SEL and the Inquire Shared Foundation: Lesson Ideas with Picture Books

Have you ever thought that all learning is social and emotional learning (SEL)? This is something I recognize as an educator and as a learner. When teaching and learning new ideas, SEL is an essential part of the process. That’s why you’ll find social and emotional skills in state and national standards.

SEL has many definitions with common ideas. At the core of SEL is noticing and regulating feelings and emotions to reach learning goals. SEL gives learners the skills they need to solve problems, work with others, and pursue interests.

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards Framework for Learners provides SEL opportunities in the school library. The Shared Foundations cover social and emotional skills as learners think, create, share and grow.

Inquire Shared Foundation and SEL

Let’s take a close look at the Inquire Shared Foundation. Do you see the SEL terms and phrases in the Key Commitment? You may notice how “developing strategies for solving problems” aligns with SEL. So does “thinking critically” and “identifying problems.”

The Competencies support SEL by engaging learners to display initiative. Learners also practice reflecting on feedback.

Graphic organizer that highlights social and emotional learning skills that are in the Inquire Shared Foundation. Terms like problem solving, reflecting on feedback, and showing initiative are present.

3 Picture Books That Support SEL and the Inquire Shared Foundation

The SEL theme of problem solving shows up in the Inquire Shared Foundation. Part of problem solving is considering our background knowledge. When we mull over how we solved problems in the past, we can apply that knowledge to solve new problems. We build our background knowledge every time we practice investigating a problem.

The following books feature protagonists who use their background knowledge to solve problems. The stories support the SEL theme of Problem Solving and the Inquire/Think AASL Standard.

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Inquire/Think l.A.2 Learners display curiosity and initiative by recalling prior and background knowledge as context for new meaning.

Big Truck Little Island

Imagine living on an island where everyone leaves keys in their vehicles in case a neighbor needs a car. That was the inspiration for Big Truck Little Island by Chris Van Dusen. When a big truck jackknifes and blocks traffic, everyone is stuck. Nobody has time to wait for a tow truck to clear the road. How can the travelers solve this problem? After some discussion, the children come up with a plan. What if they swap cars? That way, everyone will make their destinations. This idea came into play because of their background knowledge. Their community shares cars in times of need.

A Walk in the Words

Think of something that is hard for you. What strategies do you use to help you succeed? In A Walk in the Words by Hudson Talbott, young Hudson has a hard time reading. It takes him a long time to decode words. But Hudson uses his background knowledge to help him be a confident reader. He thinks about how good he is at drawing, and considers how that came to be. He realizes that it took a lot of practice. Hudson decided to apply this background knowledge to reading. With time and practice, he would become a better reader.

Tu Youyou’s Discovery: Finding a Cure for Malaria

In Tu Youyou’s Discovery, we learn how Youyou used her background knowledge to solve a problem. While searching for a cure for malaria, Youyou remembered what helped her when she was sick. A combination of modern and traditional medicine saved her life. This knowledge compelled her to study medicinal plants. She ran many tests on a plant known for reducing fevers. It took 191 experiments, but Youyou found the qinghao plant would cure malaria.

Readers will love learning about Youyou’s work through this beautiful story by Songju Ma Daemicke and Lin. The engaging text and illustrations present a biography that is accessible to young readers.

Lesson Idea

Have you heard of the 3-2-1 Bridge lesson? I learned about this routine by reading Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners (p. 86). The lesson starts by introducing a topic. Ask learners to jot down 3 words that come to mind about the topic. This is a quick response. Then, learners write 2 questions they have about the topic. Next, learners write a metaphor or a simile about the topic.

Follow the same 3-2-1 procedure at the end of the lesson. After recording all ideas, compare notes with the initial exercise. Learners “bridge” their responses by noticing how their ideas connected or shifted. Make learning visible by asking learners to explain their answers with a group.

More SEL Lessons

Want more SEL lesson ideas that support the AASL Standards? Check out my book, Social and Emotional Learning for Picture Book Readers. It’s part of the AASL Standards-Based Learning series from ALA Editions. Purchases of AASL publications and products fund advocacy, leadership, professional development, and standards initiatives for school librarians nationally. ALA Edition purchases fund advocacy, awareness, and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide.

Works Cited:

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making thinking visible. Jossey Bass Wiley.


Author: Maureen Schlosser

Author: Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades and Social and Emotional Learning for Picture Book Readers published by ALA Editions
Skillshare Teacher:

Categories: Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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