Brianne Gidcumb | December 2017

SEL and the Arts: Self-Management

For the past couple of months, we have been looking at the connection between social-emotional learning and the arts. Social and emotional learning “enhances students’ capacity to integrate skills, attitudes, and behaviors to deal effectively and ethically with daily tasks and challenges” ( It is comprised of 5 core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Each month, we look at how we might address each of these competencies in and through the arts. This month: self-management.


Self-management is described as “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.”

Indeed, there are a couple of ways we can look at self-management and the arts. First, through how self-management is inherent in the artistic process. Second, how can we use the arts as a tool to promote self-management in our students.

Let’s look at how self-management is a critical skill for participation in the arts.

The Process

The artistic process requires many of the attributes we associate with effective self-management. This is true whether we are creating an original work or preparing a work of art for presentation or performance.  Artists must work toward a goal, managing time and regulating tasks to ensure that a goal is met, while managing stressors, integrating many pieces and elements, including collaboration with others, into a final product.

Look at the process of presenting an artistic piece. Artists start with an abstract concept and set a goal. This is true regardless of whether discussing musical, theatrical, dance performances or artistic presentations. When and where will the work be presented? The artist may begin with words or musical notes on a page, a concept or idea, and begin to formulate a plan. They must also decide what media they will use. Who they will collaborate with. Determine a schedule for their process or rehearsals. Refine and revise their work as they move through the process. Finally, their product is ready. The more educators facilitate an independent artistic process for students, the more we help promote self-management in our young artists.

We can also look at how we can use the arts as a vehicle for promoting self-management.

An integral part of self-management is the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations. This is a great place to use theatre as a tool for allowing students to explore those emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. By doing this, we allow students to put a little distance between themselves and situations they might find themselves in. This also allows them to logically evaluate the situation and determine a course of action. Additionally, when students find themselves in these situations, they then have experiences to which they can refer back.

Fostering Self-Management

Elizabeth Peterson of The Inspired Classroom has written about soundtracking her classroom. In this technique, she uses music intentionally throughout the entire day to help fit the needs of her learners, customizing various genres for different blocks of time during the day. This allows her to help regulate her classroom environment, helping students self-regulate transitions, emotions, and time management. I highly encourage you to check out her website as well!

Furthermore, you might assign a collaborative art project specifically for the purpose of helping foster self-management in your students. By giving students a common goal and a loose framework with which to achieve that goal, students will work together to regulate time and tasks to achieve that goal. While you have students engage in artistic activities, provide them with tools to help them manage themselves. Self-management tools such as checklists, rubrics, and schedules would be beneficial.

So as your students engage in artistic activities, think about how you might highlight these core competencies to promote social and emotional learning in your students!

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: