Happy First Day! Let’s Build Caring Learning Communities!

life itselfFor Austin Independent School District, Monday the 24th is that most hallowed of days in education–the First Day of School!  Welcome to School Year 2015-2016, everybody!

The beginning of school represents a unique opportunity to start building engaged learners, compassionate problem-solvers, and connected classrooms.  Here are a few activities that kickstart community-building and can get students and teachers talking, learning about each other, and laughing together!


Partner Greetings (1-5 minutes total)

Participants turn to the partner on their left/right, say, “Good morning/afternoon, ________ (partner’s name)!” and then respond to a specific prompt.  This can be done in a Think-Pair-Share format, in which everyone shares at once with just their partners, then the group comes back together and various volunteers can share their answer (or their partner’s!).

Example Prompts:

  1. If I were an animal I would be a ______.
  2. Today is a good day because ______.
  3. If I picked a color to describe my day today it would be ______ because _______.
  4. I saw you doing ___ today and that was great.
  5. I saw a teacher/student doing ____ today and that was great.
  6. I’ll think about you this (afternoon/weekend/etc.) while I’m ______.

Consider giving direction as to which partner shares first, like “the partner with the longest hair shares first!” or “the partner whose head is closer to the ceiling shares first!” This can make sharing more efficient, and even inspire some community-building giggles.  Giving one minute (or some other time amount) to each partner, and calling “Switch!” when the time is up, can also remove some ambiguity in activities like this.

Whole-Group Partner Greetings (1-5 minutes total)

These follow the same basic format as the partner greetings above, except that everyone in the group has a moment in the spotlight.  Participants sit in a circle and are given a prompt like the ones above. Moving around the circle one by one, participants turn to the person on their right and give just that person the greeting, but loud enough for everyone in the group to hear.  This activity works best after a little practice with partner sharing!


Whole-Group Seated Greetings (1-5 minutes total)

All of these greeting activities follow the same format.  Participants are seated.

  1. Moving around the group in a circle, each participant introduces him/herself, “Good morning/afternoon, I’m Ms. ____,”  and then the group responds in chorus, “Good afternoon,  Ms. ____!”
  2. Next, the speaker responds to a prompt.  (Some of them involve imaginary events – the point is to get folks to share about themselves in creative, non-threatening ways.)

Example Prompts:

    1.  If I had a superpower, it would be ______.
    2. I smiled today when ______.
    3. Today I’m feeling _____ because ______.
    4. If I were coming to a group picnic, I’d bring the ____.
    5. When it’s my turn to sing at our staff/class karaoke party, I’ll sing _____.


 Whole-Group Standing/Moving Greetings (3-8 minutes total)

These activities allow participants to connect visually and kinetically, and discover commonalities!

The New Wave

All participants stand.  Participants take turns  introducing themselves and then demonstrating a movement that represents themselves (wave hands, jump, brush hair, etc.).  The rest of the group then mirrors that movement.  BONUS: Once everyone in the circle has shared their name and movement, go around the circle without speaking and just do the moves!

The Beat Goes On

Moving through the circle, each participant says his/her name, “______,” and the group responds, “Hi _____!”   Next, the participant creates a unique sound (ex: drums on table with hand, trill, whistle, snap, etc.).Once a participant starts making his/her sound, s/he must continue until all participants have contributed their version of that sound.


Four Corners

Label each corner/wall of a room with a different word (ex: 4 different animals, 4 different verbs, 4 different foods, 4 different cars, 4 different vacation spots, 4 different items of clothing, etc.).  Tell participants to stand at the corner/wall that they feel best represents themselves at that moment.  Offer time to share.

Would You Rather

Have participants stand in a line.  Participants move to one side of the room or the opposite side of the room, based on a binary choice:  “Would you rather ____,” (leader points to one side of the room), “or _____” (leader points to the other side of the room).  Repeat several times, moving quickly through the choices to maintain momentum.

Examples of choices:

    1. Would you rather eat spaghetti all day, or mashed potatoes all day?
    2. Would you rather go to the mountains or the beach?
    3. Would you rather be a cat or a dog?
    4. Would you rather drink coffee or tea?


Activities like these can help build connectedness in classrooms and schools.   What exactly is connectedness?  What a great question! Let’s ask the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention(!):

School connectedness—the belief held by students that adults and peers in the school care about their learning as well as about them as individuals—is an important protective factor. Research has shown that young people who feel connected to their school are less likely to engage in many risk behaviors, including early sexual initiation, alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, and violence and gang involvement.

Two of the strategies that the CDC recommends on its School Connectedness page are to “provide students with the academic, emotional, and social skills necessary to be actively engaged in school, [and to] use effective classroom management and teaching methods to foster a positive learning environment.” Activities like the ones described above work toward exactly those two things. Want even more connectedness-building activities? How about a searchable, sortable online database full of hundreds of them, all with concise directions and debriefing questions? Check out the PeaceFirst Digital Activity Center, and teambuild away!


Here’s wishing a connected, engaging, exciting First Day of School to all Austin ISD students, teachers and families!  Let’s make this one the best year yet!


Thanks to Social and Emotional Learning Specialist Hilary Simon for contributing to this post!

Success, Failure, and Growth Mindset

We all want to be successful, right?  With the new school year right around the corner, success and failure may be starting to weigh on the minds of students, parents and teachers.  Society tends to tell us that failure is bad and success is good. But there is a critical difference between success and failure: success may have been achieved by any number of factors, both intrensic and external, while failure usually has a more narrow range of causes. This allows us to more easily identify the reason why we failed, and therefore be able to improve on it. According to Drs. Art Markman and Bob Duke of the KUT spot Two Guys on Your Head,  “By focusing people on the idea that mistakes are a bad thing, we’re actually focusing people away from the very piece of information that is going to help them succeed in the future.”


Click here to hear the whole KUT spot!

“The role of society, the role of teachers, is to create an environment that gives us some scaffolding, that gives us training wheels, in order to allow us to do that set of things that’s currently just beyond our reach.  So that we fail in the process of doing that, but so that we don’t fail spectacularly.” The process of learning is often fail – improve – stretch – grow – succeed!  According to the Two Guys, our brains are wired such that failure is a key aspect of eventual success.  Yes, failure often results in negative feelings, and success often results in positive feelings.  Our reward-seeking brains naturally want the good feelings that come from success.  But the feelings that arise from failure aren’t designed to deter us from trying anything at all…they are “learning tools,” designed to inspire the desire to improve, so that we do eventually experience the positive rewards of success.  The biggest mistake, therefore, is not trying in the first place.  We are wired to learn and grow our whole lives!


In Social and Emotional Learning, we talk a lot about growth mindset–the idea that our brains remain plastic our entire lives, and with practice and work, we can learn new skills and get smarter no matter how old we are. The Two Guys are talking about failure in terms of growth mindset–instead of seeing failure as a signal to give up, failure is the impetus to keep working toward our desired outcome.  Let’s start this school year off committed to nurturing our growth mindset during teaching and learning–our brains, ourselves, and the world will be better for it!


SEL Summer Work In Pictures


SEL curriculum writers linking it up at Curriculum Writers Cadre 2015


Brain breaks on the brain at CWC 2015


Considering classroom community culture at CWC 2015


Our delightful doorsign at McCallum for CWC 2015


Dr. Darla Castelli at Whole Child, Every Child Summer Institute 2015


Dr. Teri Wood at WCEC Summer Institute 2015


Feeling Speedometer from WCEC Summer Institute 2015


Dr. Paul Cruz reads The Jolly Postman at WCEC Summer Institute 2015


Learning is…

Dr. Raphael Travis

Dr. Raphael Travis at WCEC Institute 2015


Practicing intentional SEL academic integration at the Anderson SEL Vertical Team Training


There ARR always opportunities to Anticipate-Reinforce-Reflect SEL skills and concepts!


Practicing self reflection


Double-Double-This-This brain break


What Self-Management looks like/sounds like for students and adults at Anderson VT SEL training


Lanier Vertical Team SEL training at Padron Elementary!


Implementation next steps


Illustrating hope


Collaboration and contemplation at Lanier VT SEL traning 2015!


such brainstorming!


Aleza Berube at Summer Science Institute 2015, blowin’ our minds with growin’ our minds


SumSci15 participants learning the ropes of Growth Mindset!

SEL Strong to the Finish!

For the past few weeks we’ve been blog-sploring how sports and other extracurricular activities present natural Social and Emotional Learning experiences, particularly in the hands of the right teacher-coaches and mentors.  We now interrupt this series to remind everyone that, though the school year is winding down, SEL in AISD schools is going strong until that last bell rings! Campuses are already setting the stage for next year as well!

SimsolympicsAt Sims elementary, students and parents participated in an end-of-year Sims Olympics day, which saw SEL resources for families promoted alongside active sporting events like awesome hallway broom curling!


Note the opportunities for practicing turn-taking, perspective taking and self management skills! Not to mention just having some good ol’ hallway fun.

Cunningham Elementary dedicated a whole bulletin board to reflect on growth mindset, and celebrate the growth that third graders have made this year!


Check out how students and staff alike are encouraged to consider not only what new skills they’ve gained this year, but also how keeping a growth mindset has allowed those beautiful brains to expand.


Speaking of bulletin boards, check out the Hart Elementary SEL bulletin boards that feature Social and Emotional Learning strategies in three different languages!

hart2 hartelembulletin

Middle schools are taking their Social and Emotional Learning to the very last minute as well.  At Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy, real live young male leaders are honing their 21st Century SEL skills by hosting campus budget meetings.  Talk about dress for success!


Over at Lamar Fine Arts Academy, students participated in an end-of-year SEL lesson to practice and refine their ever-important and relevant group work skills.  Each member of the group had a different challenge to overcome during the group tower-building project, opening up the conversation about natural challenges that arise in group work situations and how to handle them effectively.  They will be using these skills for the rest of their lives!

lamarSELWebb Middle School has created a beautiful bulletin board celebrating the students’ commitment to building and maintaining a peaceful school environment.  Each leaf holds a peaceful, positive message written by a student.

webb middle school

Social and Emotional Learning flows through our district from elementary to high school, and there is amazing SEL happening at the high school level.  Check out these Travis High School Rebel football players giving their time and energy to the children at Dell Children’s Hospital.

travisdellchildrens These students are applying all the perspective-taking and empathy skills that we talked about in our first post about SEL and football, and making positive waves in their community.  And how about the Mr. Maroo challenge at Crockett High School, inspired by Archer Hadley and his campaign at Austin High?  Students and staff are working to raise money to install push-button wheelchair-accessible doors at Crockett!


As a final example of how SEL skills are part of academic and personal growth over the course of a school year, MAPS students at Reagan High School use a Venn diagram to compare their mindset at the beginning of the year to how they feel now about their school and themselves:


These examples show just a fraction of the Social and Emotional Learning and growth experienced by AISD students over the course of the 2014-2015 school year.  The explicit SEL instruction, curricular integration, and culture and climate built and maintained by schools all over our city are truly helping students prepare for higher learning, careers, and life in the 21st Century world.  Just think: next year, every single school in the Austin Independent School District will have intentional Social and Emotional Learning on campus!  We are truly #AISDproud and #SELsmart!

Social and Emotional Learning in Action! Part IV: Archer Hadley

Our series continues this week with another football story. More accurately, this story starts with middle school football and expands to include the winning Austin High Maroons football team, the whole of Austin High becoming more accessible for people of all abilities, and a winning short documentary film that saw its subjects and creators honored recently by President Barack Obama in Washington, DC.  Intrigued? Prepare to be inspired!

Archer Hadley, an active member of the Austin High Maroons football team and graduating senior, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.  His career in athletics began in 7th grade at O.Henry Middle School, where he recently returned as the keynote speaker honoring student athletes.  Pease Elementary principal Matthew Nelson, former assistant principal and football coach at O.Henry, introduced Archer with this story:

Six and a half years ago, two days before Archer was to start his 7th grade year here at O.Henry, his mother came to campus to meet the staff and inquire about the possibility of her son participating in sports at O.Henry.  I was the 7th grade football coach at the time and spoke with her about the possibilities.  She spoke of how he loved football and how he wanted to participate in some way.  Participation not fully defined yet.  I told her to have him at the football field at 6:45 am the 2nd day of school and we would get to work.  And man, did we get to work.  Archer showed up every morning bright and early with a smile and enthusiasm and went about passing out pennies, counting pushups, leading the team in warm-ups, calling plays in the huddle, picking up kicking tees, counting players on special teams, all the while motivating and encouraging and ensuring each and every student out there, coaches included, gave their very best.  Because if not, as Archer would yell, what’s the point of even coming to practice.

The game became not “what can Archer do?” but rather “what can’t Archer do!”  And the possibilities were endless.  We, myself and the coaches, pushed Archer just as hard, if not harder, than the other students, but not nearly as hard as Archer pushed himself.  Archer and I would time how long it would take him to pick up the kicking tee after kick off, then try to beat it every time.  We then took the same mentality of practicing perfectly and trying to improve each time into school settings.  We spent hours upon hours perfecting the art of opening the doors in the library and would video tape our results.  Not only to send to his mother and father, but to also look at as “game film” to see what we could improve upon.

Which leads us to today: Archer Hadley can open any door in the world, literally and metaphorically, that he wants because of his work ethic, his attention to detail, and most of all, his “stick-to-itiveness.”   This young man, who began his athletics career at O.Henry, who has continued to be involved in athletics for 6 years after, and has probably inspired more students, coaches, parents and fans over the years than anybody I can think of, has made it his goal not to just open doors for himself, but to open doors for others.  Archer will never be daunted by society’s inability to accept the fact that he can do anything.  He will not be deterred by people who say “he can’t.”  Nobody who has ever spent more than 30 seconds with him will ever say “he can’t.”  He can.  He will.  Austin High now has wheelchair accessible doors for the first time in 130 years due to this young man’s dedication and heart.  The doors aren’t for him, his time there is ending–but rather for future generations of Archer Hadleys so they can have access to everything and anything they put their sights on.  Doing what Archer did wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen overnight.  The lessons he learned about positive thinking, dedication, perseverance, and never giving anything less than 100% effort were helped developed here, many years ago, in this same school, in this same gym where you sit now.

I can’t think of any better person to speak to you wonderful student athletes today than Mr. Archer Hadley.  At this time, please put your hands together for the student to my teacher, the athlete to my coach, the Padwan to my Jedi, the Robin to My Batman, and, and I feel very fortunate to say this, my Friend…Archer Hadley.


 Archer has used the same grit and determination that he has applied to his successful football coaching career to create the “Mr. Maroo Challenge” campaign, which raised $87,000 in two months to purchase and install five automatic push-button doors on the Austin High campus. The door installation occurred over the December ’14 holiday break.  At a January celebration to fete this achievement and installation, Texas governor Greg Abbott, another person who uses a wheelchair, greeted Archer and spoke about how his story inspires Abbott personally and reaches out from Austin High into the greater Austin community and beyond.  Indeed, several other Austin high schools have taken on the Mr. Maroo Challenge to raise funds toward push-button accessible doors on their own campuses.

And to top it all off, Archer and a few other Austin High students created a short documentary film:

This film, telling the story of Archer and the Mr. Maroo campaign, was one of fifteen selected from over 1500 entries in the second annual White House Student Film Festival.  So, in keeping with our blog series on the power of extracurricular activities to build social and emotional skills in student and adult participants: Archer Hadley honed his grit and determination in the football programs at O.Henry Middle School and Austin High, kicked off a campaign to make his high school more accessible to all, made a winning short documentary film about the process with friends and allies, and inspired everybody from his middle school football coach to the President of the United States.

How’s that for 21st Century Social and Emotional Skills? #AISDproud! #SELsmart!

Thanks to Sarah Stone, SEL Specialist, for contributing to this post.

Social and Emotional Learning in Action! Part III: Inspiration Basketball

Our continuing series focuses on the social and emotional learning presented by extracurricular activities, and how these lessons reverberate through classrooms, schools and the lives of young people.  The inspiration for this exploration came from this basketball video:

Just to emphasize the empathetic awesome:

“I think, in a way, this is how sports should be…it’s just kind of showing the impact that encouragement and support for anybody can make.” –one of the Waco student basketball players, to the bemused reporter

Clearly, playing on a basketball team can create an organic space to grow and practice perspective-taking and empathy.  What other SEL skills can develop on a school basketball team, under the wing of a talented, nurturing coach?  Check out this letter from a parent to the principal of Lamar Middle School:

To Whom It May Concern:

Perhaps you are already aware of this great Coach, Teacher, Facilitator, Mentor of middle school students.
Either way, I feel compelled to share our perspective and what we learned from Coach Derek Wright.

This year our 7th grade son made the brave choice to try out for basketball at Lamar Middle School. He had never played before and had a lot to learn! He was nervous, but determined.

Coach Derek Wright was charged with developing a team ready to win on the court in just a few short weeks. Never an easy feat and one that takes a great deal of commitment, patience and knowledge of the game. Of course Coach Wright has all these qualities, as he’s been at it awhile. However, it’s his keen awareness of player’s strengths and needs that is truly inspiring.

We hoped our son’s basketball skills would improve and they did, but what we weren’t prepared for was the incredible change in his self-confidence, resilience and positive attitude.

Coach Wright deserves most of the credit for this positive growth in our son and many others. I watched in amazement many times as Coach Wright guided his players with a sense of calm, clear, specific goals. He seemed to know exactly what each player needed to hear in order to dig deep and find the strength to ‘win’ the game. He shared his love of the game in a way that made the experience fun, yet focused.

The Lamar Scotties 7th grade basketball team played their final game of the season on Thursday.
I would say it was a good season looking at the stats. Winning games is always a good feeling. Winning at life and learning skills that will stay with you forever…priceless!

Thanks for believing in your team Coach Wright!

A coach that recognizes the social and emotional learning opportunities inherent in athletic activities has the power to positively impact young people in ways that will stick with them their whole lives.  We saw teacher-coaches like this in last week’s post about Consuelo Mendez Middle School, and the first post in the series featuring conversations with former football coaches.  Compassionate educators who bring their SEL-infused coaching strategies from the gyms into their classrooms, schools, and leadership roles are truly educating the whole child.  And that’s the name of the SEL game!


Social and Emotional Learning in Action! Part I: School Athletics

Social and Emotional Learning is getting a lot of press lately, as more and more research emerges showing its broad benefits to students across all ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic levels and geographic location.  The fact is, however, SEL has been happening in schools in various ways for decades, maybe even centuries.  Teachers, administrators, coaches and other school staff members have known for years that the best learning happens when students feel safe, nurtured and heard.  If a class, school, or program creates a welcoming environment where students feel that they belong, amazing things happen.  And one of the classic ways to create such an environment is through fine arts, athletic, and other in-school and extra-curricular special interest activities.


Click this picture for a story about GRIT and Marathon High at Dobie Middle School!

The seeds of belonging and connectedness are often naturally planted when special interest groups meet, as they begin with a shared interest and common purpose. In this post and several more to follow, we will explore how Social and Emotional Learning can flow through and anchor programs like athletics, music, theater, dance and others. Such activities can create nurturing places for young people to grow as skilled collaborators, perspective-takers and well-rounded humans.


Featherstone, coaching away

For this first post, I asked two former football coaches to think about their experiences as both a player and a coach from an SEL perspective. Larry Featherstone, current assistant principal at McCallum High School and former long-time football coach and player, said that he remembers seeing the slogan “BIG TEAM, little me” painted in his college football locker room.  He said that the deep meaning of this slogan had a major impact on him: that the team was bigger than each individual member, and that it depended completely on the relationships and trust built between the players themselves, each player and each coach, and the players and coaches as a whole entity. The “little me” part wasn’t meant to diminish the contribution of the individual, but that it was both the individual contribution and the interconnectedness of all the individuals and contributions that made the team successful.  He told me that this realization informed his successful football career and all his coaching afterward–by putting the emphasis on building deep interconnectedness within his team, he built winning teams.  It wasn’t about how hard they practiced or how many times they did a certain drill; it wasn’t even about how good each player was.  It was about how they trusted each other and collaborated; how they each acted not for individual pride, but for the good of the team.  These self-management and perspective-taking skills have stuck with him, and the young people he coached, for much longer than a football season!


When I asked Jason Littlefield, current SEL specialist and former high school coach and player, to reflect on his SEL sport experience, he wrote this beautiful piece:

Athletics creates an educational dream scenario: it provides young people opportunities to collaborate and persevere together within a nurturing environment, while presenting life lessons of victory and defeat.  Hundreds of AISD students and educators share these experiences every day in the various sport programs available in schools across our city.

As a former high school coach, I understand the value of creating and maintaining trusting relationships.  These relationships built between coaches and players help student athletes set, realize, and often supersede goals that seem just out of reach.   When we came up short, there were often tears, but also pats on the back and encouragement to regroup and work harder.  This development of strong character, collaborative skills, and growth mindset is often the valuable result of participating in school athletics.

As a current SEL coach, I now have an even deeper understanding of the importance of athletics in young peoples’ lives, and the lifelong impact a coach can have on a student athlete.  To some, I will always be “coach.” But after working with a particular young man for four years, the graduation announcement was addressed to “Dad.”  Athletics represents an opportunity to grow in all five AISD Social and Emotional Learning competencies: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social-Awareness, Relationship Skills and Responsible Decision Making Skills.  When coaches help to develop these capacities along with sheer athleticism in their student players, a stronger, more resilient athlete is the product– as well as a person that carries valuable life and career skills into the future after the glory of school sport competition fades.


Coach Littlefield’s “T-Dogs” ’04

I am thankful for these two perspectives, as they know first-hand what SEL in sports is all about, far beyond my ability to speculate. (I wasn’t into sports in school; I was the band kid, so when this series gets to the music part, LOOK OUT!) There are many perspectives in the conversation about social and emotional learning in sports, and more points of view (and different sports!) will be explored in the next post in this series.  In conclusion, and as a preview for next time, I leave you with this video–what kinds of social and emotional skills are evident in this story of a first and only home run? (WARNING: may require tissues)

Tune in next week and in the future for more on social and emotional learning, sports, and beyond!

Social and Emotional Learning: Resources for Caregivers

Social and emotional learning is happening in AISD schools via evidence-based curricula, intentional integration, and collaborative planning.  But what about SEL at home?  Generally, caregivers are doing the best they can to support and create opportunities for social and emotional learning outside of school hours, but of course there is a lot that goes on in day-to-day life. How can families learn and incorporate new ideas for social and emotional development?


Luckily, the internet reflects the growing interest in social and emotional learning around the nation and the globe, so there are many SEL parent resources out there.  Here are a few to serve as inspiration, and show the wide variety of resources available to caregivers and families.


The Kid’s Health Emotions and Behavior site has many clickable articles on lots of aspects of social and emotional development in children and teens, in English and Spanish.  You can also hear audio versions of the articles!

The Social and Emotional Development section of the Parent Toolkit website has tons of information and lots of additional resources, and is also available in Spanish.

Edutopia has an extensive Parent Resource Guide to Social and Emotional Learning, with material that is a bit more academic.   It has tons of articles and addresses many topics, from mindfulness to grit, empathy to social media!


For lots of readable, quick parent information, the National Association of School Psychologists website has many articles geared toward caregivers on the NASP Families page, including quite a few in Spanish and other languages.

For caregivers and families with questions about children’s mental health, the NAMI website has a wealth of information and resources on various aspects of youth mental health and well-being in English and Spanish.

And, of course, don’t forget that your friendly Social and Emotional Learning team right here in AISD puts out newsletters with bilingual resources for families!  Check out the December and March newsletters that we’ve published so far, and click to the last page for our “Caregivers’ Corners!”


Thanks for reading, and share these resources far and wide so that Social and Emotional Learning can keep on flowing from school to home, providing our youth with tools to build a happy, successful life and learn  21st century skills.

SEL Standards Assessment: Break It Down!

What do you get when 25 teachers, counselors, administrators and SEL specialists converge on the Sanchez elementary library for 6 hours on a Saturday?  Jazz hands, of course!

2015-03-28 14.50.41

Also, intense and effective collaboration to crank out innovative Social and Emotional Learning work.  This diverse cadre of educators tapped a profound well of expertise around social and emotional learning, classroom dynamics, and visionary planning to devise and revise SEL Essential Knowledge and Skills.

Does that sound like official Texas Education Agency language?  You bet it is!  The goal of this on-going process is to create SEL standards that will eventually become official Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS–the basis of Texas public school curriculum as required by TEA.


One example of our standards assessment dry-erase posters showing the student learning objective, supporting knowledge and skills, and our process questions. (Before the Vis-A-Vis storm!)

Small groups of teachers, administrators and counselors from across AISD convened in their grade bands to address the EKS that the SEL department has used since the beginning of the SEL roll-out three years ago.  Those standards, based on official language from the national Collaborative for Academic and Social and Emotional Learning and tailored to serve Austin schools, have served us well.  But now, since SEL is widely taught throughout AISD and is poised to reach every student in all vertical teams as of academic year ’15-’16, it is time to utilize the diverse experiences and skills of Social and Emotional Learning educators to revise, update and further tailor the EKS language.  This process ensures that common vocabulary and collective vision inform these standards, so that all district SEL content is high quality, authentic, relevant and measureable.

Wielding large laminated posters and Vis-A-Vis pens, SEL specialists facilitated the small group discussions that resulted in approving, revising or devising the standards’ language.  Each SEL student learning objective and its supporting skills were “posterized” for collective consideration, and the groups talked, wrote, doodled, marched, chewed and cheered about them until the posters were covered with changes and notes.  Participants considered six key questions while examining each student learning objective, with emphasis on the cultural relevance and appropriateness of each standard, and how it could be demonstrated or measured.


2015-03-28 10.24.15

In the next few weeks, the SEL department will compile all the thinking and vision represented on each poster into a new draft of the standards.  These will become the foundation of the high caliber SEL content, lessons and professional development that are hallmarks of Austin Independent School District.


The aftermath! For each student objective, the groups had to decide how the supporting skill standard would be measurable: via Factual Knowledge (FK) recall, a demonstration of a Skill or Process (S/P) learned, or a demonstration of Understanding (U) the objective.

The SEL department is deeply grateful to the dedicated educators who gave a Saturday to help keep AISD SEL on the cutting edge of the national Social and Emotional Learning movement.  With this kind of innovative collaboration, Austin ISD is continuing to work toward giving each and every student the skills they need to succeed in 21st Century careers and global society.  We are #AISDproud and #SELsmart!

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Amplify AISD Social and Emotional Learning!

The Amplify Austin day of giving ends at 6pm, and so there are hours…YES HOURS! left for you to support social and emotional learning in Austin Independent School District!



Why Invest in Social & Emotional Learning?

The SEL curriculum teaches the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

A recent national study by Columbia University found an average return of over eleven dollars for every dollar invested in SEL-type interventions.  AISD has received national recognition for implementing SEL successfully in a large urban district. Successes from AISD’s most recent program evaluation include:

  • A 32% decrease in discipline referrals across vertical teams implementing SEL in the past three years
  • For the first cohort of campuses participating in SEL, a significant increase in the percentage of students meeting the state standard on STAAR reading and math

Your support for expanding SEL will equip every student district-wide with valuable skills for success in academics, behavior, and life.