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Inquiry-Based Elementary Social Studies and the CASEL Competencies

Updated: Feb 12, 2019

Social and emotional learning (SEL) helps students to understand and regulate their behaviors, gives them the tools to thrive in their interactions with others, and develops their capacity to set and work toward goals.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has developed a set of core SEL competencies that identify targeted intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cognitive skills and abilities. inquirED's inquiry-based curriculum consciously develops these core competencies across grade levels. What does this look like in action? Below we've included specific examples from our Inquiry Journeys elementary social studies curriculum that develop CASEL's core competencies.


CASEL's Self-Awareness Competency

  • The Self Awareness Competency describes the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior. The ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset.”

Examples from inquirED's K-5 Inquiry Journeys Curriculum

  • K-2 Community, Essential Question: How do we meet our needs and wants? Students will be able to identify the differences between their personal needs and wants, describe how to balance their needs and wants in relation to those in their community, and assess their strengths and limitations to meet personal needs.

  • 3-5 Interconnections, Unit Reflection Activity Students will be able to identify their greatest successes, struggles, and strides over the course of this Unit, evaluate which skills deserve the most attention moving forward, and determine if they have met their Inquiry Challenge.

CASEL's Self-Management Competency

  • The Self Management Competency describes the ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations — effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself. The ability to set and work toward personal and academic goals.

Examples from inquirED's K-5 Inquiry Journeys Curriculum

  • K-2 Self and Others, Essential Question: How do I navigate school? Students will be able to describe and demonstrate appropriate norms, behaviors, and interactions in the changing places and spaces of the classroom and school.

  • 3-5 Interconnections, Essential Question: Can we uncover the stories of movement in our wider community? Students will develop interview skills (professionalism, effective questioning, active listening) as they prepare to interview members of the community. During the interview, they will regulate their behavior effectively in an unfamiliar situation with interviewees, then work toward presenting the interview to the class.

CASEL's Relationship Skills Competency

  • The Relationship Skills Competency describes the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.

Examples from inquirED's K-5 Inquiry Journeys Curriculum

  • K-2 School and Family, Essential Question: What is a family? Students will be able to develop an inclusive definition of family, describe different family structures, and examine different families around the world.

  • 3-5 Origins of the United States, Lesson: Building Empathy in the Classroom Students will be able to show compassion for another person's experience as they share personal stories, demonstrate active listening to support their work in teams, and develop the confidence to take risks in the classroom.

CASEL's Responsible Decision-Making Competency

  • The Responsible Decision-Making Competency describes the ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. The ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed.

Examples from inquirED's K-5 Inquiry Journeys Curriculum

  • K-2 School and Family, Essential Question: How has school changed over time? Students will be able to cooperate within their groups to explore the school mission statement and construct a class mission statement. Through multiple cycles of feedback and revision, they will be able to work through conflict.

  • 3-5 State and Local Perspectives, Inquiry Question: How can we, as entrepreneurs, meet a need in our community? Students will be able to work effectively both individually and in a group through multiple cycles of feedback and revision to propose a business idea, develop a fully-articulated business plan, and craft a presentation of their ideas.

CASEL's Social Awareness Competency

  • The Social Awareness Competency describes the ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms. The realistic evaluation of the consequences of various actions, and a consideration of the well-being of oneself and others.

Examples from inquirED's K-5 Inquiry Journeys Curriculum

  • K-2 Self and Others, Essential Question: What lessons can be learned from our memories? Students will be able to revisit their memories of the first days of Kindergarten and identify the advice that might have helped them understand the norms, behaviors, and interactions that they needed to thrive in the classroom. Based on these memories, they will be able to create tips and advice for future Kindergartners.

  • 3-5 Origins of the United States, Essential Question, Can fairness be achieved in our classroom? Students will be able to identify inequality in opportunity and circumstance, analyze and employ the Preamble to the Constitution as a model to create a classroom Preamble that describes classroom norms and standards, describe the rights and responsibilities that they have within the classroom and school community.