Improve Every Part of Lesson Plans with SEL

Improve Every Lesson Plan with SEL 
By Jeffrey Benson
(ASCD, 2021 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Michael DiClemente

Like many educators, I have spent time trying to put myself in students’ shoes and anticipate what they might need as they enter my classroom. As the tumult of last school year came to an end, I quickly turned my attention to the 2021-2022 school year.

The week after school ended I joined other district volunteers in getting trained to work with educators to incorporate SEL into all classrooms. It was at this time that I became aware of Improve Every Lesson Plan with SEL by Jeffrey Benson.

Benson’s book is the perfect supplement to any district’s SEL program. The book offers practical, ready-to-use advice, and it will be especially attractive to educators who may be apprehensive about adding any more to their plate.

At the heart of the book is this message: SEL is not a lesson, but a necessary component to all lesson plans.

Inside the cover

The chapters are designed to cover different parts of the lesson plan, from opening to closing. This feature makes it a useful tool in that you can focus on one part at a time, and you do not necessarily have to read the book cover to cover before you begin to make good use of it.

Benson is also intentional about providing ideas for all grade levels. Each chapter ends with a question-and-answer section to further explain those details that may still be on your mind as you reach the end of the discussion.

Incorporating SEL from start to finish

Educators still have different ideas about what SEL is and how useful it is to their classroom routine. Benson does a fantastic job of explaining not only SEL’s importance but some simple ways to incorporate SEL every day in your classroom.

One of these simple pieces of advice is to properly close a lesson. You could do this by a simple turn-and-talk to check for understanding with a partner. After the irregularity of the last two school years, we have all come to realize it is imperative to stay focused on SEL in our classrooms.

I like Benson’s perspective on page 90:

We need to recover in all children the inherent joy of discovery and the excitement of having their own wonderful ideas. Choice helps, think time helps – and crucially, so does teachers’ unbridled curiosity about the idiosyncratic journeys taking place in their students’ brains as they explore, experiment, and mess about. This is where SEL has to be an intentional part of the lesson plan.

Improve Every Lesson Plan with SEL is chock-full of checklists, prompts, and a useful appendix that will make the book an indispensable tool. Most all of us (and especially our students) are experiencing a trauma unlike any we have faced in our lifetimes. Let’s engage with students and “Remember, student silence and compliance are not the epitome of SEL (page 116).”

Michael DiClemente began teaching in 2005 and after about five years took a bit of a break. He came to his current position as a sixth grade history teacher in 2013. He has held several leadership positions and is currently a mentor teacher and SEL trainer. Michael is completing practicum hours for his principal’s license. [September 2022 update: Michael is now an assistant principal in his district.]


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