3 Signature SEL Practices
Dr. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, speaks about “behavioral intervention being a biological intervention.” A student’s repeated experiences in school can be a powerful influence for the rewiring of the neural pathways necessary for habits to be built and sustained. Having routines and rituals in our classrooms and school communities is beneficial for every child, and absolutely essential for some. Three main categories of carefully chosen, effectively facilitated and thoughtfully debriefed teaching practices work together to build a solid foundation of safety, consistency and joy in classrooms across the school day:
WELCOMING ROUTINES/OPTIMISTIC OPENERS • Activities for Inclusion
Routine openings establish safety and predictability, support contribution by all voices, set norms for respectful listening, allow students to connect with one another and create a sense of belonging. To be successful these activities must be: carefully chosen, connected to the learning of the day and engagingly facilitated.
ENGAGING PEDAGOGY • Sense Making and “Brain Breaks”
Engaging practices are brain-compatible strategies that can foster: relationships, cultural humility and responsiveness, empowerment, and collaboration. They intentionally build student SEL skills. These practices can also be opportunities for brain breaks that provide a space for integrating new information into long-term memory, otherwise it is soon forgotten.
REFLECTIVE CLOSER • Reflections and Looking Forward
End the day by having students reflect on, and then name something that helps them leave on an optimistic note. This provides positive closure, reinforces learning, can connect school to home, and create a moment of looking forward to returning tomorrow.
When used consistently, these signature SEL practices create conditions for growth and learning across all five SEL competencies while using culturally responsive teaching strategies to help create collaborative classrooms.