Social Emotional Learning Activities

by Misty Weatherford
Social Emotional Learning Activities. This photo shows meditation.

5 Social Emotional Learning activities 

What is Social Emotional Learning? Social Emotional Learning, also known as SEL is a core piece of human development. There are five core competencies that fall under SEL: self awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. But what are Social Emotional Learning Activities? I have included 5 examples of how I use SEL in my own classroom. 
Learning these strategies can help students master how to be the best versions of themselves. Today, I want to focus on strategies for students to develop healthy emotions.
Student success in the classroom is based on how well they can manage what is happening in their lives outside of the classroom, while balancing what is happening inside the classroom. 
Social Studies is so incredibly broad, but did you know that you can easily input SEL strategies that not only help them dig into history or economics, but also have an opportunity to grow as a person? (SEL can be taught in all subjects!)


Below is a list of the 5 Social Emotional Learning Activities that I use Weekly: 

1. Breathing     

Our breath will always be there for us. This is a common phrase that I use in my classroom. I know it sounds corny, but deep breathing is actually incredibly helpful and important for everyone to learn. Especially our teenagers in our classrooms. 
I set up the meditation with the understanding of expectations. We are quiet, we have eyes closed or we are looking at a blank space, and we are not distracting our classmates from the opportunity to get into their own calming zone. I say they can lay on the floor, lay their heads on their desk, or something in between. But they must be at least an arms length away from a classmate. 
I use guided meditations through YouTube, and explicitly mention that this is simply a strategy to help them regulate their calm feelings. Which is really helpful, when you have kids who think it is only a religious practice. Breathing is something that we do every day, why not learn how to do it in such a way that helps us be better humans? 
I have also led a quick breathing meditation, especially right before a break. Remember that for some of our kids, their home life isn’t peaceful and breaks are very stressful. Reminding them that even though their friends aren’t present, that their breath is always there for them, helps them realize that they are not alone, no matter where they are. 

This little toy is the cutest, and I can’t wait to use it in my classroom:

2. Positive Self Talk

My middle schoolers talk poorly about themselves often. An example of this is, “I am stupid, or I will never get this!” I know they aren’t, and will eventually understand the material, but I am 33, and they are a fraction of my age. How can I help them think better about themselves, especially when they don’t have that support at home? 
By Teach Affirmations. I have white boards in my classroom, and I use them often for SEL work before and after my social studies lessons. Not only does it save paper, but it also gives them an outlet to draw if they need. There is a lot of science behind the power of allowing doodling, students soak in so much more information. We have more students with attention deficit disorders than ever before, and doodling helps students focus. 
We focus on 3’s, two things they are doing well, and one thing they could improve on. I give them ideas, and we talk about what they are doing well, and I affirm to them with positive reinforcement, that they are indeed successful in their lives. Just as they are, and that surprises the majority of them! Some of these kids do not have these positive affirmations at home, keep in mind that we may be their only positive affirmations that they hear all day long. Make them good! You are smart, you can do this, you can problem solve and figure out a workable solution. 

This book is included with Kindle:


3. Take a break 

Sometimes the best solution to a problem is to take a break, and come back to it later. This allows students to fill their brains with more trivial items in their life and realize that that big problem is actually not big at all. They can take a break and doodle, or take a break and breathe. There are so many options on what this break can look like. There is no one size fits all either. Every student in our classrooms is different! Some of my students choose to draw, some choose to meditate, and others choose to write. (which is our last topic, and one of my students favorite options)
Another option is a timed 5 minute break. I give them the pass, and they walk around outside (I teach in a mod) or they also have the option, when it’s colder, to walk down the hall in the main building. This helps them walk it out, while also thinking about strategies to calm down. This can help diffuse a really emotional student, and has worked countless times for me while teaching both middle and high school. 


4. Acknowledge & Rate feelings

I have had students not realize that anger and sadness are normal everyday emotions. I acknowledge the emotions that I see, and ask them to rate their feelings on a scale. 5 being I am about to blow up, and 1 being that this is a manageable emotion, that they just need to take a beat to be able to handle it. 
This helps them realize that emotions have a scale, and every emotion can be handled in a healthy way. But sometimes we have to leave a little more working room for the really big emotions. 

I can’t wait to use this with my Middle Schoolers:


5. Write it down

This strategy is the most coveted outlet for big emotions for my students. I will sometimes ask them if writing it down would be easier than talking about it, and that usually gets a shrug, but they get to it. I tell them that I don’t have to read it, but I would love to support them in whatever is making them feel ________.. I also say, if you want me to read it, you can leave it in my candy drawer, and if not, they can keep it. 
Most of the time, I get it back, and our relationship and trust meter skyrockets. This is such a great way for them to start categorizing their frustrations and figure out workable solutions. 
Well my friends these are solutions/strategies that work for me! Please let me know if they work for you, or if you have any suggestions for activities that I can add to my toolbox! 
Misty aka “The Joy Fit Teacher”


P.S. The links in this post are affiliate links, which means at no cost to you, I may get a small commission if you decide to purchase one of my recommendations.

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