At The Oaks, we believe that relationships form the foundation for growth and development. Social-emotional learning (SEL) helps students access academic content through building essential self-management skills, resilience, and connections with others.
Key tenets of SEL include:
Responsible decision making
All of the work we do with students centers around developing these skills in order to support growth both socially and academically. Some specific examples of SEL experiences at The Oaks include:
Buddy programs that partner older and younger students
Discussions and co-creation of classroom agreements, including how we express feelings, how we treat one another, how we take care of materials and learning spaces, and how we do our best work
Individual and small group problem-solving discussions and the use of the restorative process, our Guidelines for Inclusivity, and brave space agreements
Developing individual and collective emotional awareness and specific vocabulary to express thoughts and feelings
Our buddy program is one important way we support the students’ ability to build relationship skills. Kindergarten and sixth grade students work in partnership throughout the year, collaborating on projects and playing together. This is an important leadership opportunity for the sixth grade students who look forward to being role models and a source of support for the younger students that are just beginning their journeys at The Oaks. These relationships span the test of time as families often stay in close contact and the sixth grade and Kindergarten buddies reunite six years later for a Buddy Reunion when they are seniors in high school and sixth graders, respectively. Cross-grade collaboration and relationship building continue throughout a student’s time at The Oaks and, often incorporating academic units of study and service learning projects.
Through our use of SEL, students learn early on that their voice matters and that they can be advocates for themselves and others. It is through the building of relationships and having meaningful interactions with others that we gain a fundamental respect and understanding of the world. Promoting a warm environment of inclusivity and respect helps to foster compassion in our students who can emerge as a new generation of leaders in a multicultural world.
Learning in a social and collaborative environment allows for sharing thoughts, ideas, and words. We stretch our thinking by putting thoughts – fully formed, half-formed, or just budding ideas – into words. The opportunity for richer understanding and innovative problem solving exists when learning is social and collaborative. Different perspectives give room for comparing and contrasting ideas, words, and methods where problems can be solved in a number of ways. Students learn to respect and value the contributions of each team member, as well as skills for resolving conflict when they arise.
Our teachers also model collaboration through team teaching and creating interdisciplinary lesson plans in conjunction with specialist teachers. Core subjects are integrated with the special subjects of art, music, library, physical education, and STEM/Maker.
In alignment with our love for learning, we are sharing a few different resources for your further exploration of SEL and the multitude of ways it connects to child development. Enjoy!
Visual: CASEL’s SEL Framework
Podcast: Abolitionist Teaching Network's “Teaching to Thrive,” episode 1 with Rosalynne Duff
Article: “Four Ways to Plan for Social-Emotional Learning and Anti-Racism in Early Elementary”
Article: “Why Social and Emotional Learning Is Essential for Students”
Multimedia: What Is Social-Emotional Learning?
Video: Social and Emotional Learning Explained: How SEL Helps Students in College, Career, and Life