2 Strategies for Integrating Transformative SEL in the K-12 Online Classroom

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Transformative Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) accepts students as individuals and supports a balance of voices. From this lens, teachers are facilitators who ensure everyone in the learning community is seen, heard, and valued. They guide students to acknowledge and engage with each other (Jagers, Rivas-Drake, & Borowski, 2018).

  1. Guide Students to Use Each Other’s Names

Why this matters:  It can be hard to tell if someone is looking at you when you’re in a group video chat session. Using each other’s names can help cultivate a sense of connection. When we use each other’s names, we acknowledge that we are seeing and hearing each other.


  • Personalize your interactions. You might be the only person to address a student with a question or recognize a positive contribution they have made. You might even be the only person to say a students’ name aloud on a given day. Affirm their identity by saying their name with a friendly tone of voice.
  • Encourage students to use each other’s names. State it as an expectation and briefly share why it matters. Gently remind students when they forget to use another’s names and provide an opportunity for readdressing each other by name without embarrassing or correcting.
  • Teach students what to do if they forget someone’s name. Model and practice the language: “I’m sorry I can’t remember your name. Will you remind me?”  You can also model and practice what to do when you are unsure about how to pronounce a name. Children often need the language given to them and an opportunity to practice using it. This can help them feel comfortable integrating this language into their repertoire of communication strategies. This is a valuable life-skill and worth the time to teach, model, and reinforce through practice.
  • Never ignore mocking or laughing at another’s name. Sometimes students do this with the intention to harm, but often it is out of discomfort with something unfamiliar (such as pronunciation). Gently acknowledge that you noticed some misplaced laughter and ask the student if they need help with the name, and then to repeat the name using a friendly tone of voice. This is often enough to bring attention to your expectations of interpersonal kindness and the honoring of each other’s names. Shaming the offender is unlikely to be helpful to either person involved. If a longer conversation is needed with anyone involved, have it privately.
  1. Facilitate Discussion Protocols

Why this matters: Students can experience anxiety about speaking aloud, get off-topic, or dominate a conversation. This may be exacerbated online. Protocols help to ensure everyone gets a chance to speak, fostering a more equitable and inclusive environment. They focus and balance dialogue by setting up specific parameters for conversations. They encourage an expectation of participation and support a sense of safety when sharing ideas. Protocols can help move a conversation forward and boost student engagement.


  • Review the protocol. Provide students with a list of steps and talk through each one. Keep your review brief. Students learn more about how to follow the protocol by actually doing it. A brief review followed by any clarifying questions is enough to get started. For more complex protocols you can use a fishbowl approach before launching it. This means having a small group of students model the protocol while the rest observe and report back at the end.
  • Shift your role to facilitator. Pay close attention to every students’ level of participation. Gently point out what you are observing and redirect students to the protocol, as necessary. Think of yourself as a coach, offering guidance without taking over.
  • Process-check at the end of a protocol. This can be very brief: How did you like this protocol on a scale of 1-5? At times it can be helpful to go more in-depth with a 15-minute debrief: What worked well with this protocol? What could we do better next time?


Amy E. Lyn, PhD


Jagers, R., Rivas-Drake, D., & Borowski, T. (2018). Toward transformative social and emotional learning: Using an equity lens [special issues brief on equity]. Establishing Practical Social-Emotional Competence Assessments Work Group. https://measuringsel.casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Frameworks-Equ...