Highline Public Schools
15675 Ambaum Blvd. SW Burien, WA 98166

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Highline Public Schools
15675 Ambaum Blvd. SW Burien, WA 98166

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3 Signature SEL Practices for the Classroom


Time: 1-10 minutes

Activities for Inclusion

Establish safety and predictability. Support contribution by all voices. Set norms for respectful listening. Encourage students to connect with one another.

Culturally-responsive Commitments

  • Express joy in seeing students
  • Focus on community building
  • Integrate student culture and background
  • Integrate social justice principles
  • Promote interpersonal interactions
  • Include student voice in announcements and leadership
  • Act as “warm demanders” (warm affect, plus rigor and high expectations)

Class Examples

  • Hold class circles and morning meetings
  • Check in with RULER Mood Meter and charter
  • Start with positive expectations, feedback and/or celebrations
  • Play name games to develop relationships
  • Welcome students warmly in all settings, on time or late
  • Make breakfast/snacks easily accessible.
  • This translates to “glad to see you!”


Time: 1-15 minutes

Sense-Making and “Brain Breaks

Intentionally build SEL skills. Foster relationships, cultural humility and cultural responsiveness. Promote empowerment and collaboration.

Culturally-responsive Commitments

  • Use empowering teacher language
  • Plan and reflect based on student work
  • Encourage problem-solving among students
  • Develop ethnic and racial identity
  • Analyze opportunity gaps and stereotype threats
  • Engage with service learning and community
  • Utilize student and community funds of knowledge

Class Examples

  • Instruct on standards-based SEL skills
  • Model and practice classroom routines
  • Give turn-and-talk time to practice sharing and listening
  • Give brain breaks and let students stand/stretch
  • Give opportunities for participatory student interaction
  • Use RULER Mood Meter strategy lessons, Meta-Moments, Blueprints, restorative conferences, Second Step Lessons
  • Provide inquiry - and project-based learning


Time: 3-5 minutes

Reflections and Looking Forward

End the day with reflection. Have students name something that helps them leave on an optimistic note. Create a moment that makes students look forward to returning tomorrow.

Culturally-responsive Commitments

  • Give an lesson overview
  • Use prompts such as:
    • What worked today? This week?
    • What is right with our students...our class...our school... our community?
    • What problems did I help fix or repair today?
    • What did I learn about my identity that makes me proud?
  • Identify RULER charter champions

Class Examples

  • Have students consider:
    • What is something I learned today?
    • Who is someone I was able to help?
    • Who helped or was kind to me?
    • What is something I want to share with my family?
    • What is something I’m looking forward to doing tomorrow?
    • What is something I enjoyed about the day?

Signature practices modified by Highline Public Schools (2019) based on: “Three Signature SEL Practices.” Oakland Unified School District, 2016, and; “Three Signature SEL Practices for the Classroom,” Washoe County School District, 2017 

Further reading on "Culturally-responsive commitments and examples" Ginwright (2018), The Future of Healing: Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement ; Hammond (2015), Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain; Jagers, Rivas-Drake, & Borowski (2018), Equity & Social and Emotional Learning: A Cultural Analysis.