Strategy: Using Social and Emotional Coaching

Check-Up Menu > Using Social and Emotional Coaching
Social and emotional coaching to promote students’ social and emotional development is a foundational tool for your toolbox that can affect a student well beyond the walls of your classroom. The ability to positively interact with peers and self-regulate their emotions and behavior can have a positive effect on a students’ overall achievement in school, and ultimately in society. Luckily, there are simple, yet effective ways you as a teacher can support this type of learning for your students.
Using effective social and emotional coaching can help students learn how to interact appropriately with their peers, effectively communicate their wants and needs, self-regulate their emotions and behavior, and empathize with others’ feelings.
How Social and Emotional Coaching Connects to CARES
In order for teachers to truly relate to their students, they must be willing to first examine their own attitudes and behaviors and how those play out in the classroom. Modeling for students and coaching them through socially and emotionally challenging or heightened situations can help teachers to think more about how they also behave in more socially and emotionally charged situations. When we take special care to pay attention to specific instances of how students behave and respond to certain stressors, whether they be positive or negative, we tend to then notice those same instances within our own behaviors. Sometimes, coaching others helps a person to identify their own areas of strength and growth.
Some key elements for effectively using social and emotional coaching:

1) Be sure to model appropriate social skills and emotional expression/coping during interactions with your students.

2) Use subtle prompting to encourage students to perform pro-social behaviors. For example, you can ask, “Lisa, would you share your crayons with me?”

3) Always use descriptive commentary when coaching students. This involves explicitly describing each aspect of the skill or emotion using rich vocabulary. For example, you can say, “Anthony, the way you are gripping your pencil makes me think you are feeling frustrated. I like that you have controlled your actions and it’s OK to take a moment to calm down before going on to the next problem. Remember, I am here to help you if you need some assistance.”
4) When a child performs a pro-social behavior or demonstrates an appropriate emotional expression, be sure to authentically and specifically praise their efforts. For example, “Thank you Paul for helping me clean up my art supplies! That was very nice of you!”
5) Last, but not least, always consider the developmental level of each student, and coach to their specific needs.

How To

How to Increase Your Use of Social and Emotional Coaching

A surefire way to increase your use of social and emotional coaching is to practice, practice, practice! It sounds very simple, but it can take a lot of practice to learn how to efficiently and effectively narrate the behaviors of your students if you are not normally used to doing so.

Step 1: Closely observe the expressive behaviors of your students. Observe them while they are conversing or working with peers or individually. Pay attention to what types of social behaviors (e.g., helping, sharing, turn-taking) they are exhibiting and how they express their emotions.

Step 2: Develop labels for each emotion or social interaction that you notice. For example, does a student look “calm” or “confident”? Is a student “noticing” another child’s work or “initiating” positive interactions?

Step 3: After placing a label on the emotion or social behavior, write down the reason you think a child might be feeling or acting that way (e.g., the child is excited because their homework was featured as the class highlight).

Step 4: Think of ways you can descriptively (and without judgment) communicate your observations to your student(s).

  • If you are describing a positive pro-social behavior, think of ways you can explicitly praise a student for performing the behavior.
  • If a behavior is not pro-social, think of ways to communicate to the student what would be appropriate behavior.
  • If a student is inappropriately expressing their emotions or appears to be experiencing a negative emotion (e.g., sad, angry, disappointed), think of ways you can communicate that emotion using words and suggest simple coping strategies for the student.
  • If a student is effectively managing a negative emotion, think of ways that you can communicate to them that experiencing all types of emotions is normal and OK and what being able to manage strong emotions appropriately and safely looks like.
  • If you notice a positive emotion (e.g., the student appears happy or excited), think of creative vocabulary you can use to explain what you see.
This example uses both social and emotional coaching:

If you are observing two students arguing over a crayon, you could say, “Tony, it looks like Mary was still using the red crayon to color her picture and got upset when you took it from her without asking. Maybe you could ask Mary if it is OK if you borrow it when she is finished. (Tony asks Mary politely and Mary gives him the red crayon). Tony, you did a great job of communicating that you wanted to use something she had. Mary, that was very nice of you to share with him.”

You can use the “Observing and Describing Social Behaviors and Emotions” strategy tool to help guide your coaching and get you in the habit of using descriptive language with your students.

Example Videos:

Problem Solving

Video Prompts: 

  • The students in this video are working together on an activity. One student comments that others are cheating.
  • Notice how the teacher recognizes the problem from across the room (see Using Active Supervision).
  • Notice how she prompts the students to find the solution.
  • Notice how she makes sure all the students understand the activity before leaving to help other students.
  • Her use of praise following a student responding helps to get other students on task and makes it more likely that students will respond quickly in the future.
  • What did you like about how this teacher used coaching to help the students solve the problem?
  • What might you do differently?
  • How do you see yourself using social-emotional coaching in your classroom?

Video Prompts: 

  • A student is concerned about a peer using his pencil.
  • Notice how the teacher prompts possible solutions with a focus toward the students “doing their number one job.”
  • Notice how, despite the fact that the boy does not choose to share, the teacher compliments the peer who chose to give the pencil to the boy.
  • Notice how she points out that Sofia (peer) was so kind and was a good friend.
  • Notice how she calmly discusses how the boy in the video could think about sharing in the future.
  • What did you like about how this teacher used coaching to help the students solve the problem?
  • What might you do differently?
  • How do you see yourself using social-emotional coaching in your classroom?

Strategy Tool

Using Social and Emotional Coaching - Strategy Tool
Use the Observing and Describing Social Behaviors and Emotions strategy tool to help guide your coaching and get you in the habit of using descriptive language with your students.


Using Social and Emotional Coaching - Reflection
Take a moment to make sure your plan is going to work.

Goal Setting

Using Social and Emotional Coaching - Goal Setting
Use the following form to set your social and emotional coaching goals.

References to Other Relevant Resources:

Webster-Stratton, C. (2012). Incredible teachers: Nurturing children’s social, emotional, and academic competence. Incredible Years.


Concentration Areas: Connection to the Curriculum; Authentic Relationships; Reflective Thinking About Cultural, Racial/Ethnic, and Class Differences; Effective Communication; Sensitivity to Students’ Culture

What is CARES?

CARES is an acronym for the five domains that research has found to be successful in engaging students of culturally diverse backgrounds at school. Each letter refers to a significant element of interaction within the classroom. Applying all five domains of CARES works because it promotes a better understanding of students and ourselves by using strategies that deepen those relationships every day.

There is no single element that works independently of the others. All five CARES domains, together with the Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate elements, support one another and need to be applied in the classroom to be successful.

Why is it important?

Research has shown that each of the five CARES domains has a significant impact on students and their behavior when used regularly and over time. Students who are known and understood by their teachers as individuals in the classroom report deeper connections academically and to their school. When teachers understand their own cultural heritage, they better understand the differences between themselves and their students and report higher levels of mutual respect with students. This also helps teachers to recognize the similarities they share with their students as well as recognize ways in which they are different. Students are more connected and engaged in classrooms where teachers welcome exploration; invite, acknowledge, and celebrate cultural differences; make relevant connections to the curriculum; listen attentively to understand how each student is approaching the concepts; and use humor and other effective communication tools.

Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate

Concentration Areas: Smooth Transitions, Pacing of Instruction, Student Engagement, Clear Expectations, Use of Praise, Use of Reprimands, Level of Disruptive Behavior

What is Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate?

Positive Behavior Supports refers to the proactive ways that teachers work with their students, as well as the ways that teachers respond to challenging situations with students. The focus is on recognizing and affirming student strengths rather than punishing them or taking something away from them. A positive approach to the classroom will promote a classroom climate that is welcoming to all students and is a place where students want to engage with the teacher, each other, and the curriculum. All individuals, students and teachers, and the interactions between and amongst all classroom members play a role in the climate.

There is no single element that works independently of the others. All Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate elements, together with the CARES domains, support one another and need to be applied to the classroom to be successful.

Why is it important?

In a classroom climate that is positive and welcoming to all members, the classroom becomes a safe place where culture and diversity can be openly discussed. A supportive climate is one that promotes student engagement and success. Students feel supported and motivated to be an active member of the classroom community. The teacher taking a positive and proactive approach creates a climate of care and respect and promotes desired student behaviors. This classroom is also a place that provides consistency to students, which is especially important for students who may experience stress and uncertainty outside of the school building. Teachers who have positive and proactive classrooms report fewer disruptive behaviors from their students, an increase in student achievement, and better overall perceptions of school climate.

Using Social and Emotional Coaching

CARES Overview

Greeting Students at the Door

Using Journals to Build Relationships

Identifying Reinforcers for the Classroom

Using Behavior-specific Praise

Using Active Supervision

Using Group Contingencies

Using Precorrection

Teaching Behavior Expectations

Providing Academic Feedback

Increasing Opportunities to Respond

Developing and Using Clear Academic Objectives

Posting and Using a Schedule

Coaching Process – Menu of Options

Coaching Process – Providing Feedback

Coaching Process – Introduction and Overview

Observation Practice 4

Observation Practice 3

Observation Practice 2

Observation Practice 1

Using an Attention Signal

Teaching Classroom Routines

Physical Classroom Structure

Values Card Sort – Example

Card Sort Introduction

Coaching – Interview Guide

Opening the Meeting

Defining and Teaching Classroom Rules

Mrs. James

Miss Faber

Double Check Classroom Check-Up Overview