Social Emotional Learning and Character Education at

Sunset Ridge School



 What is Social Emotional Learning?

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) refers to a comprehensive process for helping students to develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness. These skills include recognizing and managing one's own emotions, developing empathy and caring for others, establishing and maintaining positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and navigating challenging situations in a constructive and ethical manner. Character education, the developmental of ethical virtues, is a critical component of SEL.

SEL Skill Sets

*Self-awareness: accurately assessing one's feelings, interests, values, and strengths; maintaining a well-grounded sense of self-confidence

* Self-management: regulating one's emotions to handle stress, control impulses, and persevere in overcoming obstacles; setting and monitoring progress toward personal and academic goals; expressing emotions appropriately

* Social awareness: being able to take the perspective of and empathize with others; recognizing and appreciating individual and group similarities and differences; recognizing and using family, school, and community resources

* Relationship skills: establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding relationships based on cooperation; resisting inappropriate social pressure; preventing, managing, and resolving interpersonal conflict; seeking help when needed

* Responsible decision-making: making decisions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, appropriate social norms, respect for others, and likely consequences of various actions; applying decision-making skills to academic and social situations; contributing to the well-being of one’s school and community.


Why Teach SEL skills?

The Illinois State Board of Education mandates that all Illinois public school systems implement a comprehensive SEL curriculum targeting the development of students' self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship, and decision-making skills. Furthermore, research supports a strong positive relationship between effective SEL instruction and a number of positive outcomes (e.g., increased academic achievement, positive school climate, lower drug and alcohol usage, lower discipline issues).

The literature on SEL suggests that SEL in the schools is most effectively addressed through a) the development of a positive and support school climate/culture, b) the use of an effective direct instructional curriculum and, c) opportunities for students to practice SEL-related skills and behaviors in a meaningful way.

For more information on the benefits and research behind SEL, please visit the CASEL website @

How does District 29 address SEL ?

District 29 staff address SEL through a continuous focus on a) promoting a positive school climate and culture, b) implementing a variety of direct instruction curricula to target SEL skills in a developmentally appropriate manner and, c) engaging students in meaningful opportunities to practice SEL skills.

District 29 staff work hard to develop strong personal relationships with students, to engage them in the culture of the school community, and to support and encourage them as they develop their academic, social, behavioral, kinesthetic, and artistic talents. Staff also provide a variety  regularly scheduled SEL direct instruction lessons across the grade levels targeting the development of specific SEL skills. Finally, District 29 offer students opportunities to engage in meaningful SEL-related  activities through projects, classes, and activities.

See below for more information on SEL activities at a specific grade level, or contact one of our SEL instructors:


Direct instruction in character education and social emotional learning is now provided at all grade levels.  Staff at Sunset Ridge utilize the SECOND STEP SEL curriculum as a 'core' curriculum. However, since the inception of the District character education program in the 2000-2001, SRS staff have integrated a multitude of resources/lessons from various curricula to generate a comprehensive curriculum that addresses the unique needs of our students. All SEL activities are based on ISBE's state learning standards for SEL, and draw upon research-based curricula and principals of effective character education.

For more information of the SECOND STEP curriculum, please visit:


Direct instruction activities are listed by grade-level below:


4th Grade

*See Cindy Fleischer’s Page


5th Grade

Topics addressed through this curriculum in the first semester include: identification of social and emotional skills, building a school community, the classroom as community, decision-making, positive and negative peer pressure, and ways to manage negative peer pressure. Topics addressed in the second semester include bullying, diversity and the Second Step pilot program.


6th, 7th, 8th Grade Health Exploratory

The Health Exploratories in grades 6-7-8 provide a comprehensive scope and sequence of topics. Together, the Health curricula address all state standards for Health and Social Emotional Learning. Each class meets three times/week for one quarter. Health also introduces students to community mental health organizations, including Links, Northwest CASA, Haven, Erika’s Lighthouse and Elyssa’s Mission. (Staff of Links, Haven and Northwest CASA teach specific lesions at various grade levels; Erika’s Lighthouse and Elyssa’s Mission have underwritten curriculum materials and training for Claire’s Story (7th) and Signs of Suicide (8th), respectively, which are taught by Mrs. von Kluck.)


6th Grade SEL Topics

Topic: Puberty from Head to Toe.

Goals: Identify the physical, emotional, cognitive and social changes of puberty. Identify practices for good hygiene. Understand why puberty is normal and necessary.

Format: Four sessions. The first session overview of puberty is taught to the entire class. Subsequent classes are taught in single-gender groups.

Instructors: Links


Topic: Self Awareness.

Goals: Identify personal strengths and challenges and how these personal qualities influence our choices and successes. Identify school, family and community supports and how to access them.

Format: 1 lesson

Instructor: Classroom teacher


Topic: Perspective Taking.

Goals: Recognizing the feelings and perspectives of others, including verbal and non verbal cues, and how these influence one's behavior toward and interactions with others.

Format: 1 lesson

Instructor: Classroom teacher


Topic: Stress Management.

Goals: Define and develop an understanding what stress is, factors that cause stress, signs of stress, and healthy and unhealthy ways to manage stress

Format: Two sessions

Instructors: Haven Youth Services


Topic: Bullying.

Goals: Define bullying, types and consequences of bullying, roles of bully, target, bystander.

Format: One session

Instructor: Northwest CASA


Topic: Netiquette and Cyberbullying.

Goals: Identify respectful practices for social interactions on the Internet. Understand netiquette (online etiquette).

Format: Multi-session

Instructor: Linda Polak


Topic: Peer Pressure, Peer Refusal.

Goals: Define peer pressure. Evaluate positive vs. negative peer pressure. Identify and be able to use refusal skills.

Format: Two sessions

Instructor: Classroom Teacher


Topic: Decision-Making.

Goals: Identify and be able to use the steps in a problem-solving process.

Format: One session

Instructor: Classroom Teacher


Topic: Healthy Relationships.

Goals: Identify what qualities to look for in a friend, how to make and keep friends that are good for you.

Format: One session

Instructor: Classroom Teacher


Topic: Goal Setting.

Goals: Learn and use a goal-setting process to develop a realistic personal health goal

Format: One session

Instructor: Classroom teacher 


7th Grade SEL Topics:

Topic: Depression Awareness.

Goals: Define and understand depression, signs and symptoms of depression, the three components of treatment, and healthy habits for living with depression. Understand the importance of  supporting people with depression by sharing concerns about a peer with an adult.and through kindness and respect.

Format: Three sessions, Claire’s Story Curriculum

Instructor: Marti von Kluck, SRS Social Worker


Topic: Sexual Harassment, Healthy Relationships.

Goals: Identify 4 criteria to healthy relationships.  Differentiate between media’s portrayal of intimacy and authentic intimacy. Identify ways that intimacy is expressed in various kinds of friendships and relationships. Identify bullying/harassing behavior and how to address it.

Format: Two sessions

Instructors: Links


Topic: Bullying, Conflict and Violence.

Goals: Identify the main reasons that people bully.  Understand how conflict and violence impacts the greater community.  Know the difference between active and passive bystanders.  Understand how one’s behavior may affect others.

Format: Three sessions

Instructor: Classroom Teacher


Topic: Internet Safety.

Goals: Define and understand appropriate use and misuse and abuse of digital technologies.

Format: Two sessions

Instructors: Charlene Entman


Topic: Effective Communication.

Goals: Identify how thoughts impact feelings and feelings impact behavior.  Know when avoidance, compromise and cooperation are appropriate.  Know how to resolve conflict.

Format: Two sessions

Instructor: Classroom teacher


Topic: Volunteerism.

Goals: Understand how volunteerism helps the larger community.

Format: Part of a two session unit on volunteerism and disaster preparedness.

Instructor: Classroom teacher


Topic: Time Management.

Goals: Identify poor time management habits. Understand how poor time management leads to stress and good time management leads to successful performance.  Learn time management strategies. Resisting peer pressure and environmental stressors.

Format: One session

Instructor: Classroom teacher


Topic: Goal Setting.

Goals: Learn and use a goal-setting process to develop a realistic personal health goal

Format: One session

Instructor: Classroom teacher


8th Grade SEL Topics

Topic: Emotional IQ.

Goals: Identify and practice personal safety and healthy decision making in social including parties, dating, dances .

Format: Three sessions

Instructor: Classroom teacher


Topic: Anger management.

Goals: Identify and leanr appropriate ways to manage feelings, including problem solving and appropriate verbal and non verbal expression

Format: One session

Instructor: Classroom Teacher


Topic: Peer mediation.

Format: Two-three sessions

Instructor: Classroom teacher


Topic: Depression.

Goals: Review definition, symptoms, causes and treatment for depression

Format: One session

Instructor: Classroom teacher


Topic: Suicide Awareness and Prevention.

Goals: Identify signs of suicide and the ACT (acknowledge, show you care, tell an adult) method of responding if someone appears to be depressed or suicidal

Format: Two sessions, Signs of Suicide curriculum

Instruction: Marti von Kluck, SRS Social Worker


Topic Loss and Grief.

Format: One session

Instructors: Classroom teacher and Rainbow Hospice staff


Topic: Substance Abuse.

Goals:  Identify myths and realities. Includes tobacco, alcohol, drugs and anabolic steroids

Format: Multiple sessions

Instructor: Classroom teacher


Topic: Sex Education.

Goals: Identify healthy relationships, sexually transmitted infections, birth control

Format: Four sessions

Instructors: Links


Topic: Goal Setting.

Goals: Learn and use a goal-setting process to develop a realistic personal health goal

Format: One session

Instructor: Classroom teacher


Direct Instruction In Other Areas of Curriculum


7th Grade Service Learning Exploratory: This class meets three times per week for one quarter. Students engage in a variety of teambuilding activities and service to the school.


Topic: 6th Grade Internet Safety and Cyber Security: Identify potential hazards and misuses of the Internet. Develop critical thinking and decision making skills regarding Internet sites, incorporating real life scenarios and examples.

Format: Multi session class taught through Study Skills

Instructor: Mrs. Polak.

Topic: 8th Grade Internet Safety: Develop a code of conduct that defines appropriate use, misues and abuse of digital technologies.

Format: Two sessions during p.e. class time

Instructors: Charlene Entman


7th-8th Grade Everybody Matters Program Pilot Project: This ten-week program is a self-selected opportunity for junior high girls to explore topics focusing on self-awareness, leadership, effectively managing life challenges, and personal empowerment.   The 90-minute meetings occur during lunch/recess and study hall and emphasize a specific theme each week. The program is facilitated by staff of WomenCare Counseling Center, and is sponsored by Elyssa’s Mission as a proactive program fostering personal and interpersonal strength and resiliency. Mrs. von Kluck attends each meeting as a participant-observer so she and other district personnel could facilitate the program in the future.


Character education themes are embedded in various curricular areas and across grade levels. This instruction reinforces concepts taught through direct instruction in prior and current grade levels through discussion and analysis of novels, nonfiction, history, world events, and role models from various disciplines.


All 7th and 8th grade reading selections emphasize character education themes, which are an integral part of classroom discussions. Some of the topics addressed through curriculum integration include: social justice, prejudice, discrimination (e.g. race, religion, physical, emotional and learning disabilities, cultural diversity) perseverance, personal empowerment and interpersonal relationships. The classroom teacher social worker co-teach these discussions.


These studies are often coordinated with field trips, e.g. Misericordia, Holocaust Museum, and service projects, e.g. Candy Day sale for Misericordia.


Service Projects

Students are encouraged to experience the benefits of service to others in various individual, group, and District-wide activities including:

-Mentoring of younger students

• individual students who give up their lunch/recess to assist in classrooms

• individual students mentor younger students during Friday game days in p.e.

• short-term intergrade projects in which classrooms of junior high students assist 4th-5th grade classes in math or language arts

-Individual students volunteer to shelve books in the library, music in the band room

-Grade level or classroom/advisory fundraisers or other service projects (e.g. Misericordia Candy Drive, Taffy Apple Sale for inner city school library, collections of books and/or school supplies)

-Student Council: various fundraising activities and service to the school

-8th grade graduation fundraiser and class gifts

-District-wide Northwest Settlement House Holiday Gift Project


 6th-7th Individual Goal Setting Conferences – students set academic and personal goals during the February parent-teacher conferences


Principal’s Advisory Council – students representing 4th-8th grade meet monthly with Dr. Carey and Mrs. von Kluck to increase communication between students and administration and engage in building level decision-making.


7th-8th Grade Teambuilding Days- Each grade participated in a day of teambuilding activities facilitated by Laurie Frank, a nationally renowned expert in experiential learning Through a series of cooperative activities students experienced and discussed the importance of collaboration, community and creating an inclusive school climate.


No Name Calling Week – various schoolwide activities in conjunction with National No Name Calling Week to promote respectful language, behavior and a spirit of inclusion


Blue Ribbon Month – teachers awarded individual students with a blue or gold “ribbon” acknowledging behaviors that demonstrate respect, responsibility, safety and honesty (Our Code of Conduct)


Communities – This new program connects students with cross-grade level peers and teachers in teams that will meet on a regular basis throughout the school year. The groups will engage in fun, collaborative activities designed to enhance students; sense of confidence, camaraderie and belonging. Students will remain in the same group throughout their tenure in the school, fostering ongoing relationships with students and teachers and encouraging inclusive behavior that staff hope will transfer to the playground and other settings.


I Pick You – Students identify a staff person or persons to whom they feel they could turn if they had a problem or concern. Staff are made aware of the student(s) who are counting on them and work to establish relationships with these students.


Last Modified on June 30, 2014