Three diverse professional woman look at a poster paper with one pointing at it.

Model SEL for Students: Five Social and Emotional Competencies Gallery Walk

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.


Schoolwide social and emotional learning (SEL) is a systemic approach to infusing social and emotional learning into every part of students’ educational experience — across all classrooms, during all parts of the school day and out-of-school time, and in partnership with families and communities.

Modeling SEL offers students positive examples of how to navigate stress and frustration, and maintain healthy relationships while simultaneously influencing the learning climate.

This activity may also be combined with a process for developing Shared Staff Agreements, or for engaging staff in Reflecting on Personal SEL Skills. While this activity is targeted around modeling SEL for students, it can be adapted or expanded to include considerations for how staff will model SEL in their interactions with other staff, families, community partners, etc.


This activity should be used after staff have had an opportunity to engage in foundational learning on SEL.

This activity and additional resources/guides for it are on pp. 41-43 of the provided CASEL resource.

  • Write each of the five social and emotional competencies on large poster paper, and hang them up around the room.
  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Management
  3. Social Awareness
  4. Relationship Skills
  5. Responsible Decision-Making
  • Welcome staff and ask them to reflect on the quote:
    • “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them” – James Baldwin in “Fifth Avenue, Uptown” published in Esquire, July 1960
  • Have the group partner up, and share what this quote means to them, and how it relates to promoting students’ SEL.
  • Review each of the five core social and emotional competencies, and how they connect to student outcomes and lifelong success. (Handout in the Resources section above)
  • Prompt staff to think about how students learn these competencies in many ways – through classroom lessons, through afterschool groups, and by “imitating” the way that adults model these competencies.
  • Ask everyone to write for one minute to reflect on one way they demonstrated a social and emotional competency when interacting with students in the previous week.
  • Divide into five groups, and assign each group to one of the SEL competency posters hanging around the room.
  • Give everyone 5 minutes at their poster to collectively brainstorm how staff can model this competency in their interactions with students. As they brainstorm, a notetaker in each group should record ideas on the poster paper.
  • After five minutes, ask the group to move to the next poster, read what the previous group has written, then add on to the existing ideas.
  • Rotate until each group has gone to every poster.
  • Provide an opportunity for staff to do a “gallery walk” around all five posters.
  • After everyone returns to their seats, ask them to write on a post-it one specific way they will model SEL in their interactions with students in the coming week.
  • Ask staff to share what they wrote in small groups, then close out the activity.
  • After this activity, your SEL team can synthesize and type up the ideas to create printed posters or one-pagers that can be distributed to all staff, used in team meetings, and/or hung in classrooms.

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