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SEL In Action at the Burbank School

There are many layers to a comprehensive Social Emotional Learning Program.  In conjunction, the following layers effectively support students’ social emotional learning:

  • Direct instruction
  • Classroom practices
  • School-wide practices and structures
  • Infusion into the content
  • Events
  • Family engagement

Skill Development and Practice

All four of the elementary schools follow CASEL’s Five Interrelated SEL Competencies, including Burbank.  The “what” of the standards that are set for each grade level under these competencies are part of the skills that are taught, the “how”, the way in which it is taught is through the social competency programs at each school.  

At Burbank, “Open Circle” is utilized as the program to deliver and implement the CASEL standards.  Over the past few years much of the calibration that has occurred has been through work within the district which includes PLT’s, SEL committees both at the building and district level.  In working with SEL experts we have implemented the core competencies through professional development, and have sought to gain insight and information from parents, staff and students on how best to improve in all of the competencies, and we continue that work.

Open Circle provides a unique, evidence-based social and emotional learning program for grades K-5 aimed at:

  1. Proactively developing children’s skills for recognizing and managing emotions, empathy, positive relationships and problem solving.
  2. Helping schools develop a community where students feel safe, cared for and engaged in learning.  Classroom teachers implement the grade-differentiated Open Circle Curriculum during 15-minute classroom meetings twice per week.  Students form a circle of chairs, including an empty seat to symbolize that there is always room for another person, voice or opinion.

Open Circle Curriculum at Burbank-Focus on Specific Skills and Practice

These five topics or units, and each of the lessons are taught in each grade level and spiral throughout the K-4 classrooms at Burbank-creating a consistency each year and a connectedness that is developmentally appropriate for that certain grade level.

Five Topics
Beginning Together

Getting to Know Each Other
Appreciating Difference
Non-Negotiable Rules
Nonverbal Signals

How To Sort Problems

Dangerous & Destructive Behaviors
Annoying Behavior
Bullying Behavior
Bystander and Ally Behavior
Recognizing Discrimination

Managing Ourselves

Being Calm
Recognizing & Naming Feelings
Body Language
Getting Calm When You Feel Upset
Positive Self-Talk

Problem Solving

Identifying the Problem
Deciding on a Positive Goal
Brainstorming Solutions
Evaluating Solutions
Making a Plan and Trying It
Overcoming Obstacles
Being a Positive Leader

Strengthening Relationships

Giving & Receiving Compliments
Including One Another
Speaking Up
Expressing Angry Feelings


School Wide Practices and Routines

In addition to classroom implementation, the success of Open Circle also depends on school-wide practices.  Research shows that it’s important for students to see and hear consistent messages from all the adults they encounter at school, and beyond the school day. The five core competencies as outlined by CASEL are not only part of this program, but outline and guide our work throughout the school, through growth mindset, mindfulness, and infusion of the competences into the curriculum, often through literature.  

At Burbank the main way that we connect the Open Circle practices with school wide practices, is through our Community Meeting, which happens every six weeks.  As a school we get together and discuss, one of the school-wide themes of Open Circle, which include:

  • Beginning Together
  • Managing Ourselves (Managing Emotions)
  • Managing Ourselves (Mindfulness)
  • Strengthening Relationships (Cooperating)
  • How to Sort Problems (Teasing, Bullying, Bystander)
  • Problem Solving (Persistence, Multiple Solutions to a Problem)  

We also focus on our core values, of love of learning, respect and well-being during our Community Meetings- to match both the Open Circle curriculum with our own core values.  We often sing songs, and read books that illustrate ways that we can improve our social and emotional abilities.

Climate and Culture

Through our Open Circle work in the classroom, and through the school-wide more formal efforts during Community Meeting, the climate and culture of the school comes to a realistic vision for our students and staff.  Students also participate in other activities that emphasize the core competencies, and our core values-including showing respect to veterans assemblies either on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day. Students also participate in many activities including UNICEF fundraising, Cradles to Crayons drive, Burbank Community Fun Run-these activities which are school wide reinforce caring for others, and respecting our community by giving back.

We also have a school-wide practice of restorative justice-when students are not able to meet expectations with their interactions they complete “Reflection Sheets” where they think about the choices they’ve made, and how they can learn from their mistakes and make better choices in the future.  

The climate and culture is one based in the social competencies, and within the core values at Burbank.