Social Emotional Learning Activities

Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL for short, is the teaching and development of the skills needed to manage big feelings, form relationships, gain self awareness, solve problems, make responsible choices, and set goals. Social and emotional learning activities also focus on open communication and empathy. There are five major components to social emotional learning: self awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Other important concepts include cooperation skills and a growth mindset.

Student Activities for Social Emotional Learning

Essential Questions for Social Emotional Learning

  1. Why is Social Emotional Learning such an important skill to have?
  2. What are the core components of Social Emotional Learning?
  3. How can Social Emotional Learning help students succeed?

Using Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom

There are many reasons why SEL is important to a child’s development and growth as a human being. The first reason is academic performance. Children work hard to focus on schoolwork, and it is important that they are comfortable, happy, and emotionally well rounded in order to perform to the best of their ability. Emotionally stable children have less behavioral issues and are able to better stay on track academically. The second reason why students need SEL is general quality of life and well being. When students are explicitly taught social and emotional skills, they grow to be adults who are able to manage life’s challenges and stressful situations. The final reason is future careers and success in the workforce. Adults face challenges all the time at work, and being able to manage problems and conflict is a skill that all adults need to have. Learning this at a young age is crucial. Empathetic, self-aware, and communicative children grow to be empathetic, self-aware, and communicative adults.

Students also need SEL to help them learn to deal with the different types of problems and challenges that they could potentially face at some point during their childhood. Oftentimes we expect children to naturally know how to handle themselves in certain situations when in truth, they really need to be shown the way. Some examples of such situations are bullying, racism, exclusion, teasing, abuse of any kind, inappropriate relationships, cyber-bullying, social media behavior, and internet safety.

These activities focus on many aspects of social emotional learning such as identifying emotions, positive self-talk, how to apologize, unique characteristics, and how to practice mindfulness. They can be done in large or small groups, or completed independently. For more activities for Social Emotional Learning, check out our lesson plan centered around Read Alouds!

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Emotional Learning



Begin by introducing the concept of emotional expression and its importance in Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Discuss the role of creative arts (e.g., visual arts, music, drama) in helping individuals express and understand their emotions. Explain the objectives of the lesson: to explore emotions through creative arts and develop emotional awareness.


Emotion Exploration

Provide a variety of art supplies, such as colored pencils, markers, paper, and clay. Ask students to think about an emotion they've experienced recently and choose one they would like to express through creative arts. Encourage them to use the art supplies to create an artwork that represents that emotion, without using any words. Allow time for students to work on their art pieces, emphasizing that there are no right or wrong ways to express emotions through art.


Art Sharing and Reflection

Have each student present their artwork to the class. Ask them to describe the emotions they aimed to convey and any challenges they faced during the creative process. After each presentation, facilitate a brief discussion by asking classmates to share their interpretations and feelings while viewing the artwork. Encourage active listening and respectful feedback during this sharing session.


Group Activity

Organize a group activity related to creative arts and emotional expression. For example, you could have students work together to create a collaborative mural or perform a short skit that conveys a range of emotions. Discuss the value of collaborating in creative arts as a way to express complex emotions.


Reflection and Discussion

Lead a reflective discussion about the experience, asking students to share what they learned about themselves and others during the lesson. Discuss how creative arts can be a powerful tool for emotional expression, empathy, and communication. Explore any connections between the art created and real-life situations in which they've experienced similar emotions.


Homework or Extended Activity

Assign a homework project or an extended activity to reinforce the concepts learned in class. For example, you can ask students to create an emotional art journal where they regularly express their feelings through various creative mediums. Provide guidelines for the project and a timeline for submission. Throughout the lesson, emphasize the importance of respecting and validating each student's emotions and creative expressions. Ensure a supportive and inclusive classroom environment where students feel comfortable sharing their feelings and artwork. This lesson helps students develop emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and empathy while nurturing their creative abilities.

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Emotional Learning

Can SEL be effectively taught to children of different age groups?

Yes, SEL is adaptable for different age groups. For younger children, focus on foundational skills like identifying and managing basic emotions. For adolescents, you can explore more complex topics such as relationship dynamics, responsible decision-making, and self-regulation. Tailoring content to match developmental stages and using age-appropriate language and examples is crucial for effective instruction.

What are some examples of SEL-related scenarios that work well in storyboards?

Storyboards are excellent for illustrating SEL scenarios. For instance, you can depict a storyboard where a child helps a classmate who is feeling lonely or upset, demonstrating empathy and social awareness. Another scenario might showcase a conflict resolution situation where students use active listening and problem-solving to resolve a disagreement, reinforcing key SEL principles.

Are there any potential challenges or pitfalls to avoid when using storyboards and worksheets for teaching SEL?

While using storyboards and worksheets for SEL, avoid making scenarios overly complex, as this may confuse or overwhelm students. Ensure that scenarios and examples are inclusive and sensitive to different backgrounds and experiences. Also, be mindful of providing clear instructions and maintaining a balance between engagement and the educational content.

What are some key elements to include in SEL worksheets?

SEL worksheets should include thought-provoking questions that encourage self-awareness, empathy, and problem-solving. Include relatable scenarios or case studies that allow students to apply SEL skills in real-life contexts. Prompts for self-reflection and opportunities for students to identify their emotions, thought processes, and potential solutions are key elements for effective SEL worksheets. Clear instructions are essential to guide students through the exercises.

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