SEL is a tricky subject to look for help on. You’re likely to either get a 30,000 foot approach focused mainly on classroom culture, or a strategy for working on a niche aspect of SEL that isn’t a targeted growth area for your students and classroom.

To fill this resource gap, Amber Chandler (a teacher and regular Getting Smart contributor) wrote The Flexible SEL Classroom, a collection of “practical strategies for incorporating social-emotional learning into your instruction… [that] can be adapted to suit different needs.”

The book is organized around CASEL’s five core components of SEL (self management, self awareness, decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness), and includes a number of worksheets (with access to printable online versions) covering topics ranging from helping students to define their own “personal priorities” (in the self-awareness section) to strategies for allowing students to productively self-organize into team roles (in the relationship skills section). Chandler also touches on a number of other important aspects of SEL such as metacognition, communication styles and the “echo chamber.”

“How can we teach students to appropriately switch registers, or styles of speaking, without devaluing any of the communication our students rely on to fit into their environments?”

And with sections on topics such as “Helping Students Create Their Own Personal Ethics,” “Facilitating Students’ Ownership of Behaviors and Self-Management,” and “Modeling the Message: Empathy in Action,” Chandler does a great job of diving into the various aspects of each of CASEL’s five core components.

Chandler highlights many of her own experiences with students throughout the book to illustrate some of the more hard-to-grasp concepts, and this way of painting real-world pictures lends a personal touch while also making her approaches more approachable and even, to a certain extent, more adaptable. For example, recounting an interaction with a teacher of her own when she herself was a student, she writes:

“I’d love to say that her advice worked, but it didn’t. What did work was my relationship with her. She knew how to get me pieced back together and back to class. When I think back to this time, I’m always struck by her phrase, ‘Don’t let them get your goat.’ I’m positive I didn’t know what she meant, but it didn’t matter. Mrs. Louis was my person. To begin every school year, I tell this story. And then I tell my new students that they don’t know me yet, but I’m offering to be their person.”

If you’re a teacher looking to make SEL a more central part of your practice, The Flexible SEL Classroom (recently published by Routledge and AMLE) is a good bet for gaining a fundamental grasp of the many faces of SEL while learning some tested-and-approved strategies for getting started.

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