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Elementary school is a time that students begin to experience a level of independence that

they have previously not known. They gradually gain more and more abilities and will

eventually take responsibility for their own education, health, and behavior. If the classroom

teacher can support these developments, students will grow into successful middle and high

schoolers and, ultimately, into well rounded, responsible adults. This lesson focuses on the

extremely important goal of effective decision making.

Explicit teaching of social emotional learning (SEL) standards is an effective way of

increasing students’ understandings of their social emotional needs and responsibilities. Direct

instruction has been shown to be a very effective teaching strategy (Kim & Axelrod, 2005). This

lesson gives students the opportunity to examine their own skills and discuss how to improve

them. It includes independent and group work which allows for students to benefit from the

understanding of their peers and instructor, as well as to personalize the lesson to their own

experiences and culture.

Culture and ethnicity are important considerations in SEL (as in all areas of education).

Students’ ethnicities begin playing a role in how they are disciplined as early as preschool

(Gregory & Fergus, 2017). Minority students are disciplined at a higher rate than white students,

a discrepancy that can be attributed at least in part to educators’ lack of cultural understanding

(Gregory & Fergus, 2017). This lesson gives the classroom teacher an opportunity to deepen her

understanding of students’ ideas and differences by reading students’ personal writings about

their own decision-making strategies. A teacher’s ability to foster student SEL is key to those

students’ later success. Students with advanced social emotional skills achieve more

academically, get along better with others, have more successful careers, and have better

physical and mental health as adults (Jones, Barnes, Bailey, & Doolittle, 2017).

Sadly, if students are not able to develop adequate social emotional skills they are more

likely to experience unfavorable outcomes as adults like unemployment, divorce, poor health,

and incarceration (Brotto, 2018). This lesson addresses the skill of responsible choice-making

and teaches students a skill that will later allow them to be successful. Social emotional skills are

critical to being good students, citizens, and workers (DePaoli, Atwell, & Bridgeland, 2018).


Brotto, G. (2018, June, 4). The Future of Education Depends on Social Emotional Learning:

Here’s Why. Retrieved from


DePaoli, J. L., Atwell, M. N., & Bridgeland, J. (2018). Ready to lead: a national principal survey

on how social and emotional learning can prepare children and transform schools. Civic

Enterprises with Hart Research Associates, A Report for CASEL. Retrieved from

Gregory, A. & Fergus, E. (2017). Social and emotional learning and equity in school discipline.

Social and Emotional Learning, 27 (1): 49-66. Retrieved from


Jones, S. M., Barnes, S. P., Bailey, R., & Doolittle, E. J. (2017). Promoting social and

emotional competencies in elementary school. Social and Emotional Learning, 27 (1):

49-66. Retrieved from


Kim, T. & Axelrod, S. (2005). Direct instruction: an educators’ guide and a plea for action. The

Behavior Analyst Today, 6 (2): 111-120. Retrieved from