commercially-produced curriculum materials available.  CASEL has produced an elementary and secondary Guide to Effective Social and Emotional Programs, which is available on their website.  This provides an independent and objective review and rating of evidence-based programs in social and emotional learning.  The guide is intended to help schools and teachers identify programs that will best meet their needs.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has identified five core groups of social and emotional competencies:

  • Self-awareness—being able to understand one’s feelings and beliefs, as well as developing self-confidence
  • Self-management—learning to manage and express emotions appropriately, controlling impulses, overcoming challenges, setting goals, and persevering
  • Social awareness—seeing other points of view and empathizing with others, and learning to accepti differences
  • Relationship skills—developing healthy and respectful relationships; managing  peer pressure; and handling conflict appropriately
  • Responsible decision-making—considering a variety of factors when making decisions and being aware of consequences

Social and Emotional skills are often a part of a student's IEP.  Click here for Sample SEL Goals and Objectives.

RI SEL Standards

On October 24, 2017, the Council for Elementary and Secondary Education endorsed RI SEL Standards: Competencies for School and Life Success (English and Spanish).  Districts are encouraged to follow these standards and implement them in classrooms at all levels, for all students.  SEL is NOT "one more thing", but connects to all instruction and supports academic rigor.  SEL skills are important for ALL!

Clicking on the Learning Standard will bring you to the corresponding Indicator.

SEL Indicators

The Social and Emotional Learning Standards apply to all age groups, from preschool through adulthood, but SEL skills look different at various age/grade spans.  The SEL Indicators provide examples of what the standards might look like at different grade spans.

Read the Introduction and Guidance to the RI SEL Standards and Indicators to learn more about how these documents can be used.

The five anchor standards and their learning standards are provided in the following accordion. You can also view the indicators for each standard that describe what demonstration of the standards may look like at various ages.

Printable Versions of the SEL Indicators:

The ability to recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior and to assess one’s strengths and limitations.

1A Individual demonstrates an understanding of one’s emotions.

View Indicators for 1A
1B Individual identifies when help is needed and who can provide it.

View Indicators for 1B
1C Individual demonstrates awareness of their own personal rights and responsibilities.

View Indicators for 1C
1D Individual demonstrates knowledge of their own personal strengths, cultural and linguistic assets, and aspirations.

View Indicators for 1D
1E Individual seeks to understand and identify their own prejudices and biases.

View Indicators for 1E

The ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations and to set and work toward personal and academic goals.

2A Individual demonstrates the skills to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, impulses and stress in constructive ways.

View Indicators for 2A
2B Individual manages materials, space, time and responsibilities effectively.

View Indicators for 2B
2C Individual demonstrates skills to develop, evaluate, modify and achieve goals.

View Indicators for 2C
2D Individual demonstrates a resilient attitude and growth mindset, even in the face of adversity and challenges.

View Indicators for 2D

The ability to take the perspective of others and empathize with them, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and to understand norms for behavior.

3A Individual reads social cues and responds appropriately.

View Indicators for 3A
3B Individual seeks to understand and demonstrates respect for individuals, including those with diverse backgrounds, cultures, abilities, languages, and identities.

View Indicators for 3B
3C Individual demonstrates empathy for other people’s emotions and perspectives.

View Indicators for 3C
3D Individual recognizes and respects leadership capacity in oneself and others.

View Indicators for 3D
3E Individual contributes productively to one’s school, family, workplace, and community.

View Indicators for 3E

The ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressures, and to seek and offer help when needed.

4A Individual uses communication and interpersonal skills to interact effectively with others, including those with diverse backgrounds, cultures, abilities, languages, and identities.

View Indicators for 4A
4B Individual uses appropriate communication strategies and interpersonal skills to maintain relationships with others.

View Indicators for 4B
4C Individual demonstrates the skills to respectfully engage in and resolve interpersonal conflicts in various contexts.

View Indicators for 4C
4D Individual recognizes when others need help and demonstrates the ability to provide or seek assistance.

View Indicators for 4D

The ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms and to evaluate the consequences of actions and to consider the safety and well-being of others.

5A Individual applies problem-solving skills to engage responsibly in a variety of situations.

View Indicators for 5A
5B Individual uses and adapts appropriate tools and strategies to solve problems.

View Indicators for 5B
5C Individual evaluates impact of decisions on self, others and the given situation and adjusts behavior appropriately.

View Indicators for 5C
5D Individual considers ethical, safety, and societal factors when making choices and decisions.

View Indicators for 5D
5E Individual considers and responds appropriately to external influences (e.g. media, peers, authority figures) on decision-making.

View Indicators for 5E

Incorporating SEL into Current Teaching 

There are a number of way Social and Emotional Skills can be taught.  These include direct and explicit instruction in specific skills, school-wide culture and climate strategies, embedding SEL into teacher instructional practices, and integrating with academic curriculum areas. Additional information, including videos to show each of 10 teaching practices in action can be found in the document "Incorporating Social and Personal Competencies Into Classroom Instruction and Educator Effectiveness"

The following resources from CASEL can be helpful to school staff:

Community of Practice in SEL

In an effort to share information and improve practice, we have established a Community of Practice for Social and Emotional Learning.  The goal is to bring educators and practitioners into a working relationship around common interests in Social and Emotional Learning. Stay Tuned for School Year 2023-2024 Dates and Topics.

 Attendance is free, but registration is required.  


Amy Lopes, 5th grade teacher at William D'Abate School in Providence, began working with the Center for Resilience to implement a mindfulness program.  Read Amy's story to learn about her experience and thoughts about the work.  

Stay Informed! Join the RIDE SEL Listserv

To join the Rhode Island Social and Emotional Learning electronic mailing list, send an e-mail to and, in the subject line, write: SUBSCRIBE SEL-L. Please include the following information in the text of your email:

  • First and Last Name
  • School District
  • School (if working)
  • Position

NOTE: This list is solely for the purpose of sharing information from the RI Department of Education regarding Social and Emotional Learning. The list will not be shared with others. It is expected that the number of messages will be minimal over the course of a year.

"A comprehensive mission for schools is to educate students to be knowledgeable, responsible, socially-skilled, healthy, caring, and contributing citizens." - Greenberg, et al (2003)