Social Emotional Learning

Continue district-wide implementation of Social Emotional Learning Framework (BPS Strategic Plan) Skills for Learning, Skills for Life-Competencies. 

What is SEL?

  • SEL is the process through which children and adults develop skills for:  decision-making, communication, cooperation, conflict resolution, resiliency, and developing healthy relationships for work and play.

  • SEL helps students become: self-aware, self-managed, and self-directed within healthy relationship s and a productive life.

  • In short, SEL is the process of developing students who are knowledgeable, confident, responsible, and caring individuals.

  • As students become emotionally and socially competent, they are better able to:  focus themselves, persevere through a difficult task, collaborate in a group, learn from a mistake, set goals and priorities, and develop other skills that affect academic achievement.

What is Belmont’s approach to Social and Emotional Learning?

  • A set of competencies fall into five areas:  self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and relationships skills.

  • These skills are to be reinforced, extended, and applied to age-appropriate situations at each grade level.

  • Schools strive to establish classroom and school routines to offer students the opportunity to practice and receive feedback and reinforcement on their use of the skills. School leaders act to shape a school culture that will provide a safe place for students to practice skills and where adults model the skills.

How does SEL relate to other education and social initiatives?

  • Belmont’s SEL program is tied to our work in anti-racism, standards-based instruction, prevention education, mentoring, character education, global education, and service learning.

  • All of these areas cover similar concepts and utilize the same skills.

  • As part of SEL, students learn to apply the same skills that they have used in everyday circumstances to more difficult and charged situations.

SEL in Action in Belmont

Elementary Level:

  • Burbank School

  • Butler School

  • Wellington School

  • Winn Brook School

  • Chenery Upper Elementary School

Secondary Level:

  • Belmont Middle School

  • Belmont High School

Parent and Professional Resources:

CASEL Wheel and Competencies

How is Effective SEL linked to Academic Achievement and School Life? Why is SEL important?

Research demonstrates that SEL has a number of benefits:  

It Improves academic performance. A 2004 analysis by Zins, Weissberg, Wang, and Walberg demonstrates three positive academic outcomes associated with SEL:  

  1. Student attitude towards learning improved. There was increased motivation and commitment.

  2. There were behavioral changes in participation and study habits.

  3. SEL led to improved grades as well as greater mastery of material.

SEL is key to the prevention of risky behaviors. An analysis by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) demonstrates a positive connection between SEL and a reduction of behavior problems.

SEL provides life-long skills for work, play, and relationships.  

Massachusetts SEL Standards

DOE Mass


SEL in Action in Belmont. Skill Development and Practice

Elementary Level

All four of the elementary schools follow CASEL’s Five Interrelated SEL Competencies. The “what” or 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. Each of the schools have a distinct culture which has been created over time by the parents, teachers and students-all important stakeholders in the school. Through their own identities each school has adopted a social competency program right for their school culture.  At Wellington, Winn Brook and Butler “Second Step” is utilized in the delivery of the CASEL standards. At Burbank, “Open Circle” is utilized as program to also 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.

Social Competencies at the Elementary Level

Second Step is an interactive SEL curriculum through which students learn and practice vital social skills, such as cooperation, problem-solving, empathy, emotion management, impulse control. SEcond Step teaching kits include photo-lesson cards, key discussion questions, student role-plays, and video clips.

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, and 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.

School-wide Practices and Routines

In addition to classroom implementation, the success of both the Second Step and Open Circle depend 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 these two programs, but outline and guide our work throughout the school, through growth mindset, mindfulness, and infusion of the competencies into the curriculum, often through literature.

Secondary Level

At the secondary level, we continue to support students’ learning and development of CASEL’s Five Interrelated SEL Competencies through direct instruction, classroom practices, infusion into the content, and school wide practices. Direct instruction on specific skills takes place primarily in health and wellness classes, although it is also included in other classes, such as when teaching students the skills necessary for effective collaboration.

There are many classroom practices that support students’ development and practice of the social and emotional skills necessary for success in school and life. These include spending time getting to know students and to form a welcoming classroom community at the beginning of the year. Having regular, predictable classroom routines contributes to a safe learning environment, and allowing for student involvement in class decision-making increases their engagement and motivation for learning. Helping students learn to self-manage and self-motivate is supported by setting goals, reflecting, and self-assessing. These are just a few examples of the ways in which social and emotional learning is the foundation for the learning of academic skills and content at the secondary level.

Family Resources

  • Open Circle

  • Second Step

  • "How to Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk" by Adele Faber

  • "Siblings without Rivalry:  How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live too" by Adele Faber

  • "The Price of Privilege" by Madeline Levine

  • "Queen Bees and Wannabes:  Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence" by Rosalind Wiseman

  • "Raising Cain" by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson

  • "Mindset" by Carol Dweck