Social Emotional Learning

Social emotional learning (SEL) is the process where students develop the awareness and skills needed to manage emotions, set goals, build relationships and make responsible decisions.

Studies have found that adopting SEL supports positive school communities and improved academic outcomes.

The Washington State Legislature commissioned a work group to develop benchmarks for the social emotional learning of students across the state. That group outlined six benchmarks:


A student can identify and name their emotions and influence on their behavior. Demonstrates:

  • Awareness and understanding of one’s own emotions.
  • Knowledge of personal strengths, areas for growth, culture, linguistic assets and aspirations.
  • Awareness and understanding of family, school and community resources and supports.


A student can regulate their emotions, thoughts and behaviors in contexts with other people.

  • Demonstrates the skills to manage and express one’s emotions, thoughts, impulses and stress in constructive ways.
  • Demonstrates constructive decision-making and problem-solving skills.


A student motivates them self, perseveres and sees them self as capable. Demonstrates:

  • Skills to set, monitor, adapt, persevere, achieve and evaluate goals.
  • Problem-solving skills to engage responsibly in a variety of situations.
  • Awareness and ability to speak on behalf of personal rights and responsibilities.

Social awareness

A student can take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Demonstrates:

  • Awareness of other people’s emotions, perspectives, cultures, language, history, identity and ability.
  • Awareness and respect for similarities and differences with others.
  • Understanding of social norms of individual cultures.

Social management

A student makes safe and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions.

  • Interacts effectively with others using a range of social and communication skills.
  • Identifies and takes steps to resolve interpersonal conflicts constructively.
  • Engages in constructive relationships with individuals of diverse perspectives, ability, cultures, language, history and identity.

Social engagement

A student considers others and shows a desire to contribute to the well-being of the school and community.

  • Demonstrates a sense of social and community responsibility.
  • Demonstrates the ability to work with others to set, monitor, adapt, achieve and evaluate goals.
  • Demonstrates effective strategies to contribute productively to one’s school, workplace and community.

The District adopted the Second Step curriculum for use with all elementary students in 2017. Second Step aligns with state and national SEL standards as well as the District’s Interdisciplinary Skills and Attributes. Second Step teaches problem solving and conflict management skills, which aim to reduce incidents of bullying.

Elementary schools have five Second Step units per grade-level:

  1. Skills for Learning
  2. Empathy
  3. Emotion Management
  4. Problem Solving
  5. Bullying Prevention

Elementary counselors and teachers began teaching Second Step lessons during the 2017-18 school year. School leadership teams also began to integrate the curriculum into their school-wide efforts.

The District is in the early stages of reviewing SEL curriculum to be implemented at the middle school level, with the aim of building onto the foundation of skills that students learned in elementary school.

Counselor speaking with student