SEL-Related Approach

Several current innovative perspectives on educational practice are aligned with SEL or create opportunities for SEL. Approaches like mindfulness, student-centered practices, and college and career readiness support student development and often create opportunities for students to practice competencies.

Preschool and Elementary SEL-Related Approaches

City Year’s Whole Child Whole School Model:

  • The Whole School Whole Child model engages teams of 8 to 12 City Year AmeriCorps members to serve full-time in underserved and under-resourced schools as tutors, mentors, and role models. Corps members support classroom teachers by providing one-on-one and small group instruction in math, literacy, and social emotional skill building, engaging students in extended-day activities, and leading positive whole school events. All interactions between AmeriCorps members and students are guided by a consistent youth development approach. This asset-based mindset allows City Year AmeriCorps members to build positive near peer relationships with students, and model social and emotional competencies. The City Year AmeriCorps members are also trained in the Clover Model which provides a common language to consider student development, access strengths, and provide learning experiences in four categories: active engagement, assertiveness, belonging, and reflection.
  • Results from a quasi-experimental evaluation using data from 2010 to 2014 support the effectiveness of City Year’s Whole School, Whole Child program. The evaluation included 678 schools (Economically disadvantaged = 81%, Limited English Proficient = 18%). The evaluation found that elementary, middle, and high school students who participated in the program achieved higher standardized test scores in math, and elementary and high school students achieved higher standardized test scores in English compared to students in the comparison group (outcomes achieved one year after baseline). Although outcomes demonstrate significant increases in standardized test scores for the intervention group, their analyses did not adjust for pre-test outcomes.

Middle and High School SEL-Related Approaches

.b (mindfulness):

  • .b (pronounced “dot b”) is a mindfulness program for 11-18-year-olds (nine sessions plus an Introduction) that was developed, and is primarily used in the United Kindom but translated into many languages, including Spanish. A USA version is being used in schools in North America. The program focuses on developing attention training skills which, in turn, are associated with strategies and techniques for managing anxiety and reactivity and improving sleep, self-esteem, and concentration. Students explore how this attention training can help to improve the quality of their behavior and performance in, for example, the classroom, on the sports field, and in the performing arts. Each session takes a different theme, typically including a brief presentation by the teacher with the help of lively, student-oriented visuals, film and sound images, and practical exercises and demonstrations to make the ideas vivid and relevant to students’ lives.
  • .b is designed to be taught by classroom teachers who have completed their own course of mindfulness training and who also engage in regular daily mindful practice, prior to receiving the training to teach .b.
  • A quasi-experimental study (Kuyken, Weare, Ukoumunne, Lewis, Motton, Burnett, & Cullen, 2013) with 487 predominantly white students (71.8% White, 16.2% Asian) found lower depression among participating students at both post-test (at nine weeks) and follow-up (three months later). The study also found improved well-being at follow-up although not at post-test.

Inner Explorer (mindfulness):

  • Inner Explorer Program provides educators with daily 5-10 minute mindfulness practices. These audio recordings focus on helping students prepare for learning and equipping them with intrapersonal techniques for naming and handling negative emotions like stress, anger, and anxiety. Intrapersonal skills practiced include breathing/relaxation exercise, emotional regulation, and learning awareness of senses. Inner Explorer offers programming for universal student populations of students in grades PreK-12. Depending on the tier of the subscription, Inner Explorer also provides mindfulness recordings for teachers, school counselors, and parents. Additionally, the program offers tools for encouraging students to share their newly learned skills with their parents/caregivers.
  • Inner Explorer’s digital design facilitates easy implementation. Educators manage the program through a digital portal, where they can access all recordings, student usage data, tools for connecting to families, and other resources. Educators access the portal via a web browser or smartphone app. Inner Explorer offers a range of training and implementation support options, including phone technical assistance, online training webinars, and onsite training/coaching visits.
  • Results from a quasi-experimental (QE) evaluation published in 2015 supported the effectiveness of the Inner Explorer program for elementary school students. In sum, these evaluations included 191 3rd grade students (23% of students were eligible for FRPL). This evaluation found that students receiving the Inner Explorer program showed significantly greater growth in teacher-reported reading and science grades than the control group (outcomes reported approximately eight weeks after baseline, while controlling for outcome pretest).

Kripalu Yoga (mindfulness):

  • Kripalu Yoga in the Schools (24 sessions) is a yoga-based program that includes three modules: Fundamentals of Yoga for Self-Management; The Role of the Physical Body in Self-Management; and Taking Yoga Out into the World. Each lesson contains centering/breathing exercises, information, experiential activities, warm-ups, yoga poses, relaxation, and closure. Direct instruction of competencies is minimal other than self-awareness and self-management, although the program is likely to create a context where students develop relationships and a sense of an ethical community.
  • The Kripalu Yoga in the Schools curriculum is designed to be implemented by certified yoga teachers who have received the 60-hour teacher training. Many Kripalu Yoga in the Schools teachers are both classroom teachers and yoga teachers.
  • A small randomized control study (n=51) involving predominantly white high school students (Noggle, Steiner, Minami, & Khalsa, 2012) found that students who were randomly assigned to the yoga group vs. PE as usual (classes were led by a yoga instructor rather than classroom teacher) had improved mood and reduced tension at the post-test at ten weeks relative to control students.

SKY Schools (mindfulness):

  • Sky Schools is an SEL-aligned mindfulness program that aims to improve school climate and student outcomes through free-standing lessons and academic integration. The curriculum designed for ages 13-18 was evaluated for this review; however, Sky Schools does offer programming appropriate for grades PreK-12. The adolescent curriculum focuses on stress-reduction exercises and life-skills. The program is designed to either integrate into health and physical education classes or be offered as an independent session during the school day.
  • The curriculum features thirty lessons and is ideally facilitated over four weeks to students in groups of 25-30 (though the schedule of implementation can be adjusted according to the needs of the school). Throughout the program, students learn and practice breathing techniques aimed at fostering self-awareness and self-management. Additionally, each lesson features an activity and discussion relating to maintaining a healthy mind, body, and lifestyle. Topics include relationships with parents, healthy lifestyle habits, techniques for regulating emotions. The program is intended to be co-facilitated by a Sky Schools instructor and a teacher at the school. After the first year of implementation, teachers can pursue a Sky School certification to continue teaching the course independently.
  • The program is initially implemented by Sky School team members, requiring schools to have one full-time Sky Schools facilitator per 500 students. During the first year of implementation, teachers co-facilitate the curriculum as well as participate in a 9-hour educator training. This training parallels the youth curriculum and features online tools and resources for maximizing Sky Schools’ impact on a school’s climate. Teachers who have co-taught the curriculum and completed the course have to option to continue training to become a Sky School facilitator. This process includes an 8-day residential retreat and a mentorship-based training model. 
  • Results from a randomized control trial supported the effectiveness of SKY Schools for middle and high school students. This evaluation included 394 students who were in 7th-10th grade (Hispanic 90%, 91% FRL). This evaluation found that students who participated in the program were found to have a significant increase in total empathy self-reported ratings compared to students in the control group (outcomes reported approximately four weeks after baseline).

Learning to Breathe (mindfulness):

  • Learning to BREATHE (six or 18 sessions) is a high school program that focuses primarily on developing skills related to the self. It is intended to help students (1) recognize the nature of emotions in order to act on them more thoughtfully, (2) understand the nature of thoughts in order to let go of the ones that are harmful to self and others, and (3) improve awareness of physical sensations in order to foster health and well-being. Six lessons are organized around B-R-E-A-T-H: B “Body”; R “Reflections (Thoughts)”; E “Emotions”; A “Attention”; T “Tenderness – Take it as it is”; and H “Healthy Mind Habits.” The overall goal is E “Empowerment.” Each lesson includes activities and in-class mindfulness practice.
  • The program offers a variety of implementation plans, including one that expands the program to 18 sessions. To support implementation teachers receive eight weekly two-hour after-school training sessions based on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. The first four sessions focus primarily on the teacher’s own mindful awareness practice. The remaining sessions focus on helping teachers to become more mindful during teaching.
  • A small quasi-experimental study with 216 predominantly white high school students (Metz, Frank, Reibel, Cantrell, Sanders, & Broderick, 2013) found improved emotional regulation in students after 16 weeks at post-test among students receiving the program relative to control students.

Transformative Life Skills (mindfulness):

    • Transformative Life Skills is a yoga-based program for secondary students that focuses on movement (i.e., yoga), breathing, and meditation. The curriculum consists of 48 scripted lesson plans in four separate units of 12 lessons each that address “The Stress Response,” “Physical and Emotional Awareness,” “Self-Regulation,” and “Healthy Relationships.” Each unit takes four weeks to complete. Weekly lessons are divided into three 20-minute sessions, and each lesson provides opportunities for extensive practice. Extension activities available with the program would help connect the program to broader social and emotional learning, including through community service.

The program can be implemented by yoga Instructors or regular classroom teachers who have received training to support implementation of Transformative Life Skills. The training provides a variety of ways for teachers to integrate breathing, action, and centering practices into their daily instructional routines and teaching practices. Transformative Life Skills can be implemented by regular classroom teachers, and professional development is available in person and online, along with coaching to provide follow- up support.

  • A randomized control study (Frank & Bose, 2013) with 159 students (54.2% Latino, 16.8% African American, and 21.9% mixed race) found that students who received the program as implemented by a program staff person rather than a teacher had improved coping and emotional regulation skills.


As of September 30, 2019, the next review cycle for the CASEL Program Guide is open. The review cycle will officially close on January 31, 2020. Questions about the review should be directed to Brittney Williams.