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Social-emotional learning is gaining traction in schools all over the world, and with good reason. It’s effects have been shown to nurture valuable personal and academic skills in our learners.
These include things like better concentration, improved collaborative and interpersonal abilities, higher levels of self-awareness, growth mindset development, lifelong learning, and more. How, then, can you bring these same social-emotional learning benefits into your own classroom?
The key to social-emotional learning lies in awareness—awareness of the self, of others, and of how we are all connected. In an effort to help bring this awareness to your learners, we present the following social emotional learning activities you can use with them every day.
10 Social-Emotional Learning Activities for Awareness
According to The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), there are five defining aspects of social emotional learning:
- Social awareness
- Relationship skills
- Responsible decision-making
These 10 activities cover all of these aspects in one way or another. All of them are simple to get started with, and have been implemented with great success by teachers from all walks of life. Use them with confidence and watch your social-emotional learning endeavours flourish.
1. Morning Check-In: There are many ways to do this, but starting the day with a connection to mood and personal headspace goes a long way in teaching students self-awareness. Here are some examples:
- Greeting: A simple way to acknowledge every learner who comes in the door. Always address them by their name along with the greeting, as this creates a more personal moment of connection.
- Emotion check: Ask students how they are feeling today, and pay close attention to the feelings behind their responses.
- Use a mood chart: One simple way is to ask them where they are in terms of colour. Red=I’m stuck and confused, yellow=I’m unsure or feel okay, and green=I’m excited and ready to go.
2. Motivation Presentation: This activity involves pairs of students working together to build teamwork and collaborative skills. Each pair must create a three- to five-minute presentation on something that interests them. Leave time for questions from the rest of the class at the end.
3. Anchor Charts: Anchor charts are charts you make with your learners that capture the most relevant points—or, anchor points—of what you are learning. They are visual tools that help reinforce learning in creative ways, and are also a great way to exercise decision-making skills. Explore hundreds of examples and additional information on how to make your own anchor charts at We Are Teachers.
4. Circle Share: Students create a small circle and share something important to them. Commit to rules that encourage safe sharing and a place of support. This activity builds social interaction capacity, self-awareness, and confidence with self-expression.
5. Class Meetings: Holding regular learner-organized class meetings builds autonomy and develops leadership skills. It’s a great way to ensure all students feel their ideas and concerns matter. Every week, have students organize and lead a meeting to discuss what’s working and what they feel needs tweaking in the day-to-day classroom affairs. Encourage open sharing, and cast votes to ensure students feel they have a say in how the classroom is run.
6. Role Playing: A great exercise for multiple skills, role-playing using real life scenarios always strikes a chord with kids. Your learners can develop storylines, write dialogue, rehearse scripts, and then use their role-playing presentations as teaching tools for their peers or even for younger or older students.
7. Goal Setting and Progress Tracking: Encourage students to keep tabs on their academic growth by keeping a record of how they improve and what they accomplish over the month or the year. They can set their own learning goals and milestones, thus creating agency over their progress and a higher sense of responsibility for continued learning.
8. Kudos Board: Our kids are very observant, and creating an atmosphere of support through recognition and appreciation keeps them motivated and happy in class. Place a board in your class where learners can post positive feedback for peers on something they did, something they heard them say, or something they appreciate about another person.
9. Reflective Writing Using Prompts: This activity is like journalling, and can give many learners a voice when they have trouble speaking up or expressing themselves verbally. Give students regular times to either write freely about what’s on their minds, or have them use prompts like these:
- Today I was proud of myself because …
- I was anxious and stressed today because …
- When was I at my best and worst today?
- How would I describe myself as a friend?
- Overall, I feel _____ about today because …
- If I could talk to my future self, I would say …
- One thing I wish others knew about me is …
- What can I learn from my mistakes today?
- If I wrote the words I need to hear most, what would they be?
Find other journaling prompts at Daily Teaching Tools, enough for every day of the school year.
10. Closing Moments: This is a powerful and often inspiring way for students to end the day or the week. Each student in turn expresses:
- something they have an appreciation of
- something they want to apologize for
- an “aha” moment they had
- something they are worried or confused about
Now that you have a solid list of social-emotional learning activities to use, it’s time to get going with them.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jul 31, 2019, updated Nov 11, 2021