September 24, 2021

Webinar Recap: How Innovative Schools Teach CASEL Competencies with Current Events

An analysis by CASEL found that students who strengthen their SEL skills see an increase in their academic scores by 11 percentile points compared to a student who does not. But these days it can be hard to keep up with the most current social-emotional learning trends and best practices. Here at The Social Institute, we strive to empower students through modern-day SEL.

Through our #WinAtSocial Live Lessons, we highlight timely topics using lessons built around current events. Our lessons are created in alignment with the 5 CASEL competencies; self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness.

To have even more of an impact, we can teach these competencies through current events that students navigate on a day-to-day basis. In our webinar, How Innovative Schools Teach CASEL Competencies with Current Events, The Social Institute’s very own Lauren Stone and Andrea Jenkins highlighted how educators can overcome the challenges of discussing current events in the classroom and use them to teach CASEL Competencies. During the webinar, teachers were challenged to Handle The Pressure of discussing sensitive topics and uncovering common ground in the classroom.

Throughout the webinar, attendees learned how to: 

  • Support positive classroom discussions about unity and resilience.
  • Navigate important topics that impact students directly, even if they are polarizing.
  • Bring current events into the classroom without losing students’ attention.
  • Find positive steps students can take to build stronger communities.

You can watch the webinar here or continue reading about the essential takeaways below.


Driving engagement through today’s current events

There are tons of effective approaches to empowering students with social-emotional learning. One of the more engaging methods is to incorporate current events. By discussing what’s happening in the world today, you intuitively connect the conversation to students’ lives, what they’re seeing in the news, and the situations they’re navigating on a daily basis. You also help keep them informed.

Current events provide a relatable gateway to implement meaningful, engaging SEL with students. High school English teacher Larry Ferlazzo says, “For many students, the invitation to focus on timely topics- from pop culture to political controversies- is a surefire way to increase engagement.”

Our most recent live lesson, “Recognizing the power of unity and resilience on the 20th anniversary of 9/11,” focused on empowering educators to discuss the importance of unity and resilience in a time of distress. This lesson highlighted the unity shown during the 9/11 Boatlift and explored acts of service students can participate in to support our communities. Additionally, this lesson provided an avenue to discuss the current events taking place in Afghanistan. 


Discussing sensitive current events

Many current events today seem to be politicized, divisive, and difficult to navigate, especially for teachers whose role is to remain unbiased. By providing students with the facts and information and equipping them to think critically, we allow them to make an informed decision for themselves.

At The Social Insitute, we thoroughly research and co-create our lessons with students to provide educators with the resources to accomplish that. Our goal is to empower teachers to address these top-of-of-mind topics in a safe space for students to learn and express their thoughts, ask questions, and have civil discourse with their peers. 

Trending topics driving current events lessons

Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, The Social Institute released many LIVE Lessons on current events that appeared as trending Google searches. The Social Insitute translated these topics into some of our most popular and engaging lessons of the year, from how to respectfully navigate the 2020 election to raising awareness about the wildfires in the country. This engagement shows that educators and students want to discuss what is going on in the world. 

Schools know they need to address these relevant topics. “As a former admin, we used the hunt & gather approach to provide resources,” Andrea Jenkins recalled of her time as an educator. 

The Social Institute makes it simple and effective for teachers to teach CASEL Competencies through these current events. For example, our lesson on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 strengthened students’ responsible decision-making. Throughout the lesson, students reflected on their role to promote personal, family, & community well-being and evaluated personal, interpersonal, community, and institutional impacts.

For a complete breakdown and specific steps for how schools can teach CASEL Competencies with current events in the classroom, watch the entire webinar on-demand. For other helpful tips, strategies, and ideas, follow us on social media @thesocialinst or contact us over email.

You can also check out our other past recorded webinars and keep an eye on our regularly updated webinar schedules for upcoming timely webinars, featuring guest thought-leaders and relevant research and insights.

About The Social Institute

The Social Institute partners with schools nationwide to empower students, families, and educators to positively navigate social-emotional health, social media, and technology. Schools access our student-respected, turnkey curriculum through, an interactive, gamified learning platform. With solutions for students, parents, and educators, we offer a systemic and comprehensive SEL program through a unique and positive approach. We are proud to serve public and independent partners such as Ravenscroft School, Woodward Academy, Oldfields School, All Saints Episcopal School, Lake Forest School District, Boston Public Schools, and more. For more information on how to empower your students to make high-character decisions online and off, please contact us.