Wednesday / May 29

4 Ways to Plan for Sustainable SEL Practices for Emotional Regulation

Does this sound familiar?

Your student has a meltdown when asked to comply with a request.  It feels “out of the blue” but you’re just learning more about your students this year and so you aren’t sure if this is typical.  Your first action once all is calm is to talk to his teacher from the previous year.  His previous teacher reports that James could sometimes “overreact,” but she had other students in the class who were much more emotionally dysregulated. You try to reach the parents to determine if there is something going on that might be causing him to be challenged at school. The parents don’t respond to your call.  So, you read and research strategies that you could potentially use, you discuss it with trusted colleagues, you confer with the school counselor and administration, and you even look at online discussion boards.  Eventually you try some strategies. Some are successful, some are not.  Some are successful for a little while and then become less successful. Meanwhile you feel defeated at times when all your strategies aren’t successful, you are spending a lot of time on managing one student, and it’s bringing your overall enjoyment for teaching down.

But what if you knew that student was going to be in your classroom. You were aware that your new student had previously demonstrated difficulties with emotional regulation. What can you do to help him—and ALL of your students—learn to practice emotional regulation as part of their everyday learning?

The Answer: Plan for sustainable SEL practices for emotional regulation

Unfortunately, we often wait until the issue takes a seat in the classroom until we deal with it.  In my book, Leading for Change Through Whole School Social Emotional Learning (2019), I discuss how we practice Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and the importance of action planning.  That action planning should include the four practice standards for sustainable SEL.

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) (2017), there are four strategies that promote SEL: free-standing lessons, general teaching practices, integration of skill instruction and practices, and systems considerations to make SEL a schoolwide initiative.

4 Ways to Plan for Sustainable SEL Practices focused on Emotional Regulation:

Let’s think about some of the things that you may consider when implementing these practices:

  1. Academic Integration. You can use this with your team or on your own to think through how the concepts you have been working on can be used in academics. Ask yourself: What subjects would you include emotional regulation practice? How will you intentionally integrate these practices into your academic subject matter?  For example, you may want to think about how emotional regulation or emotional vocabulary or discussions about emotion fit into your academic teaching in an intentional way.
  2. General Teaching Practices: Everyday practices are the specific classroom management, relationship building, and other practices that promote emotional regulation such as a morning meeting or mindful minute. Ask yourself: What emotional regulation strategy will work for my students? They may not be the same year over year.  What is my plan of practice?  How will I model and reinforce emotional regulation?
  3. Curriculum or Active Skill Building: Choosing an evidence-based curriculum is recommended for use with students. Many of you have experience with curriculums such as Second Step, Mind Up, or RULER and it is important to understand how the curriculum is being used and discover different ways to use it more intentionally. Ask yourself: How am I implementing this curriculum in a thoughtful and intentional way? Are there other curriculums that would better meet my needs for this class?  Consider a more regular use of your SEL curricular materials that incorporate both the teacher and the counselor teaching the lessons.  Or you may want to consider your needs for further training, collaboration, and practice before, during, or after implementation.
  4. Systemic Integration: To better implement your SEL practices will require some systemic integration. This includes thinking about the time, training, discussion, practice, modeling that you need and advocating for this time. To help students learn emotional regulation strategies to effectively manage and respond to emotions throughout the day will require time and attention.  Think about your needs and include that in the action plan.

Goal to Outcomes Action Plan

Now we put it all together. Starting with our goal and ending with our outcomes, what is the plan? What steps will you have to take for each practice standard? What is your timeline for achieving these steps? And, finally, what was your outcome?

Did you find evidence of such things as:

  • Fewer conduct problems?
  • Increased engagement at school?
  • Fewer “out of the blue” emotional responses?
  • Demonstration of emotional regulation practices?
  • Fewer reports of anxious behavior?

Feel free to use this chart to help you plan:

Whether or not you have a student with social and emotional skills deficits, it’s important to start planning for that eventuality. If it’s a part of your regular practice and is planned for in advance, it will be less impactful on you and the other students in your class. Making these practices a planned event will help all students in developing the skills to handle stress and unpredictable situations in a more regulated way. These skills will benefit them throughout their life—and help you to feel better prepared for the next student who is struggling.


Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (2017). Sample Teaching Activities to Support Core Competencies of Social and Emotional Learning.

Rogers, J. (2019). Leading for Change Through Whole School Social Emotional Learning: Strategies to Build A Positive School Culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin .

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