Social and Emotional Learning

Social and Emotional Learning at Open Window School


Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a fundamental component of the Open Window School experience.

At Open Window School, we believe that young people become successful, healthy, life-long learners, when they are empowered to navigate their social and emotional world. Our students have high intellectual potential and diverse learning styles which can be a gift and a challenge. The integration of SEL in our advisory and learning platforms allows student voice and choice, identity development, emotional regulation, cultural competency, managing relationships and resiliency skills. Through intentional instruction, modeling, and opportunities for authentic practice, we foster the development of growth mindset and the emotional skills that students need to better understand themselves and what it means to be a part of a community.


The Responsive Classroom approach is used in all school environments to create a safe and engaging climate for building community and learning. Morning meeting and advisory provide students with a daily connection with their teachers and classmates to set the tone for the day. In the classroom, teachers use practices including interactive modeling, teacher language strategies, logical consequences, and interactive learning structures to respond to students in developmentally and culturally responsive ways.

Social and Emotional Learning in Lower School

In Lower School, SEL is formally taught twice weekly; however, learning takes place organically throughout the entire school day and in all environments as students interact with their peers and their teachers.  

Our program addresses five core competencies: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills and Responsible Decision Making. Each year builds with concepts that are developmentally appropriate and relevant to the needs of our students. We do not use one set curriculum, but instead teachers and counselors collaboratively create lessons and gather ideas and activities from a multitude of resources. This process allows us to provide experiential lessons where students are actively engaged in the learning. Lessons might include role play, puppet stories, community building activities, partner or class discussion, self-reflection, group problem solving, and many other active learning experiences.  

In addition, our program includes lessons on Digital Citizenship, Character Traits, Executive Function Skills, and Mindfulness. First and third grade students participate in lessons focused on personal safety, and fourth grade students participate in sexuality and health education.   

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  • Kindergarten

    In Kindergarten, students begin by learning the basic vocabulary of emotions and progress through a variety of topics such as active listening, appreciation of others, what it means to be a friend, self-calming strategies, and many more. 
  • First to Fourth Grades

    In first through fourth grades, students continue to address topics that are age appropriate and applicable to their needs. They learn critical interpersonal skills such as “I- statements” and finding win/win solutions. They compare and assess the value of different communication styles such as assertive, passive-aggressive, etc., and discuss how these styles help or hinder problem-solving efforts. Social awareness is emphasized through lessons that foster perspective taking skills and develop increased empathy for others. We also provide activities that promote self-awareness and self-management. Students learn about character traits such as gratitude and persistence, along with Executive Function skills such as flexibility, planning and organization, and impulse control. They practice Mindfulness techniques to develop their attention, concentration and sense of well-being. 

Social and Emotional Learning in Middle School

The Middle School Advisory and SEL Program is committed to nurturing of the maturation of adolescents. By building on the five core SEL competencies, adolescents learn to recognize and regulate emotions, care about others, develop positive relationships, behave ethically and responsibly, and make good decisions. 

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  • Structure

    All middle school students are part of a small grade-level advisory group, which meets daily. The structure of the advisory program has various components. Students begin their day in advisory groups with a 10-minute morning “check-in” to help increase students’ self and social awareness. They end their day with a 10-minute “check-out” that reinforces critical executive functioning skills, such as planning, prioritization and organization. Advisory groups eat lunch together once a week, as well as meet for 45 minutes where they experience a specific SEL lesson on a foundational or emerging social-emotional topic. In addition to these scheduled advisory times, there are opportunities each month for Class Meetings and Open Sessions. Class Meetings give the students a voice for discussing school-related issues and allows them to utilize their shared problem-solving abilities. In Open Sessions, students respond to specific student-generated issues through an intentional, supportive exchange of listening and ideas. 

    Our advisory curriculum represents best practices for social-emotional learning in independent schools today. Our teachers and counselors collaboratively design lessons that are developmentally appropriate to both provide a foundation of applicable skills, and to be responsive to the needs of students as they emerge. We use a variety of resources in this process such as materials from the Nueva Institute for Social-Emotional Learning, Teaching Tolerance, Common Sense Media, Stanford Program for Gifted Youth and many more.  We also consult with experts on specific social-emotional topics such as relational aggression and cultural diversity to strengthen our knowledge and competencies in these areas. 
  • Foundational Skills

    The core middle school advisory curriculum is comprised of five foundation skill areas: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills and Responsible Decision Making. All lessons are differentiated by grade level and follow a developmentally appropriate scope and sequence. Additional topics under each of the foundation skills include: 

    • Self-Awareness: Emotions and Neuroscience, Mindset and Resilience, Personal Typology and Learning Styles, Impact of Self on Others 
    • Self-Management: Emotional Regulation, Stress Management, Mindfulness and Relaxation 
    • Social Awareness: Teambuilding, Empathy and Inclusiveness, Appreciating Differences, Giving/Receiving Feedback 
    • Relationship Skills: Effective Communication, Conflict Resolution, Assertiveness and Self-Advocacy 
    • Responsible Decision Making:  Goal Setting, Problem-Solving and Leadership Skills 

Meet the Counselors

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  • Photo of Kristen Kennebrew

    Kristen Kennebrew 

    School Counselor
  • Photo of Kelly Crowe-Yrarrázaval

    Kelly Crowe-Yrarrázaval 

    School Counselor
Open Window School provides a challenging academic curriculum blended with nurturing support from teachers that prepares students for long-term success.