Social & Emotional Learning and Wellness » Step 4: SELWELL Strategies

Step 4: SELWELL Strategies

The next step on our SEL-Well roadmap involves the strategies teachers can add to their toolkit to support student engagement and growth. 

Note of caution: The average time it takes adults to create and sustain a new routine or behavior is about 30-days of daily practice. Try these skills with a student for about a month before you expect them to work.
  1. Student behaviors are communication to us about them
  2. Identifying student behavior early, understanding its' meaning and responding is a skill. 
  3. Increasing our capacity to respond to common behaviors will increase our impact with students in learning.
  4. Reduced time-off learning.
  5. Teaching transferable SELWEL skills to students. 
Why Should I Do It?
  • To provide students with a brain break/interruption and allow them to cool down/settle/use a regulation skill to return to time-on-learning.
  • To allow students time away from a stressful or potentially stressful situation.
  • To interrupt an emerging/escalating conflict between students/between students and adults.

Why Should I Do it?
  • When a student gets off task and is beginning to become disruptive.
  • When a student is beginning to be argumentative or confrontational with peers or adults.
  • When a student is refusing to follow a reasonably stated direction/request.
What You Will Need
  • A laminated “Pass” card, or paper-slip. A hand held timer (or student-phone).
  • A previously identified coping space outside of the classroom (if sending the student out of the classroom for their break).
  • A visual prompt/menu of coping strategies to use during break.
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What is It?
“Errands” or “Tasking” is a way of giving structured breaks for students who need more structure, or concrete praise, in their breaks. 
Who Should I Try This With?
This differentiation can be positive for students with developmental disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders, attentional difficulties/ADHD, or for students who have ‘quick motors’ and need structured movement breaks. It is also an effective intervention for students who like to please adults, or who like to be helpful. 
Why Should I Do It?
  • Provides concrete, action-oriented tasks for students who need mental breaks with structure.
  • Provides student opportunity to move outside of the classroom when
  • Fosters reciprocal relationship between students and teachers.
  • Gives student opportunities to be helpful to others, demonstrate leadership and value to their community. 
When Should I Do it?
As above, any time a student would benefit from a break. 
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What Is It?
To check in with a student during classroom instruction.
Why Should I Do it?
  • Increases or improves the teacher-student relationship
  • Provides individual attention to a student when they appear to need support
  • Can help you provide earlier interventions with students
  • Helps prevents students disrupting the whole class
  • Gains focus and attention to the student

When Should I Do It?
  • zWhen you already know the student and have a relationship with them
  • When you are processing a problem with a student "in the moment"
  • When a student is becoming disruptive or misbehaving
  • When a student's non-verbal communication seems upset, sad, frustrated, or otherwise distracted
  • For students who benefit from frequent adult support

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“Right now, we’re all working on independent reading. Can you independently read where you are sitting, or would you like to move somewhere else where you can have less distractions."
"Everyone is starting to find a partner for group work. Would you like me to help you find a partner/group?"
"When people are independently reading, we all need to do our part to limit distractions. If you can be quiet and no distract others, you can stay here for reading. If you don't think that will work for you, I can help you find a space in the hallway to read."

  • "Hey, I noticed that you put your head down on your desk for a few minutes. Are you OK?"
  • Your facial expression looks like you're not OK, and I see that you have stopped doing the class tasks. How are you doing?"
  • "Over the last few minutes, I have watched you interact with the people next to you four times. Do you need help with something?"
  • Hey, _______[Describe observation] isn't like you. What's up?"
  • Be careful not to make physical contact with student, and try not to corner students or face them directly; join alongside students/next to them whenever possible.
  • Do not attempt a check in with a student if you don’t feel calm.  Ask another adult to check-in with the student.
  • If student’s escalate the intervention, ask the student to participate in a Hallway Chat/1:1 check in.
  • Don’t worry about students making eye contact, as it may make them uncomfortable or view it as a sign of disrespect. 
Why Should I Do It?
  • Provides students with organization and structure about school-day.
  • Increases "on task" behavior by providing a sense of what will happen next.
  • Improves productivity, by focusing students on the structure of the day.
  • Increases students’ independence and responsibility.
  • Teaches students to use time more efficiently.
  • Supports the needs of visual learners.

When Should I Do It?
  • When teaching students with attentional difficulties or ADHD.  
  • When teaching students with Autism Spectrum Disorders or weaknesses with verbal communication.
  • With students that have trouble managing time and assignment completion.
  • When students are wandering, off task, or lagging behind the rest of the class.
  • When students exhibit poor executive functioning/decision making.
  • When students have difficulty with transitions.

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What Is It?
Deep breathing is a regulation skill that can measurably lower experiences of stress by encouraging mindfulness. Breathing techniques are helpful in situations where a student is upset or dysregulated, and unable to regulate independently.

Who Should I Try This With?
  • Students who aren’t able to complete a self check-in process.
  • Students who need explicit coaching to soothe/regulate.


  • With groups of students who need support to regulate.

Why Should I Do It?
  • Students can get overwhelmed easily.
  • Many students benefit from explicit teaching of ‘calming skills’.
  • Many students feel overwhelmed/upset, but do not have the skills to know how to feel better.
  • Intentional breathing has been shown to measurably increase calmness in stressful situations/experiences.

When Should I Do It?
  • When you see a student becoming frustrated (banging things, groaning,
  • crying, refusing to do work).
  • When a student is involved in a mild confrontation with another student.
  • When a student has a lot of work to do and is struggling to start.
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What Is It?

Reassurance is a strategy that teachers can use with students exhibiting anxiety, work avoidance, or difficulty persevering through challenges. It is an excellent way of building confidence for academic challenges.

Who Should I Try This With?

  • Students with lots of anxiety/worry.
  • Students who are not starting work, but who have demonstrated capacity.
  • Students who give up easily.
  • Students who benefit from lots of adult attention.

Why Should I Do It?

  • Some students need verbal attention regarding their ability.
  • Some students crave and need adult attention/approval.
  • Shows students you care and are invested.

When Should I Do It?

  • When a student gets frustrated with an academic challenge.
  • When a student verbally expresses he/she can’t do something.
  • When a student won’t initiate work.

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What Is It?

Some students, particularly those with attentional difficulties or ADHD, can struggle to sit still for extended periods of time. Rigid demands/expectations around sitting can lead to increased distress, staff/student conflict and lost learning-time.

Who Should I Try This With?

  • With any student who seems to have a "running motor".
  • With any student with attentional difficulties or ADHD.
  • Students who might need frequent movement when calm/regulated.
  • Students who become distracting to themselves or others during class.

Why Should I Do It?

  • Creates a working relationship with student without calling attention to the student in a negative manner.
  • Discrete and quick intervention.
  • Saves instruction time.
  • Makes students more comfortable and likely to participate and be involved.
  • Easy-to-do and effective.
  • Improves and builds student confidence and self esteem.

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