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Research has shown that social and emotional development can be fostered, and social and emotional skills, attitudes, and behaviors can be taught using a variety of approaches:

  • Free-standing lessons designed to enhance students’ social and emotional competence explicitly.
  • Teaching practices such as cooperative learning and project-based learning, which promote SEL.
  • Integration of SEL an academic curriculum such as language arts, math, social studies, or health.
  • Organizational strategies that promote SEL as a schoolwide initiative that creates a climate and culture conducive to learning.


Effective SEL approaches often incorporate four elements represented by the acronym SAFE:

  • Sequenced: Connected and coordinated activities to foster skills development.
  • Active: Active forms of learning to help students master new skills and attitudes.
  • Focused: A component that emphasizes developing personal and social skills.
  • Explicit: Targeting specific social and emotional skills.


Ideally schools will use SAFE approaches to support the social and emotional development of their students. For example:

  • Children can to be taught through modeling and coaching to recognize how they feel or how someone else might be feeling.
  • Prompting the use of a conflict-resolution skill and using dialoguing to guide students through the steps can be an effective approach to helping them apply a skill in a new situation.
  • Through class meetings students can practice group decision-making and setting classroom rules.
  • Students can learn cooperation and teamwork through participation in team sports and games.
  • Students can deepen their understanding of a current or historical event by analyzing it through a set of questions based on a problem-solving model.
  • Cross-age mentoring, in which a younger student is paired with an older one, can be effective in building self-confidence, a sense of belonging, and enhancing academic skills.
  • Having one member of a pair describe a situation to his partner and having the partner repeat what he or she heard is an effective tool in teaching reflective listening.