Unit 1: Defining Social Emotional Learning


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Unit 1: Defining Social Emotional Learning

Here, you'll learn the basics of Social Emotional Learning. You can always come back to this page to review your knowledge of the Social Emotional concept!


  • You can define Social Emotional Learning.
  • You can create a reflective journal entry.

Lesson 1: Getting to Know Social Emotional Learning

Test your knowledge about Social Emotional Learning with this super fun quiz!

A digital device with Internet access, such as a cellphone or tablet, is required for this activity. All instructions for the activity will be provided once you click on the link.


Welcome to your first mini-lesson of the unit! We are going to go over some definitions, which will help guide you through the realm of Social Emotional Learning. Often, Social Emotional Learning can be called Social Emotional Intelligence Learning, SEL, or the Social Emotional Learning Model.


Social – Refers to interacting with people

Emotional – Refers to feelings

Intelligence – The ability to acquire knowledge and skills

Social Emotional Learning – Discussing interactions with people and feelings in a learning environment

Social Emotional Intelligence – The ability to recognize interactions and feelings in other people and diverse situations

Learning Activity

This activity was adapted from Emelina Minero’s “13 Powerful SEL Activities” (Edutopia). It should take about five minutes to complete! You may time yourself using your cellphone’s timer function, or Google’s Timer function here.

Materials needed:

  • Timer or watch
  • Two pieces of paper (lined or unlined)
  • A writing utensil

For 3 minutes:

  • First, set your timer.
  • Take one piece of paper and your writing utensil, and place them on a flat surface.
  • On the paper, take three minutes to write down your insecurities. As a reminder, an insecurity is an uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; if you do not feel you have any insecurities, take a moment to write down any problems you are currently having.

For 1 minute:

  • Look at your list… now rip it up.
  • You just completed your first emotional check-in! By being honest about your feelings, you opened yourself up to an honest conversation. (And you also “destroyed” your insecurities or problems).

For 1 minute:

  • Answer these questions on the other piece of paper you have: How does it feel to acknowledge your emotions? What is the value of recognizing your own emotions?

And no… there are no right or wrong answers.

Lesson 2: Reflection and Feedback

Want to allow students to write about their emotions, and other events going on in their lives? Have them keep a journal! Allowing students to keep a private writing journal, or a journal that their teacher would collect, gives students the opportunity to express themselves and clear their heads. In some cases, journal entries are used to reflect on the school day, a specific class assignment, or something related to a student’s interests.

No matter what subject you teach, there is always something to journal about! Here are potential examples of journal prompts in common high school subjects:

English Class: How does Nick Carraway from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby embody one of the seven deadly sins? Explain.

Math Class: Based on the processes we covered in class, how can mathematics formulas be used outside of our classroom?

Science Class: How can we apply the Scientific Method to something in our own lives?

Social Studies Class: Imagine you are an English settler who just arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. How do you feel?

In some cases, the journal entries can be abstract questions that allow students to think creatively. In other cases, students can use these journal entries to connect emotions to various social concepts. It is certainly acceptable to have abstract questions with no set answer, and it is also a good idea to diversify journal prompts in the classroom. Changing the concepts surrounding the journal entries will keep students engaged, and the differentiation is a quick way to connect to all types of learners.

Journal Entry #1: Reflecting on our Practices: Pick at least one of these prompts, and discuss your experiences in full-sentences:

Educator-specific prompt: When was the last time you asked a student “How are you?” and genuinely wanted to know how they were? If you can’t recall, why do you believe this is so? Is there anything specific you can do in your classroom to ensure students feel that they are respected, valued, and cared about?

When a close friend or family member asks, “How are you?” do you respond truthfully? Why or why not?

Want to make sure you were writing a reflective journal entry? Take a look at this checklist!

_____ I stayed on topic while I wrote, and I made sure I answered with my personal thoughts in mind.

_____ I provided many details in my writing.

_____ I made an effort to complete the task without distractions or interruptions.

Unit Assessment

Congratulations! You made it through your first unit on Social Emotional Learning and Social Emotional Intelligence Learning. You are on your way to becoming a Social Emotional Superstar in your very own classroom! Take a moment to "Check Yourself Before Your Wreck Yourself," also known as making sure you are on the path to success, before you head to the next section...

Woah! A Kahoot Quiz! (You can do it!)

Where do I go from here?

Head on over to your next unit... Unit 2: The Benefits and Detriments of Social Emotional Learning

Photo by Enokson, "Learning is Required" (2011): used under the Creative Commons license via Flickr