SEL Counseling Lessons

IMG_0471          Social Emotional Learning Lessons

Ms. Rocco and Ms. Quinn deliver monthly classroom counseling lessons to ALL students in grades K-5.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and VA Department of Education provide guidance and standards in the implementation of social emotional learning.

ASCA Professional Standards and Competencies

Virginia Guidance SEL Standards : In accordance with HB 753, passed during the 2020 Virginia General Assembly, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) established a uniform definition of social-emotional learning and developed the Virginia Guidance SEL Standards for all public students in grades Kindergarten through 12 in the Commonwealth.

To learn more about the benefits of social emotional learning in schools, check out this website from CASEL a leader in SEL practice.

All Arlington Public Schools elementary and middle schools implement the Mind-Up andSecond Step program to deliver the counseling core curriculum.

The Second Step program is evidence-based and the units that will be covered in classrooms are:


Students will be learning a lot this year-and you can help! Throughout the year, you will be able to find Home Links on this page that go with our lessons. Home Links are simple, fun activities for you and your child to complete together. They are a great way for you to understand what your child is learning and for your child to show you what they know.

To access Second Step resources, go to and enter the activation code for the grade your child is in. Below are the codes:

K: SSPK FAMI LY70          1: SSP1 FAMI LY71          2: SSP2 FAMI LY72

3: SSP3 FAMI LY73           4: SSP4 FAMI LY74          5: SSP5 FAMI LY75

If you have any questions about classroom counseling lessons, please contact us!

Skills for Learning

In our Skills for Learning unit, Kindergarten and 1st grade learn about our listening skills. Ask your student to show you the hand signals for the following listening skills:

  • Looking eyes (point to your eyes)
  • Listening ears (cup your ears)
  • Voices quiet (put a finger up to your closed lips)
  • Body still (give yourself a gentle hug)

We also learn about the super powerful Attent-o-Scope! Our Attent-o-Scopes are on when we have focused our attention and are using all of our listening skills. There’s an especially neat hand signal for the Attent-o-Scope (you pretend to hold binoculars up to your eyes).


We also learn about using self-talk to remind ourselves to stay on task. When we use self-talk, we are using a whisper or reminding ourselves silently to “focus”, “don’t get distracted”, or “use the Attent-o-Scope”.

Being Assertive

First graders learn about three different forms of communication. When we speak in a passive or aggressive way, we are not as clear or direct as we need to be. Instead, it is best to use a calm, respectful and strong voice in order to be assertive.


In 2nd and 3rd grades, we learn about three important parts of our brains: our amygdala (which helps us react quickly in situations), our hippocampus (which helps us remember things), and our prefrontal cortex (which helps us make strong choices). We also learn mindfulness practices to help us focus our minds.

Setting Goals and Making Plans

4th and 5th grade students learn about setting short- and long-term goals and making plans to achieve them. Using the Good Plan Checklist, we check our plans to see if:

  1. The plan matches the goal
  2. There is enough time to accomplish the plan
  3. It is not too complicated
  4. It’s achievable

Home Links

Bully Prevention

In our Bullying Prevention unit, Cardinal students learn how to Recognize, Report, and Refuse Bullying. We also learn about being Bystanders to bullying.


Bullying happens when:   someone keeps hurting, frightening, threating or leaving someone out on purpose.  It is unfair and one sided.  Bullying is not safe or respectful.


When we recognize bullying it happening, we must report it to a caring and trusted adult. When we report bullying, we use an assertive voice that is clear, serious, and respectful. In our Bullying Prevention Unit, all students are asked to identify caring and trusted adults in the Cardinal community who they could report bullying to.


Both Bystanders and anyone who is experiencing bullying can refuse bullying by telling the bully or bullies to stop using an assertive voice.


Bystanders take responsibility for preventing and stopping bullying in their community. When they recognize an unsafe or unkind situation is happening, they can support the person experiencing the unsafe or unkind behavior by reporting it to an adult, refusing the bullying, and checking in on the victim. Bystanders understand that we all have a responsibility to keep Cardinal a safe and welcoming community for everyone.

Home Links


Child Protection Unit

The Child Protection Unit includes one grade level specific lesson in Kindergarten through 5th grade classrooms.  Cardinal students learn ways to help them decide if something is safe or not: specifically, about safe, unsafe, and unwanted touches, and rules about touching private body parts (we define this to students as the area covered by swimsuits). They also learn to say no to unsafe or unwanted touches, and to tell an adult if someone breaks rules about touching private body parts. Students also practice asking an adult for help, telling an adult about an unsafe situation, and being assertive to get out of unsafe situations.

Home Links


In this unit, students learn about identifying feelings in themselves and in others using physical cues like body language and facial expressions in the younger grades, in addition to tone of voice, behavior, and word choice. We also learned about similarities and differences, and how being similar and being different are both okay!


In the older grades, students learn about treating others with compassion when we recognize how they’re feeling. Compassion is empathy in action! We also discuss how bystanders use empathy and compassion to make Cardinal an inclusive and safe community.

Home Links

Emotion Management

In this unit, students learn How to Calm Down in three easy-to-remember steps: Stop, Name Your Feeling, and Calm Down. Step 3 (“Calm Down”) looks different for every person; it may mean counting slowly, belly breathing, or using positive self-talk. Students learn about applying these steps in situations when they are experiencing strong emotions, like frustration, being upset, or angry. We also learn about the importance of using the steps for calming down before we try to problem solve or communicate with someone else.

Home Links

Problem Solving

In this unit, students learned the STEP acronym for Problem Solving:

S – Say the problem without blame

T – Think of safe and respectful solutions

E – Explore consequences; what would happen if you chose each solution?

P – Pick the best solution and make a plan.

In the younger grades, students practice applying STEP to conflicts between characters. In older grades, students apply STEP to conflicts they are experiencing in real life.

Home Links


In the counseling unit on Careers, Kindergartners:

  • Learn that people have jobs and a variety of jobs exist.
  • Learn that people dream about getting certain jobs.
  • Learn about jobs people do at our school.
  • Learn about jobs people do in our community.

Beginning in first grade, each year Cardinal students explore the 17 different career clusters and the skills and training required for jobs within each cluster.

Starting this year, students will use a new tool developed by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) called Virginia Wizard.  Parents can learn more about this tool by looking at the

FAQs for elementary students.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Students learn about various ways to maintain mental wellness, such as getting plenty of sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, getting exercise, going outside, socializing with friends, and practicing self-care and mindfulness.

Students in older grades also learn about how to recognize when they need support or help with their mental health and wellness. In the 2021-22 school year, this unit will be supplemented with lessons from the Riding the Waves curriculum.

Substance Abuse Prevention Lesson (grade 5)

Arlington County Public School’s mission is to ensure all students learn and thrive in a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment. To assist your child in making the most positive life choices as they transition to middle school, our 5th graders will receive a lesson on avoiding risky behavior (such as becoming involved with vaping, in particular, and other drugs in general.) A trained Substance Abuse Counselor will be offering 1 45-minute prevention-based lessons, which align with the Health and PE Standards of Learning (SOLs). The lesson topics include essential health concepts, healthy decisions, and advocacy and health promotion.