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Classroom Q&A

With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

Integrating SEL & Tech Into This New School Year

By Larry Ferlazzo — September 11, 2021 7 min read
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(This is the final post in a three-part series. You can see Part One here and Part Two here.)

The new question-of-the-week is:

How will your lessons, teaching, and classes look different this year and in the post-COVID-19 era from how they did in previous years?

In Part One, Sarah Cooper, Sheila Wilson, Keisha Rembert, and Tara Bogozan shared their ideas. All four were also guests on my 10-minute BAM! Radio Show. You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

In Part Two, Amber Chandler, Cristiane Galvão, Taylor M. Jacobson, Sean Ruday, and Luiza Mureseanu provide their responses.

This series is wrapped up today by contributions from Kayla Solinsky and Meghann Seril.

Social-Emotional Learning

Kayla Solinsky is the executive director/head of school of Macbeth Academy, a WASC accredited K-12 virtual school. She is also a graduate student of instructional technology and distance education at Nova Southeastern University. Her research focus is K-12 distance education effectiveness and systems theory:

Since COVID-19, faculty and staff have been actively working to incorporate the seven guiding principles of social-emotional learning into our school improvement plan, which directly influences lessons, teaching, and classes. After reviewing many other sources, our school improvement team agreed to focus on the seven guiding principles highlighted in Annie Snyder’s whitepaper, Building Social and Emotional Learning into the School Day: Seven Guiding Principles (2017). The principles are: create, integrate, instruct, reflect, respect, communicate, and empower. Each of these principles can be incorporated into the lesson, teaching style, and classes to enhance social-emotional learning.


According to Snyder, the first pillar, “create,” means “to consciously create a nurturing, caring, and safe environment for students.” The key word here is “consciously.” As a virtual school, we have to work twice as hard to create this safe learning environment— all of our students are in different locations. What we have in common is that we are learning together, synchronously. Therefore, teachers work to create a safe environment in their own ways. We find that the most successful teachers set the tone for the safe space at the beginning of the school year. The atmosphere is that the class is part of a team, each member is important, and each brings their own unique perspective to the classroom. This intentional camaraderie over time creates a sense of community, closeness, and caring.


The second pillar, “integrate,” means “whenever possible, incorporate SEL skill-building into academic instruction.” Snyder recommends “instead of viewing SEL as one more requirement to fit into an already busy school day, consider how you might integrate SEL and academic content into your existing instruction” (p. 8). Consider reviewing finding ways to integrate SEL-related topics into each lesson.


“Instruct” means “to provide explicit guidance and instruction in SEL skills” (p. 10). This pillar operates under the assumption that SEL mastery requires basic skills for students. Across subjects and grade levels, teachers can follow the following five strategies to introduce and reinforce SEL skills—provide a rationale, define the skill, model how to use the skill, present opportunities to apply the skill, and revisit the skill throughout the year. One revision that our school has added is that we review the effectiveness of our instructional methods in staff meetings and our vertical team meetings.


The fourth pillar, “reflect,” means “reflect on how social and cultural contexts are embedded into SEL” (p. 12). At our school, teachers critically review their lessons and ask, “Do these materials reflect your own home culture, that of your students, some combination? What are the ways students can work with others? How can they ask for help?”


The fifth pillar, “respect,” means “foster respect for one’s self and others” (p. 15). In our school, respect is intentionally reinforced by our class rules and core values. A new concept that we have included for our students is self-respect and taking a strengths-based approach to teach students how to value themselves. This can be a series of lessons on self-care coupled with preassessments and postassessments to measure student growth.


The sixth pillar, “communicate,” means “exchange ideas about SEL with all stakeholders, early and often.” The stakeholders are “students, families, teachers, school staff, administrators, and community members” (p. 17). Our school works to actively communicate with families to both educate about the school’s SEL strategies and inspire strengths-based self-reflection to build SEL strategies outside of the classroom.


The seventh pillar, “empower,” means “enable students to take charge of their own social and emotional learning” (p. 19). Our school works hardest to encourage a culture of self-reflection and open communication. We work to provide students opportunities to share their feelings, thoughts, educational needs with their teachers, at home, and as part of each assignment.

Our school has tried to integrate SEL into our lessons and into the school culture. This is a truly positive new direction for our school.


More Student Participation Through Tech

Meghann Seril teaches 3rd grade in Los Angeles. She is a national-board-certified teacher and Teach Plus fellowship alum:

Prior to the pandemic, my school did not have one-to-one technology for our students. Our school of a little over 600 students shared three laptop/tablet carts with about 30 devices in each. These devices were often reserved for testing purposes, so it was a rare opportunity to have students researching, creating, and interacting using different programs and platforms. Switching to remote learning in March meant we—teachers, parents, and students—had to learn how to interact using a multitude of online resources. This has opened a new world of possibilities for my students and me.

One upside of interacting via Zoom is the chat box function. While some of my 3rd graders would unmute their mics to share aloud, many students preferred using the chat function to respond to each other, ask questions, and continue the conversations. It was a tool for formative assessment and provided more opportunity for equity of voice.

In returning to the classroom, I want to continue to encourage students to participate in multiple ways that fit their comfort levels so we can hear all voices and ideas in our conversations. I am excited about how the access to technology and a variety of programs and platforms will allow students to drive their learning and assist teachers with expanding learning opportunities.


Thanks to Kayla and Meghann for contributing their reflections.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at lferlazzo@epe.org. When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

Education Week has published a collection of posts from this blog, along with new material, in an e-book form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching.

Just a reminder; you can subscribe and receive updates from this blog via email. (The RSS feed for this blog, and for all Ed Week articles, has been changed by the recent redesign—new ones are not yet available). And if you missed any of the highlights from the first nine years of this blog, you can see a categorized list below.

I am also creating a Twitter list including all contributors to this column.

The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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