What Are They?

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional, Learning (CASEL), social-emotional learning (SEL) is “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Self-awareness and self-management are two of the five components that make up CASEL’s model of SEL.

Self-Awareness is simply the ability to be aware of one’s inner life–one’s emotions, thoughts, behaviors, values, preferences, goals, strengths, challenges, attitudes, mindsets, and so forth– and how these elements impact behavior and choices.

A student who is self-aware may notice her fearful emotional response as she is about to take a test. She may feel her heart beat faster and her stomach clench, making her thoughts race as she worries about failing the test. To get out of the test, she considers telling her teacher that she feels sick, but in the end, she recognizes that this behavior is a result of her emotions and thoughts running amok, and she accepts that these reactions can occur when she experiences anxiety.

Skills that develop self-awareness include:

  • Labeling and recognizing one’s emotions
  • Identifying what triggers own emotions
  • Analyzing emotions and how they affect others
  • Understanding the relationship between one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors
  • Recognizing one’s needs, values, judgments, and biases
  • Identifying personal strengths and areas for growth
  • Practicing self-compassion
  • Cultivating self-confidence, positive self-regard, a “growth” mindset, and optimism

Self-management is the ability to navigate and shift in a healthy way one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in order to make decisions and reach goals that benefit oneself and others.

A new sixth grader who is anxious about starting middle school remembers learning from her fifth grade teacher that when she is feeling scared, she can change how she feels by thinking differently about the situation. So, instead of dreading her new school, this student decides to view it as an adventure—one that might bring her new friends, wonderful teachers, and exciting opportunities.

Self-management skills include:

  • Regulating and expressing one’s emotions thoughtfully
  • Demonstrating perseverance and resilience to overcome obstacles
  • Sustaining healthy boundaries
  • Applying strategies to reduce personal and interpersonal stress
  • Setting and monitoring short-term and long-term goals
  • Advocating for oneself and one’s needs
  • Maintaining attention
  • Using feedback constructively

Ultimately, self-awareness and self-management are closely linked. For example, being able to stop and calm down when one is upset (self-management), requires skills like recognizing and labeling the emotions and considering how they might be affecting one’s behavior choices (self-awareness).

For a deeper dive into the science and practical school-based examples of this science in action, click on the following topics:

SEL for Students: The Basics of Emotions
SEL for Students: Emotion Regulation
SEL for Students: Emotions and Learning
SEL for Students: Emotions and Culture

Why Are They Important?

Overall, research reveals that students with social and emotional skills perform better academically, have stronger relationships with peers and teachers, experience greater well-being, and engage in less risky behavior. In addition, SEL skills positively impact education, employment, and mental health outcomes into adulthood.

More specifically, several components of self-awareness and self-management show the following outcomes:

“Emotion knowledge” is key to student success.

 

Managing emotions in a healthy way gives students a head start.

  • Students of all ages who can regulate their emotions—or monitor, evaluate, and change their emotional responses—perform better academically, have stronger relationships with teachers and peers, experience greater mental well-being, and engage in less risky behavior. (Note that emotion regulation strategies and outcomes vary by culture. Click here for more information.)

 

Using self-control to keep studying instead of checking Instagram really matters.

  • Students who exhibit self-control—or the ability to regulate thoughts, feelings, and actions when temptation strikes—have better grades (at every level), are more likely to graduate from high school and college, and have higher test scores.
  • Self-control also leads to better interpersonal skills, higher self-esteem, and lower risky behavior.

 

A “growth mindset” benefits students’ academic and social lives.

 

Goals bolster student achievement.

  • Studies have found that “hope”—or the ability to achieve goals—is linked to greater academic achievement, creativity, and problem-solving skills, as well as less depression and anxiety.
  • Students high in “hope” know how to create a roadmap to reaching a goal, including alternate routes when obstacles arise, and also have the belief, motivation, and confidence to achieve their goals.

Practices

Level
Duration
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Students write a letter or poem to express their gratitude to something in the natural world.
PreK/Lower Elementary
Multiple Sessions
Students identify the many ways that exist to express gratitude.
Middle School
≤ 1 hour
Students define gratitude and give an example of a time they felt grateful.
Upper Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
Students draw and write about ways they have acted with kindness towards others.
PreK/Lower Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
Students learn to say “thank you” in American Sign Language and brainstorm non-verbal ways to express gratitude.
Upper Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
Students express gratitude through singing.
PreK/Lower Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
Students imagine their lives at 40. (Purpose Challenge Practice #5)
Middle School, High School, College
≤ 30 minutes
Take a few minutes to relax your body and calm your mind.
College, Adult
≤ 15 minutes
Use the Circle process to encourage students to safely and respectfully share their level of understanding on an academic topic.
Middle School, High School, College
≤ 30 minutes
Use the Circle process to build a sense of connection among students and staff by sharing moods, feelings, and moments of joy and pain.
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School, College, Adult
≤ 30 minutes
Students read a text slowly and reflect on its personal meaning for them.
Middle School, High School, College
≤ 30 minutes
Students explore their thoughts, emotions, or ideas by freewriting on a topic of their choosing, an academic-related question, or an ethical dilemma.
Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School, College, Adult
≤ 15 minutes
Students design a tattoo that symbolizes the things that matter most to them. (Purpose Challenge Practice #6)
Middle School, High School, College
≤ 30 minutes
Students grow their self-understanding through a contemplative art process that uses their own “scrapbook” of meaningful images.
Middle School, High School, College
Multiple Sessions
Help students understand that mistakes are important for learning and growing our intelligence
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School, College, Adult
≤ 15 minutes
Students identify their strengths to increase self-understanding. (Gratitude for Tweens and Teens Lesson 1)
Middle School, High School
≤ 1 hour
Students reach out to trusted adults to ask what they think are students’ strengths and talents. (Purpose Challenge Practice #1)
Middle School, High School, College
≤ 1 hour
Students experience drawing as a strategy that can help shift unpleasant emotions to calmer, more pleasant ones.
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
Students reflect on how the Earthrise photograph offered humans a new way to see the Earth: without borders or boundaries.
Middle School, High School, College
Multiple Sessions
Students reflect on how the Earthrise photograph instills a sense of awe and wonder towards our planet.
Middle School, High School, College
Multiple Sessions
Students engage in prosocial (kind, helpful) actions for ten days and reflect on the impact of their actions on themselves and others.
Middle School, High School, College
Multiple Sessions
Students reflect on why another person acted kindly towards them, and practice gratitude both verbally & in writing.
Upper Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
Students think about a time when they felt close to someone in order to foster a sense of belonging and well-being.
Middle School, High School, College
≤ 15 minutes
In this circle activity, students practice mindful speaking and mindful listening.
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School
≤ 15 minutes
Students think about the factors that encourage and discourage people to act when they confront suffering or injustice.
High School, College
≤ 1 hour
Students define gratitude and name things they’re grateful for.
PreK/Lower Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
Students reflect on acts of kindness and how they often require intention and effort on the part of the person who does them.
Upper Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
Students interview an older person about gratitude, deepening their own understanding of gratitude.
Middle School
≤ 30 minutes
Students write five things they’re grateful for once a day for two weeks.
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School
≤ 15 minutes
Students deepen their understanding of gratitude by “embodying” it.
Upper Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
Students take a mindful walk in nature, noting what they are grateful for, and create a collaborative art piece of their experience.
Upper Elementary
≤ 1 hour
Students interpret and role-play a variety of quotes about gratitude.
Middle School
≤ 1 hour
A game to develop students' memory and attention by remembering what you're supposed to do while doing a different motion.
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 15 minutes
Acknowledge the faces of everyone in your classroom or meeting to deepen a sense of group connection.
High School, College, Adult
≤ 15 minutes
A game to build students’ focus and attention by practicing careful looking to find the object that another person is thinking of
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 15 minutes
Students hear and share inspiring stories compassionate risk-takers and then develop their own service project.
Middle School, High School, College, Adult
Multiple Sessions
Students get a secret kindness buddy to do a kind act for during the week.
PreK/Lower Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
Students listen to a song or piece of music and observe their responses.
Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School
≤ 15 minutes
A magical game of tag that promotes inclusion and teamwork.
PreK/Lower Elementary
≤ 15 minutes
Students describe their ideal world and how they might contribute to creating that world. (Purpose Challenge Practice #2)
Middle School, High School, College
≤ 30 minutes
Students reflect on how their science learning is relevant to their lives.
Middle School, High School, College
≤ 15 minutes
Students learn that when someone does something kind, it takes time and effort.
Middle School
≤ 1 hour
Students reflect on a Viktor Frankl quote about why meaning in life is important. (Purpose Challenge Practice #3)
Middle School, High School, College
≤ 30 minutes
Students use photography or drawing to explore purpose and meaning in their lives.
Middle School, High School, College
Multiple Sessions
Students learn to notice sounds, their beginnings and endings, and the silent spaces between each sound.
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 15 minutes
A daily mindfulness and music appreciation practice for the whole school or a single classroom
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School, College, Adult
≤ 15 minutes
A daily mindfulness and poetry appreciation practice for the whole school or a single classroom
Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School, Adult
≤ 15 minutes
Grades K-3 students learn about the three parts of the brain that are involved with emotion regulation, attention, and learning.
PreK/Lower Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
A game to develop student's memory and attention by remembering what each person has said and repeating it in the correct order
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 15 minutes
Students identify ways that they have acted with kindness towards others.
PreK/Lower Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
A process for helping students generate purposeful projects or endeavors
Middle School, High School
≤ 1 hour
Students choose a quote about purpose and reflect on why it resonates with them. (Purpose Challenge Practice #7)
Middle School, High School, College
≤ 30 minutes
Create class community by brainstorming ways to stop put-downs.
Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School
≤ 1 hour
Build trust and understanding among students by exploring questions of wonder.
Middle School, High School
Multiple Sessions
Students discuss the SEL skills touched upon during the activity in which they have just participated.
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 15 minutes
Students recognize the costs and benefits involved in a kind act. (Gratitude for Tweens and Teens Lesson 2)
Middle School, High School
≤ 1 hour
Students look for the good in others by acknowledging each other’s strengths. (Gratitude for Tweens and Teens Lesson 3)
Middle School, High School
≤ 1 hour
Use the Circle process to encourage self-care among staff and students in all dimensions.
Middle School, High School, College, Adult
≤ 30 minutes
Students observe their breath while relaxing and tensing their bodies, and then practice shaking and freezing their bodies.
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School
≤ 15 minutes
A game to develop students' memory and attention by remembering what motions accompany each phrase, and doing them correctly quickly
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 15 minutes
A game to develop students' self-control by doing the correct (silly) motion instead of the automatic one
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 15 minutes
A game to develop students' self-control by listening for a key phrase before doing an action
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 15 minutes
A list of strategies for making explicit connections to SEL skills throughout the day in order to reinforce students’ practice of skills
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School
≤ 15 minutes
Students build trust and inclusion through a quick and fun game that reveals their commonalities.
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 15 minutes
Students learn how the positive emotions from gratitude create a cycle of giving.
Middle School
≤ 1 hour
Students define and practice “good sense,” or the will and know-how to do the right thing.
High School
Multiple Sessions
Students record three good things that happened to them each day for a week.
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School
≤ 15 minutes
Grade 4-7 students learn about the three parts of the brain that are involved with emotion regulation, attention, and learning.
Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 1 hour
Students learn how kindness and gratitude strengthen friendships through Splat the Cat.
PreK/Lower Elementary
≤ 30 minutes
Students identify what gets in the way of expressing gratitude.
Upper Elementary
≤ 1 hour
Students define gratitude and the many forms it takes.
Middle School
Multiple Sessions
A game to develop students' memory and attention by keeping track of objects in order to tell which one is missing
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 15 minutes
Students examine how they face everyday moral dilemmas and consider who and what influences their reactions when conflicts arise.
Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 1 hour
Through stories, discussion, and creative presentations about true heroes, students foster their compassion for others and see brave community involvement as an admirable, heroic way of life.
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School
Multiple Sessions
A game to develop students' memory and attention by remembering a series of motions and doing them in the correct order
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 15 minutes
A game to cultivate students’ focus and attention by knowing when it is their turn and the right thing to say
PreK/Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
≤ 15 minutes
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
–C.G. Jung