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Teaching the Whole Child: Practical Strategies for SEL in K-3

Online Event
Past Event

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is one of the key domains of childhood development but is sometimes overlooked. There is ample evidence to demonstrate the positive impact that SEL instruction can have on children in early childhood classrooms. The evidence goes beyond first-hand experience. Countless studies have proven the widespread impact of SEL on educational outcomes for young children (Durlak et al., 2011; Jones et al., 2017). By establishing and sustaining quality SEL instruction in the primary classroom, teachers and students will experience a healthier, safer, and more positive learning experience. This is relevant for students and teachers of all backgrounds, especially early childhood inclusive classrooms. In this session, K-3rd grade educators will learn practical strategies that can be easily adapted to teach social-emotional skills to children of all backgrounds and developmental levels. The research-based SEL strategies presented in this session will provide educators with instant access to useful, evidence-based tools to increase social-emotional competencies in their students. These strategies are easy to use, fun for children, and are developed to create sustained change in and out of classrooms. Strategies will include topics such as mindfulness, warm welcomes, resets, emotion checks, optimistic closures, and more (Benner et al., 2022; Lee et al., 2022; Embry & Biglan, 2008; CASEL, 2022). As noted in the DEC Recommended Practice of Interaction, these strategies can be implemented across a range of environments, routines, and activities. 



This session will provide participants with easy-to-use, practical strategies to target social-emotional skills with their students in K-3rd grade settings. After this session, participants will: (1) be able to articulate the evidence base surrounding the importance of SEL instruction in early childhood settings, (2) gain enhanced social and emotional competence by learning trauma-sensitive SEL strategies, and (3) understand how to boost student engagement by implementing the described strategies. 


Presenters: Greg Benner, PhD and Erica Lee, PhD

  • GREG BENNER, PhD, is the Helen and Pat O’Sullivan Professor of Special Education at the University of Alabama. He has a knack for grassroots collective impact—getting whole communities including families, child welfare, mental health, and schools on the same page to meet needs of the whole child.
  • ERICA LEE, PhD, is an assistant research professor of special education at the University of Alabama. Prior to this, Erica has extensive experience as a practitioner in ECSE. She holds degrees in Collaborative Education, ECE, ECSE, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and 6 teaching certifications in the state of Alabama.  
teaching the whole child

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