Elementary Level

A Look at SEL in Action in Needham – Elementary Level

Skill Development and Practice

Responsive Classroom is an approach to elementary teaching:

  • that emphasizes social, emotional and academic growth in a strong and safe school community,
  • is based on the premise that children learn best when they have both academic and social/emotional skills.

Schools implementing the Responsive Classroom approach consistently experience:

  • higher teaching quality,
  • increased student engagement,
  • academic gains,
  • fewer discipline problems.

Needham has four elementary teachers trained as Certified Responsive Classroom Instructors who lead week-long courses for teachers as well as follow up workshops and coaching in the schools.

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.

School-wide Practices and Routines
In addition to classroom implementation, the success of both the Responsive Classroom approach and Second Step 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. Therefore, the district has offered Responsive Classroom training focusing especially on discipline and effective teacher language to staff who supervise students outside of classrooms. These include recess and lunch teachers, assistant classroom teachers, food service staff, and staff of Needham Extended Day Program (NEDP) staff, KASE (Kindergarten After School Enrichment) Program, and several area preschools through the Needham Early Childhood Council. An article published in Educational Leadership (Sept, 2005) features these school-wide practices.

Climate and Culture
A positive school culture, one in which adults model the skills we want children to learn, provides a safe and reinforcing context for students to practice skills. For instance, all-school meetings are one way to help make large schools feel smaller and more connected, while focusing on SEL skills and themes as a community. Eliot and Broadmeadow Schools hold monthly meetings where the entire school population gathers together. Each grade level, or sometimes the principal, is responsible for a short presentation to the rest of the school around SEL skills. They often include stories, songs, artwork or dance. Each meeting is also a time to recognize birthdays, celebrate acts of kindness and showcase student learning.

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