UCCI Course Description

Social Emotional Learning: The Heart of Education

Overview Course Content Course Materials
Length of Course
Full Year (2 semesters; 3 trimesters; 4 quarters)
Subject Area - Discipline
College-preparatory Elective (G) - Interdisciplinary
UC Honors Designation
CTE Sector
Education, Child Development, and Family Services
CTE Pathway
Grade Level(s)
9 - 12


Social Emotional Learning: The Heart of Education is a college preparatory elective for students in grades 9-12,  integrated within the Education Services CTE pathway. In this course, students will learn the importance of Social Emotional Learning (SEL)  in education. Students will examine the five SEL competencies: self-awareness, self-management, growth mindset, self-efficacy and social awareness. Throughout the course, students will develop their own understanding of each of these competencies, and then apply this knowledge in an educational context by developing lesson and classroom plans that reflect an understanding of these competencies.  

Recurring Assignments

Students will be introduced to two ongoing assignments: an Interactive Notebook and Portfolio. Throughout each unit, students will do self-reflective writing in their Interactive Notebook, regarding the learning that directly applies to the five competencies, their individual growth, work in education, and resources they have gathered. The Portfolio is where all finished assignments will be kept that directly lead to the Final Project in Unit Seven.

Course Content

Unit 1 : Introduction to the 5 Social Emotional Competencies

Unit 1 Description

Knowledge of and understanding the five SEL (Social Emotional Learning) competencies is foundational to jobs in education.  Students will learn the five competencies, gain an understanding of their own strengths and areas for growth within each one, and learn how each competency relates to careers in education.

1. SEL Self-Assessment Survey and Reflective Essay. Careers in Education require specific social emotional learning (SEL) skills that are acquired through practice and frequent self-assessment.  To understand how their level of social emotional intelligence measures up against the competencies required of careers in education, students will take an SEL Self-Assessment. This will provide a foundation of understanding about themselves and how these competencies can be applied to careers in education.  Based on their findings, students will write a short reflective essay in their Interactive Notebook where they consider their areas of strength and growth.

2. Article Read, Cooperative Learning and Reflection. To better understand the SEL competencies students will individually read short articles on each competency, and then get into a group that has been assigned one of the competencies. The group creates a visual representation/poster of the elements within the competency and presents to the whole class. Following the presentation, students will participate in a Gallery Walk of the posters, and while walking with their group, students discuss their “a-ha” moment(s) where they learned something about the competency, as well as about themselves, leaving post-it notes on the posters corresponding to their new understandings. After the presentations and gallery walk, students will record the key ideas of all five competencies in their Interactive Notebooks.

3. Socratic Seminar, Guided Question Response, and Portfolio Reflection. Students complete an Interactive Notebook entry in response to teacher- created questions about their own previous SEL experience(s) in the classroom, which then forms the basis for a Socratic Seminar about the five SEL competencies and how to connect them to teaching/careers in education (i.e., How do these SEL competencies support learning in the classroom?). Following the Socratic Seminar, students will write an explanatory piece about why the five SEL competencies are important to effective teaching. This will be placed in their Portfolio.

Unit 2 : Self-Awareness

Now that students have a basic understanding of all five social emotional competencies as well as  their strengths and areas of growth, students will build on their knowledge by diving deeper into self-awareness, which is a foundation for all the other competencies and an essential skill in teaching.  Self-Awareness is the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior. It is the ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations. To begin this unit, students will complete a personality test to discover more about themselves in terms of how they view themselves as well as how others view them.  Students will explore articles and videos that pertain to self-awareness and apply that learning by creating a two-perspective poem. Students then explore the developmental stages of self-awareness and use that knowledge to examine and teach a lesson to their peers.

1.  Take Personality Test. Students will complete a True Colors Personality Test to yield a description of their distinct personality traits, and then using a grouping activity (i.e. four corner activity), they find peers with similar results and compare the listed personality traits against their own self-awareness. Students will chart their group’s findings on a poster and share key characterics with the class. Students then reflect on their descriptions in their Interactive Notebooks and explain their level of agreement with the findings by matching evidence from the personality test descriptions with their personal experience.

2. Write Two-Perspective Poem. Students will read and reflect on the following articles: Self-Awareness, Blind Spots, and the Johari Window and How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts. After reading the articles, students will watch videos (such as The Big Bang Theory clips or similar) with characters/individuals that demonstrate both a lack of self-awareness and strong self-awareness. Using the information from both articles and videos, students will work in pairs and draft a poem from two different perspectives: someone with limited self-awareness and someone with high self-awareness. This will help students to be able to recognize high and limited self-awareness in themselves and in their future students. These poems will be presented to class and added to the Portfolio. Students will then reflect in their Interactive Notebook about their own self-awareness skills as well as how these skills, limited or high, might impact teaching.

3. Explore Developmental Stages. Using the information  from The Growing Child textbook, students will work in groups to draw out self-awareness skills that pertain to different stages of developments focusing on elementary, middle, and high school. They will use this information to create a sort activity that will be turned in for teacher feedback and will later be used by other groups to deepen their understanding of the stages.

4. Examine and Teach a Lesson Plan. Students will work in groups to examine different teacher-provided lesson plans that help promote self-awareness in a classroom. They will each take turns teaching one of the lessons to their peer group using a self-selected developmental stage (elementary, middle, high). Their peers will provide feedback on a post-it note that includes one strength and one area of growth based on the class-developed rubric. The lesson plan taught and the rubric feedback will be placed in the student’s Portfolio. Students then reflect in their Interactive Notebook about how the process of working in groups, presenting, and giving and receiving feedback has helped identify their blind spots. (i.e. What Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) did they have to exterminate in order to be successful? What personality traits became evident during this process? How have students’ self-awareness skills developed throughout this unit?)

Unit 3 : Self-Management

Self-management is the ability to manage one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, delaying gratification, motivating oneself and setting and working toward personal and academic goals. All these skills are crucial for longevity in the teaching profession and overall wellness. In this unit, students will create a plan to reflect on their own self-management, as well as create infographics and design schematics and self-management plans that demonstrate their understanding of this competency as it relates to the various stages of development and its impact on learning.

1. Develop a PERMA Plan.  Students will learn that self-care is a key component of self-management and preventing teacher burnout using Martin Seligman’s theoretical model of happiness which includes positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments (PERMA).  Students will then create a PERMA Plan for themselves based on their learning and reflect on personal areas of growth and strength. Throughout this unit, students will use their Interactive Notebook to reflect on the 5 elements of PERMA and how this self-care plan connects to self-management.

2. Infographic Poster. Students will be organized in small groups and assigned one of three topics to research regarding the brain and its role in self-management: 1. The function of each part of the brain and how trauma and/or other external forces can alter the development of neural pathways. 2. The impact on the brain and learning of self-care/mindfulness/regulation. 3. How de-escalation strategies can impact the developing brain in response to stress and/or trauma. Student groups will create an infographic poster to represent their learning on their topic. Each infographic poster will be presented and taught to the class. The posters will then be displayed in the room and industry partners (teachers, counselors, administrators) will be invited to vote on which posters best illustrates the given topic. The “winning” infographic posters will be displayed publicly (i.e. school office, counseling office, common areas, etc.)

3. Design a schematic diagram that represents a trauma-sensitive classroom. Understanding how trauma and environmental factors can influence a student’s ability to self-manage and is key to effective classroom management. Students will read and annotate the article Unlocking the Door to Learning: Trauma-Informed Classrooms & Transformational Schools. In their Interactive Notebook, students will reflect on how they will apply and integrate the practices of the article into a STOIC framework of their model classroom. Next, students will create a blueprint or schematic of an ideal trauma-sensitive classroom, utilizing the STOIC and the trauma-sensitive frameworks.  Students will also create a written description of the key strategies and practices from the classroom blueprint that support and influence self-management. These assignments will be placed in their Portfolio.

4. Develop a self-management plan.  Students will observe Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ Ted Talk  on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and review the ACEs questionnaire and resiliency questionnaire to understand how these factors impact student learning, developmental stages, and overall health. Students will individually read vignettes  representing different ACEs and resiliency scores, and identify psychosocial stressors and factors (i.e., triggers, coping strategies, SEL Competencies and components of STOIC). Working in groups, students will create a self-management plan (i.e. behavior intervention plan) that includes strategies to address the levels of escalation and de-escalation for the student in the vignette. This plan will be placed in their Portfolio.

Unit 4 : Growth Mindset

This unit is designed to increase students’ Growth Mindset, a competency required for personal and professional success in the field of education. Growth Mindset is the belief that individuals can grow their talents with effort, learn from criticism, and persist in the face of setbacks. Students will analyze a fiction or nonfiction narrative,  cite evidence of a character’s Growth Mindset, and record their observations within their Interactive Notebook. In addition, pairs of students will create a presentation in which they link Growth Mindset elements to a non-chapter children’s book of their choice.

1. Recognize Elements of Growth Mindset within a Text. After learning the elements of the Growth Mindset model (challenge, obstacle, effort, feedback, success), students read and analyze a novel or nonfiction text (i.e., Tuesdays with Morrie) to identify evidence which supports the premise that the main character has a Growth Mindset. The students record their observations in ongoing Interactive Notebook entries, demonstrating they have learned how to connect a text to the more abstract elements of growth mindset, so they will be able to use this textual example to model SEL competencies and in the next assignment teach these same competencies using  a picture book as textual evidence. Students learn that there is inherent value in the process and progress when meeting a challenge. Students also learn about mitigating mistakes, learning from loss, and overcoming adversity, all of which are key elements of a Growth Mindset.

2. Identify Elements of Growth Mindset in Literature. Students will work in pairs to select a non-chapter children’s book (appropriate for the age of students they would prefer to teach) which includes the components of Growth Mindset (challenge, obstacle, effort, feedback, success.) The students work cooperatively to compose a written analysis of the text from a Growth Mindset lens, using evidence from the text to support each component. Then students will present their analysis in front of the whole class;  one student will read the children’s book as the other student provides the analytical commentary identifying the elements of Growth Mindset, as appropriate (i.e, Mystery Science Theater 3000 format). This analysis will be placed in the student’s Portfolio.

Unit 5 : Self-Efficacy

When individuals believe they can succeed in achieving an outcome or reaching a goal, they demonstrate the SEL competency of Self-Efficacy, which also reflects confidence in an ability to control or manage self- motivation and behavior. Using their Interactive Notebooks, students will create a WOOP goal and record their progress focusing on increasing their Self-Efficacy. Additionally, students will learn the five influences which develop Self-Efficacy, and use this knowledge to design, administer, and analyze a Self-Efficacy survey.

1. Design Self-Efficacy Survey. Students will learn the definition of Self-Efficacy and the 5 influences that promote Self-Efficacy (performance experience, vicarious experience, social persuasion, imaginal experience, physical and emotional states.) The students will work in pairs to design a survey to assess their peers’ Self-Efficacy. Then students individually administer the survey to students on their campus. After surveying their peers, students will analyze the data. Based on the results, students provide recommendations for how to build Self-Efficacy within the students in a classroom. Each student will present their findings and recommendations within a small group.

2. Create WOOP Goals. Students identify a prior goal they set and failed to meet. Students reflect upon the obstacles in reaching their goal using the knowledge they have gained about Growth Mindset and Self-Efficacy. The students are taught the components of a WOOP Goal (Wish, Obstacle, Outcome, Plan) and use them to create an academic, a social-emotional, and a personal goal. Each week they will use their Interactive Notebooks to record their progress, setbacks, and adjustments along the way to obtaining their goals.

Unit 6 : Social-Awareness

Social Awareness is a key social emotional competency that requires the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports. Students will initially develop an understanding of empathy and appreciation of diversity within themselves and their peers through a self-reflection process that results in a  student’s individual presentation of their public and private personas. Students will then transfer this knowledge to the role of a classroom teacher by interviewing teachers regarding their use of the social awareness competency in their classroom, and then designing a classroom management plan that promotes social-awareness for both the teacher and the students.

1. Self-Reflection and Class Presentation to Promote Social Awareness. In order to better understand their personal growth in the SEL competencies, students will review the writing in their Interactive Notebook to reflect on each of the competencies they have learned throughout the year. They will also examine the way their family history, cultural background, and personal experiences have influenced their unique understanding and expression of these competencies. Students will use this understanding of themselves to create a visual representation in which they distinguish between the parts of themselves they easily project to the rest of the world and the parts they keep concealed (i.e., images that represent their public identity will be displayed on the outside of a paper bag and items representing their personal identity will be placed inside the bag). Students will then present this combination of visual representation and personal artifacts first in small groups, then to the whole class. By viewing these presentations, students will gain a deeper understanding of their peers allowing them to develop characteristics of social awareness such as empathy and an appreciation for diversity. Students will then reflect on how this learning will affect them personally and professionally in their Interactive Notebook.

2. Teacher Interviews and Classroom Management Plan to Promote Social Awareness. As future teachers, students need to understand that social awareness skills are not only demonstrated by the teacher, but also that the teacher must cultivate those skills within the students in the classroom. Students will interview two teachers, using questions developed by the class, to better understand how teachers build a healthy, safe, classroom environment by promoting positive social skills within themselves and their students.  Students will write up the results of the interview and then share what they have learned in a classroom discussion, where students can come to understand there are many different ways to develop social awareness in a classroom setting. Students will work in pairs to design a classroom management plan that establishes effective classroom procedures and expectations that align with a self-selected developmental stage in The Growing Child. This will be placed in the student’s Portfolio.

3. Student Awareness Campaign. Based on their increased social awareness of the needs and challenges faced by students at a self-selected developmental level, groups of 3-4 students  will research an issue and develop a campaign to support student awareness of that particular issue (e.g., campaign of kindness, suicide awareness and prevention). The campaign will deliver information in a student-selected format (e.g., brochure, poster, presentation) about the issue, as well as resources and supports for and how knowledge of this issue can help to promote health and wellness in themselves and a larger community. This campaign could be done in person or through social media. It could be done within the class, campus-wide, or district wide. Evidence of this campaign will be included in their Portfolio.

Unit 7 : Culminating Project

In this unit, students will complete the culminating project. Students will be applying all of their knowledge gathered throughout this course and applying it to practical application in the teaching profession.

Working with a partner, students will design a lesson to be given to students in their self-selected developmental stage (elementary, middle school, or high school). The lesson will focus on a specific Social Emotional Learning competency: Self awareness, self-management, growth mindset, self-efficacy, or social awareness. The culmination of the lesson will include an artifact that demonstrates learning on the part of the targeted student population (e.g. exit ticket, short writing assignment, drawing). Prior to delivering the lesson, the students will have received feedback from the teacher/peers and appropriate revisions will be made. The lesson will be delivered in a classroom that corresponds to their chosen developmental stage and the students delivering the lesson will be evaluated by the teacher of record for that class, based on a rubric previously created by the class. The delivery of the lesson will also be video recorded. Following the delivery of the lesson, each student will write an individual reflective essay. In this essay, students should reflect on the overall effectiveness of their lesson and what changes could be made to improve the lesson for future classes. Finally, the students will produce a 3-5 minute presentation, using video from the delivery of their lesson, that demonstrates their own observations, as noted in their individual reflections.

Course Materials

Title: Tuesdays with Morrie
Edition: Any
Publication Date: 1997
Publisher: Doubleday
Author: Mitch Albom
Usage: Primary Text

Title: The Growing Child
Edition: First
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Pearson
Author: Denise Boyd, Helen Bee
Usage: Primary Text

Lesson plan templates  

True Colors Personality Test 

Self-Awareness, Blind Spots, and the Johari Window/ 

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts 

Self-Awareness Introduction Flyer - Fresno Unified School District (Select “Edit in Word” to see the document properly)

Transforming Education SEL resources 

Self- Management Definition

Self-efficacy definition 

Growth Mindset Definition 

Social Awareness Definition 

Unlocking the Door to Learning: Trauma Informed Classrooms and Transformational Schools 

Young adult novels to teach growth mindset 

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