Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

Maximizing the potential of all students and staff to become responsible, caring and reflective members of our diverse society.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) refers to foundational skills that all students and adults need to be successful. By building on the foundation provided at home, our schools provide students opportunities to develop healthy identities, relate to others, and set and achieve goals.

Virginia’s Vision for SEL

FCPS support for SEL is aligned with Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) guidance. The VDOE defines social emotional learning as:

“The process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

Social emotional learning is a partnership among families, schools, and the community. Intentionally embedding SEL in school culture supports the work that begins and continues at home.

Supporting SEL at Home and at School

According to CASEL (2020), SEL is made up of 5 broad and interrelated areas of knowledge and skill, listed below. These skills are important for collaboration and perspective taking. They also help students manage their feelings, address challenges, and reach their goals. Families, schools, and communities support these skills by working together to create the learning, experiences, and environments students need to be successful.

In FCPS we are proud to partner with families to help support SEL knowledge and skill development for all students.   

SEL Infographic
A wheel of six concentric circles. The words Social Emotional Learning are at the core. The five core SEL competencies are in the next concentric circle: self-awareness; self-management; social awareness; relationship skills; and decision-making. The top of the next four concentric circles represent the key settings in which SEL is implemented: classroom, schools, families, and communities. Finally, the bottom of the four outer circles highlight the how of SEL implementation: Instruction and classroom climate; schoolwide culture, practices and policies; authentic partnerships; and aligned learning opportunities.

The following five SEL competencies include suggestions for how families and school staff can support the development of skills at home and at school:

1 - Self-Awareness

The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts, and their influence on behaviors. This includes learning about different emotions, as well as exploring personal strengths and challenges.

Ways to Promote Self-Awareness at Home

  • Focus on your child’s strengths - talk with them about things they’ve done well and offer specific praise for strengths you have noticed.
  • Ask your child how they feel and share how you feel in different situations and settings using age-appropriate vocabulary.
  • Discuss ways that you or your child might be feeling and how that can impact behavior and actions in different settings.

Ways to Promote Self-Awareness at School

  • Teachers lead discussions about how characters feel and how those feelings can impact the outcome of the book and other character's feelings.
  • Staff listen to what students say and reflect what they heard about their feelings.
  • Staff encourage students to reflect on how their thoughts and emotions affect decision-making and behavior.
    Adapted from Sample Teaching Activities to Support Core Competencies of Social and Emotional Learning, CASEL

Related Resources

2 - Self-Management

The ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes using healthy coping skills to manage stress, motivate oneself, and work toward goals.

Ways to Promote Self-Management at Home

  • Discuss your own stress-relieving strategies with your child and use them when they are around so they can see that we all need to use strategies at times (e.g. “I’m feeling a little frustrated, so I’m going to stop and take a breath before I decide what to do next.”
  • Ask your child what they are thinking/feeling when they are engaged in an activity.
  • Talk with your child about what is important to them and why. (e.g. “I noticed you’ve been interested in _____. Tell me more about that.”)

Ways to Promote Self-Management at School

  • Staff give students age-appropriate, authentic praise for self-management (e.g. “I saw the way you waited your turn just now.”)
  • Staff help students to establish and work towards positive and realistic goals.
  • Teachers read books and discuss how people persevere through hard times to reach a goal.
    Adapted from Sample Teaching Activities to Support Core Competencies of Social and Emotional Learning, CASEL

Related Resources

3 - Social Awareness

The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.

Ways to Promote Social Awareness at Home

  • Practice empathy. Spend some time watching a show or movie. At any given time, pause and discuss what social cues you noticed. You might ask: “How are they feeling?” and “How would you feel if that happened to you?” Use this conversation to build on considering how others feel.
  • Talk with your child or have them write in a journal ways they are/could be helpful in your family or with their peers.
  • Talk with your child about who they can reach out to when they need help or advice.

Ways to Promote Social Awareness at School

  • Staff use cooperative and project-based learning to build diverse student work groups.
  • Teachers develop and revise classroom rules and norms with students to promote understanding and respect.
  • Staff model and promote a school norm of treating others the way you would want to be treated.
    Adapted from Sample Teaching Activities to Support Core Competencies of Social and Emotional Learning, CASEL

Related Resources

  • PBS Video on Social Awareness
    Provides information on Social Awareness and how families and educators can support students in developing this skill.

4 - Relationship Skills

The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes skills such as communicating effectively, listening actively, and perspective taking.

Ways to Promote Developing Relationship Skills at Home

  • Celebrate individual and family strengths with an accomplishments box. Write down your accomplishments, no matter the size. Fill up a jar with each of your successes like learning to ride a bike, trying a new recipe, or talking to a new neighbor.
  • Model and reinforce effective communication and relationship building at home and in the community.
  • Talk with your child about communication skills such as listening, looking at the person talking, and tone of voice.

Ways to Promote Developing Relationship Skills at School

  • Staff practice active listening by empathizing, showing understanding, reflecting back, and asking open ended questions.   
  • Staff intentionally use collaborative work groups to reinforce the importance of working together to solve problems and achieve goals.
  • Staff give students support as needed when they are working out a conflict
    Adapted from Sample Teaching Activities to Support Core Competencies of Social and Emotional Learning, CASEL

Related Resources

5 - Responsible Decision-Making

The ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions.

Ways to Promote Responsible Decision-Making at Home

  • Establish age-appropriate jobs and chores around the house.
  • Brainstorm multiple solutions to a problem you or your child is facing.  Talk about the pros and cons of each.
  • Try strategy games or activities with your children that provide a chance to share or take-turns (e.g. Uno, Yahtzee, checkers). Games and activities provide opportunities for decision-making, as well as a good excuse for family time! 

Ways to Promote Responsible Decision-Making at School

  • Staff clearly identify the steps for solving a problem and walk them in response to hypothetical situations with students.
  • Staff discuss higher order values – impact on the environment, being a good citizen, ways to help the community or school.
  • Staff model appropriate behaviors based on norms and rules.
    Adapted from Sample Teaching Activities to Support Core Competencies of Social and Emotional Learning, CASEL

Related Resources

In addition to using the strategies outlined above to support students in developing SEL competencies: 

Three-Legged Stool Diagram
A three-legged stool shows Classroom on the top. The three legs are labeled with the three core components of supporting SEL in the classroom: 1) a supportive classroom environment, 2) explicit SEL instruction and 3) integration of SEL and instruction). 
©2022 CASEL. All Rights Reserved.
  • All schools have dedicated Morning Meeting or Advisory Time to support relationship building and problem solving. 
  • All staff include CASEL’s 3 Signature Practices in their classrooms:
    • Welcoming inclusions which create a predictable routine for students and allow an opportunity to build community
    • Engaging strategies such as brain breaks to provide opportunities for students to interact and reflect
    • Optimistic closures to highlight the importance of student work, reflect on the learning, identify next steps, or make connections.

SEL Instructional Materials

Key practices and resources to support SEL skill development.

PTA Podcast: “What is Social and Emotional Learning Anyway?”

What life skills does your child need to thrive? This podcast shares what Social and Emotional Learning looks like, why it’s important and how families can support at home.
View the Podcast

Video: Social Emotional Learning at Home

Learn the basics of Social and Emotional Learning and how parents can support their child’s SEL growth at home. Educators discuss SEL and how schools and parents can work together to strengthen the overall well-being of students series.
View the Video

SEL and Portrait of a GraduateSEL Supports and Strengthens Portrait of a Graduate (POG) 

In FCPS, we provide high-quality instruction in academics, and support students as they develop social and emotional skills over the course of their educational career. SEL skills provide the foundation students need to become successful and are deeply intertwined with Portrait of a Graduate attributes. 

This approach supports leads all students to greater success wherever their paths take them. Teaching and learning is made stronger by incorporating SEL skills into a student’s academic study, where they have many opportunities to learn skills and see their application to real life circumstances

Benefits of SEL 

Developing SEL competencies as part of students’ regular educational experience leads to:

  • Improved academic performance and behavior
  • Improved attitude and lower stress levels
  • Increased graduation rates
  • Increased preparedness for success at college or in careers
  • Healthier relationships
  • Stronger mental health
  • Increased civic engagement

Parent Resource Center

Information and resources to support the success of all students, including those with learning challenges, special needs, and disabilities.
Visit the Parent Resource Center Page

Student Safety and Wellness

From mental health resources, to bullying prevention and food and nutrition services, FCPS is committed to supporting more than just a child's education.
Visit the Student Safety and Wellness Page


The following resources provide more information on SEL and how parents and schools can partner to support students.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Screener

Schools use a screening assessment to measure social-emotional learning skills.