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15 Social-Emotional Learning Activities to Empower Students: Teacher’s Guide

6 Min Read
students smiling in a classroom

Social-emotional learning (SEL) has become a buzzword in the world of education, and for good reason. Incorporating an SEL curriculum can have a profound impact on the well-being, academic performance, and overall success of your students. But where do you start? How can you ensure that these activities are effective, engaging, and integrated into your daily routine?

In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to, including what social-emotional learning activities are, why they’re important, and how to incorporate them into your classroom. By the end of this article, you’ll have a wealth of ideas, tips, and resources to help you bring SEL to life for your students.

What Are SEL Activities?

SEL activities are educational experiences designed to help students develop important life skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. These group work activities can take many forms, including games, roleplaying, discussions, mindfulness exercises, and reflective activities, among others. The goal is to support individuals in developing the skills and attitudes needed to effectively navigate the social and emotional demands of daily life. This promotes positive outcomes such as improved well-being, stronger relationships, and more successful academic and career pursuits.

Why Are SEL Activities Important?

Social-emotional activities are important because they help individuals, especially children and young people, develop crucial skills and attitudes needed for success in life. Some of the key benefits of SEL include:

  • Improved emotional regulation: SEL helps students better understand and manage their emotions, leading to reduced stress and anxiety and improved overall well-being.
  • Stronger relationships: SEL promotes the development of positive relationship skills such as empathy, communication, and conflict resolution. This can lead to stronger, more supportive relationships with family, friends, and peers.
  • Better academic performance: SEL has been linked to improved academic performance, as they help students learn and develop essential skills such as focus, persistence, and self-discipline.
  • Increased resilience: SEL can help students build resilience, or the ability to effectively cope with and recover from life’s challenges.
  • More effective decision-making: SEL promotes responsible decision-making by helping individuals consider the impact of their actions on themselves and others.

Overall, implementing these social-emotional skills activities are important because they provide students with the SEL competence and attitudes needed to lead successful, fulfilling lives.

How to Incorporate SEL Activities in the Classroom

Here are some tips to help you get started with incorporating SEL classroom activities:

  • Prepare your classroom environment: Create a safe, supportive, and positive atmosphere that’s conducive to learning and growth.
  • Select appropriate activities: Choose activities that are age-appropriate, relevant, and engaging for your students.
  • Schedule activities: Set aside dedicated time for SEL lessons, whether it’s once a week, once a day, or as part of your morning routine.
  • Integrate activities into your daily routine: Make SEL a regular part of your classroom routine, not just a one-time event.

Examples of SEL Activities

Here are just a few examples of the types of activities for social emotional learning that you can incorporate into your classroom:

  1. Community Circle: Give everyone a chance to speak and be heard by creating a safe space for students to share and listen to each other.
  2. Feelings Flashcards: Create a set of feelings flashcards to help students identify and express their emotions.
  3. Kind Acts Jar: Encourage students to spread kindness by writing down and sharing acts of kindness they witness or perform.
  4. SMART Goals: Setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely) goals can empower students to reach their personal and academic potential.
  5. Grateful Greeting: Start each day with a gratitude practice by having students share something they’re thankful for.

And that’s just the beginning! We’ve included 10 more ideas to guide you in getting started.

  1. Friendship Fridays: Encourage students to build strong relationships with a weekly activity on Fridays.
  2. Mindful Minutes: Teach students mindfulness techniques through short, daily deep breathing practices.
  3. Empathy Role Play: Have students act out scenarios to practice putting themselves in others’ shoes.
  4. Emotional Bingo: Enhance emotional literacy by playing a game of bingo where students identify emotions on cards.
  5. Storytelling: Encourage students to read aloud their stories and actively listen to their classmates with empathy and understanding.
  6. Reflection Station: Have students take a moment to reflect on their emotions and thoughts through writing or drawing.
  7. Feelings Charades: Have students act out different emotions and guess what their classmates are feeling.
  8. Values Votes: Encourage students to understand their own values and beliefs by voting on class decisions.
  9. Mindful Yoga: Practicing yoga and meditation can help students develop emotional awareness, mental calmness, and healthy habits.
  10. Kindness Collaboration: Encourage teamwork and kindness by having students work together on a kindness project.

Incorporating fun SEL activities into your classroom is an investment in your students’ futures. By helping them develop the skills and attitudes they need to succeed in life, you’ll be setting them up for success now and in the years to come. We hope this article has provided you with the information, inspiration, and resources you need to get started.

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.


Find more lesson plans and classroom resources on Shaped.

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