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How to add SEL language into Hāpara Workspace

Adelee Penner examines a meaningful day of reflection and teamwork between teachers. Learn how they used SEL language to strengthen their Hāpara Workspaces.
How to add SEL language into Hāpara Workspace
How to add SEL language into Hāpara Workspace

In September of this year, I met with a group of teachers to consider how to welcome back students into their classrooms after a year of online learning. Our agenda for the day was to consider ways to rebuild community and look at relationships for learning. The agenda also included how to adjust our Hāpara Workspaces to support and reinforce our purpose. As we worked that day, we made the decision to focus on adding SEL language to our Workspaces.

What is a Hāpara Workspace?

Hāpara Workspace provides teachers with a fun and flexible way to design lessons, projects and units of study that can be easily differentiated to meet the needs of individual students in a learning community. 
See how it works

Using language in your classroom

We started by moving through a facilitated conversation and self-reflection. As we did, we shared a moment of complete clarity. It was one that changed and shaped the conversation in a profound way. The moment was provoked by this question:


Does the language you use in your classroom reflect your beliefs, values and intended learning outcomes?"

When I asked the question there was a long moment of silence as folks considered it. Slowly, people started to sit up, lean in and engage in the conversation in a new way. One educator asked me to clarify how her beliefs might shape learning outcomes and language in her classroom. 

Earlier in the day she had mentioned how student choice and voice was really important to her. She believed that for learners to fully engage and take academic risks, they needed choice and voice in their learning environment. I asked her how she honored this belief in her task design, classroom language and cultural norms. She didn’t know. I asked her to use her most recent Hāpara Workspace as an artifact for reflection. Could she see her values represented in the Workspace?

Reviewing how Workspaces support values, beliefs and learning outcomes

I moved the conversation forward by asking teachers to partner up. They had to share a link to a Workspace they’d created and spend 20 minutes reviewing each other’s Workspaces. They would consider what values, beliefs and learning outcomes were supported by the Workspace. 

After reviewing the Workspaces, teachers shared their reflections with the Workspace creator. Then they found another group and partnered with them to reflect on what they learned from the exercise. As we were reflecting as a large group, several teachers asked if we could pause the planned agenda. They wanted to have time to edit their Workspaces to match what they had learned from our conversation.  

Adding SEL language into Workspace designs

When we came back as a group, I asked them if we could continue working together off script.  They agreed. I felt that it would be important to meet the goals for the day if we included SEL language in the design of their Workspaces. If we were to really investigate ways to rebuild a learning community, we needed to incorporate social emotional learning into their Workspace design and language. 

I asked them if we could review their Workspaces to include the three components from CASEL’s SEL-Focused Classroom

  • a supportive classroom climate
  • integration of SEL into academic instruction
  • explicit SEL instruction. 

Round one: Examining SEL language to create a supportive classroom climate

First, we examined each Workspace card from the perspective of a supportive classroom climate.

A supportive classroom climate helps students to feel emotionally safe, part of a community of learners, motivated, and challenged. This type of environment creates a strong foundation for students to engage fully and take academic risks. This includes: community-building, belonging and emotional safety, and student-centered discipline. – CASEL 2021

During round one, teachers examined the SEL language they used to invite their learners into the Workspace. They also looked at how they were using their task design to create a learning community. How were students encouraged to take risks and demonstrate what they know, understand and can do?

Round two: Examining SEL integration in academic instruction

Next we examined each Workspace card from the perspective of integration of SEL into academic instruction.

Integration of SEL into academic instruction weaves academic learning with opportunities for students to practice and reflect on social and emotional competencies, such as perspective-taking and developing a growth mindset. For example, teachers might incorporate partner and group activities that promote relationships, communication skills, and effective teamwork. – CASEL 2021

During round two, teachers examined if they were pairing learning with:

  • opportunities for students to practice and reflect on different perspectives
  • ways of knowing and developing their own values and beliefs based on what they learned

Round three: Examining explicit SEL instruction

For this round, we examined each Workspace card from the perspective of explicit SEL instruction.  

Explicit SEL instruction provides consistent opportunities to cultivate, practice, and reflect on social and emotional competencies in ways that are developmentally appropriate and culturally responsive. – CASEL 2021

Teachers examined their Workspaces to ensure they attended to equity and cultural responsiveness. They also analyzed accuracy in their formative assessment practices.

As we closed off our time together, the room was buzzing. Instead of being in a hurry to head back to our own lives and practices, folks sat around for a while debriefing and sharing ideas. Educators also shared the hope that they were on track to creating Workspaces with SEL language. Their improved Workspaces would support a community of learners rather than a group of individual learners.

Explore how an educator uses Hāpara Highlights as a coaching tool for social and emotional learning in her classroom.

Developing a classroom culture of resilience with Hāpara Highlights mockup small

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