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SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

11 SEL Check-In Questions for Students’ Well-Being

5 Min Read
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Building strong rapport with students is the most important social and emotional learning (SEL) action educators can take to be effective. One way to build and maintain strong relationships is to ask students, sincerely and honestly, how they are doing. Here are some SEL check-in questions that can get kids talking and help you identify students needing support.

Middle and High School Check-In Questions

1. “What are you looking forward to today?”

Help students find the silver lining in every day with this question. Giving students a hand in identifying one thing to look forward to can help them develop a positive outlook and a sense of gratitude.

2. “Who do you want to sit with/work with?”

School friendships are important for students and this student check-in question can better help you understand peer relationships in your classroom. If a student seems to be by themselves often and can’t name someone they’d like to sit beside or collaborate with in class, they might be struggling socially and may need help making connections with peers. Consider creating opportunities for students to form friendships, like engaging students in group activities or facilitating in-class group discussions so students can get to know each other.

3. “What clubs or activities do you think we’re missing in our school?”

It’s important to consider who might not have a place where they feel connected to at school. Is there something that a group of students are passionate about that can be supported and turned into an opportunity for them to shine? Asking students what they think is missing is a good way to identify the gaps and find new ways to connect with kids.

4. “How do you think you’re doing in (specific subject or class)?”

This social-emotional check-in question for students gets at their sense of self-efficacy. While knowing how students are doing academically is important, understanding how they think they’re doing is often more instructive. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” A student’s sense of their ability can really affect their performance. Students who consistently don’t think they are doing well, or think they can’t do well, need help with recognizing their strengths and building self-esteem.

5. “What have you done lately that you’re proud of?”

What students see as accomplishments might surprise you. They may answer that their proud of being there for a friend or mastering a skill outside of school. Whatever it is, it is something they are willing to share and celebrate. This can be a good check-in question to begin a conversation and can help you learn more about your students.

6. “What have you done for fun lately?”

It’s important to do well in school and work hard, but it’s just as important to spend time doing fun and enjoyable things. Do your students have something in their lives that helps them find balance? Are they finding time for relaxation and enjoyment?

7. “What questions do you have?”

Instead of asking, “Are there any questions?” before sending students off to complete tasks, consider changing your wording just a bit. It’s subtle, but asking, “What questions do you have?” implies that you expect there to be questions, and it might just make an unsure student brave enough to ask about something they didn’t quite get the first time.

8. “How can I help?”

When you can see that a student is struggling, it can be a natural reaction to swoop in and fix whatever is wrong. Opening a dialogue about what’s going on and what students feel they need adults to help with can make interventions more effective. Sometimes, students don’t know, but giving them agency to manage their own problems and letting them know you are there to help can be powerful in helping them build problem-solving skills and feel supported and safe.

9. “What’s the most interesting thing you learned today?”

This SEL check-in question helps you identify what students recall from lessons, but it also gives insight into what they feel is important and noteworthy. You might be surprised at the points they highlight! You can also create small groups so that they can talk to each other about this question.

10. “Do you want to talk?”

Sometimes, students need a listening ear – someone they can vent to or share their feelings with, someone who is supportive but neutral. Offering that safe space to vent, think aloud, and be heard without judgment can help students going through difficult moments in life.

11. “Are you okay?”

It’s okay to not be okay and, sometimes, students are clearly not okay. Recognizing this and letting them know that you see them and are there for them is so important. Even if they say they’re fine, it may be worth following up with, “I noticed that you looked down,” or, “You don’t seem like yourself today.” Telling students that we recognize when something isn’t right shows that we care, makes them feel safe, and opens the door for them to share what’s going on and seek support.

Daily check-in questions for students let your students know that you understand, care, and want to help and support them in creating a safe and comfortable learning environment. Whatever you ask and however students reply, the most important thing is to let them know that you’re listening and there for them.

This article was adapted from a blog post initially developed by the education technology company Classcraft, which was acquired by HMH in 2023. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

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