School Reentry Considerations

Considerations for School Reentry

Social and Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a critical component of educating today’s youth and a key component of health and physical education instruction.

In preparing for school reentry, intentionally incorporating SEL will be essential to supporting students through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Right now, “children of all ages are struggling with the ensuing stress and trauma. While adversity impacts learning, these effects can be mitigated by strong, trusting relationships and opportunities to develop social and emotional learning (SEL) skills” (Darling-Hammond, 2020). Many administrators and educators have struggled to effectively incorporate SEL throughout the culture of their school, even prior to COVID-19. Physical education and health education naturally support and align with CASEL’s SEL core competencies. These skills can be developed through distance learning, hybrid, or in-school instruction.

The Crosswalk for SHAPE America National Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education and CASEL Social and Emotional Learning Core Competencies (PE/SEL Crosswalk) aligns CASEL’s SEL competencies and related skills to SHAPE America’s National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education. This document serves as a resource for those aligning SEL competencies into the existing National Standards and can be a foundational document to help states and/or districts develop specific guidance that incorporates their own policies, standards, or guidance for SEL.

The National Health Education Standards (NHES) and SEL core competencies crosswalk will be released summer 2020. In the meantime, many of the NHES are aligned with or support CASEL competencies.

The below considerations for SEL are important for health and physical education teachers to think about when planning for school reentry, whether schools are operating under a model of in-school instruction, distance learning, or hybrid learning.

Specific considerations related to SEL:


Use the PE/SEL crosswalk and the HE/SEL crosswalk (once released) to identify natural alignment in your health and physical education curriculum

  • What are you already doing that easily aligns with SEL competencies?

Identify curriculum gaps in SEL competencies and develop additional lessons and activities

  • Are there any SEL competencies that are not covered or need to be covered more in depth within your curriculum?

Intentionally highlight the SEL competencies that are being taught in learning activities/lessons

  • When/how can you share the importance or value with students of a specific SEL skill(s) being taught within a lesson?

Face coverings and their potential impact on the ability to interpret emotions and facial expressions

  • How will wearing a face covering limit my ability to interpret my students’ emotions or facial expressions?

Work with other staff members (e.g., school counselor, school nurse, social worker, school psychologist, other teachers, librarian) to share SEL-specific skills being taught

  • What are specific skills that you teach your students that can be used through the school building or at home related to SEL (e.g., deep breathing exercises, moments of pause, zones of regulation, emotion check-ins/rating scales)?
  • Are there SEL skills others use that you can incorporate into your activities?

Use daily routines to incorporate SEL skills (e.g., morning circle, instant activities/warm-up, introductions, and closures)

  • How can these routines transfer easily if the school were to abruptly change the model for learning (i.e., switch from in-school instruction to distance learning)?

Prepare for emotional, social and skill regression

  • How can you prepare for students who may demonstrate a lack of social skills (which may not be intentional or a sign of disobedience) due to physical distancing?

Analyze the new school environment and its impact on students

  • What does the school day look like now with physical distancing measures in place (i.e., students staying within their classrooms most of the day, limited times to use the restroom)?
  • How will these new routines and logistics impact your students’ social and emotional needs (e.g., higher levels of stress, angst caused by staying in the same class for long periods of time, frustration over wearing face coverings, fear of getting sick)?
  • What behavior interventions can you plan for in response to misbehaviors caused by new routines and logistics?

School-Wide SEL plan

  • Does a school-wide SEL plan already exist? If so, how can you ensure health and physical education are included?
  • How can you be a part of your school or district’s SEL planning team?

Suggested citation: SHAPE America. (2020). School reentry considerations: K-12 physical education, health education, and physical activity. Reston, VA: Author.

The recommendations and strategies provided herein are obtained based on guidance for schools provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and national recommendations for physical education, health education, recess, and classroom-based physical activity. The COVID-19 outbreak is an ongoing, rapidly developing situation. Educators are encouraged to monitor publicly available information and to always follow federal, state and local health organization guidance and government mandates. This information may vary and will be updated as necessary.