CASEL Competencies & Joy Circles Skills


Social-emotional learning or SEL has been around for decades, but only in the last many years has there been a surge in its visibility. Research emphasizes SEL’s critical importance in a child’s success as he/she grows into adulthood. It is as important as one’s academic activities.

American education is overwhelmed with data that reports many social challenges facing youth:

Bullying, classroom violence, absenteeism, disengagement, child abuse, plummeting reading and math scores, and dropping out. These are the outward signs of inward stresses that in many cases, can be prevented. Young people who can learn to manage the day-to-day stress in their lives are better equipped to tackle both social and academic challenges.

Most SEL programs are designed to be integrated into the existing curricula within the time-constrained school day. These same programs provide instruction for teachers to utilize in their classrooms. The challenge is that teachers are overwhelmed by the demands of meeting teaching and testing standards. SEL becomes a lower priority by default. We know how critical SEL is as a prerequisite to academic success, however, when we examine the social and emotional needs of many of our classroom teachers, we see stress individuals and some are at risk of mental health problems. How can they administer to the social-emotional needs of their young charges?

A recent Rand Corporation study reported that “teachers are nearly twice as likely as other working adults to report having difficulty coping with job-related stress, and 10 percentage points more likely to experience burnout. Frequent and long-term stress increases the risk of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.” (Education Week, July 18, 2023) This kind of stress explains the increasing turnover of teachers and why SEL is often not delivered in the classroom. One teacher reported, “We just check the SEL box and move on.”

Joy Circles is unique because it provides skills directly to young participants. The children in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade are given the tools they need to enhance their social-emotional capabilities and to build reading skills. There are also support programs for parents and soon be developed, special programming for school administrators and teachers.

A beautiful framework has been provided by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) that divides SEL into five competencies (CASEL, nd):

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship skills
  5. Responsible decision-making

Joy Circles utilizes the CASEL competencies but prefers outcome-based skills terminology:

  • Self-Care   (For example, a self-aware person will practice self-care and self-management)
  • Communication   (A person who is socially aware and adept at relationship skills is practicing effective communication and conflict management)
  • Conflict Management
  • Vision-Goals-Organization (A person who is self-aware, practicing self-managment and decision-making is prepare to establish a vision, goals and practice effective organizations skills)
  • Leadership (A person gaining the above-named skills is building a framework for self-leadership and the leadership of others.)

Joy Circles™ is a curriculum that delivers a comprehensive program, facilitation, and measurable results* in a partnership between the hosting organization and the program providers. It is a program that addresses children’s challenges from multiple directions: reading skills, self-esteem, communication skills, self-management, and a vision for a bright future. It is often the case that a child with low self-esteem is often the same child who struggles with reading. This same child may have difficulty communicating and managing their emotions and behaviors. This struggle creates a downward spiral that continues until either intervention or burn-out occurs.

Any child can benefit from Joy Circles, yet those most challenged with esteem, confidence, and communication skills should be guided into a program that can give them the skill set to succeed. Joy Circles is a foundation for student success at the critical preteen age.

* Measurement

The key phrase in social-emotional learning is “evidence-based” but different experts define this term differently. It is the goal and intention of Joy Circles to demonstrate long-term measurable results and to announce them after we have had the right series of measures over a significant period of time. These measures will be:

For individual participants:

Reading Skills Improvement – Each participant will be assessed on their reading level upon entry into the program and after at least two terms in the program. This will tell us what our expectations will be for future participants. Will they be able to reach their grade level of reading or raise themselves one grade level? The numbers will tell us.

Social-Emotional Feedback Assessment – Each participant will be surveyed at the end of their school year to determine their self-perceptions of positive changes that have taken place as a result of Joy Circles.

Promotion to Next Grade – If each participant in Joy Circles proceeds to the next grade level, or not, this is a measure of the program’s success. In districts where promotion is offered regardless of performance, this measure may have less meaning.

For hosting organizations:

With the collaboration of hosting organizations, we will determine key metrics to examine that are important to that organization. Some measures might be absenteeism (of a group, grade or overall school), homework completion, report card grades, state testing scores, and state school rankings.

    • Course Requirements
      • Required Reading
      • Facilitator Agreement and Program Grading
    • Why Joy Circles?
      • The Durlak-Weissberg Studies
      • Joy Circles Values
    • Neuroscience of Social-Emotional Learning
      • The Brain
      • Childhood Trauma
      • Polyvagal Theory
    • Circles
      • The Circle Way
      • Circle Applications
    • Joy Circles Movement
      • Movement Research
      • Joy Circles Movement
      • Music Selections
    • Models As Tools
      • Concepts
      • Retention & Retrieval
    • Reading
      • Reading Skills Improvement
      • Titles
      • Contemporary Issues
    • Session Format
      • Timings by Format
    • Facilitator Standards & Practice Session
      • Body Language & Vocalization
      • Professionalism & Dress
      • Practice Session & Certification, Appendix