Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom
Do you ever find yourself wondering how to create an engaging and supportive learning environment for your upper elementary students? We’ve got the perfect solution for you: 45 activities focused on social emotional learning for upper elementary students.
What’s in this post?
In this post, we’ll explore 45 engaging and easy social-emotional learning activities that are perfect for elementary students to practice and develop their social-emotional skills.
So, buckle up and get ready to transform your classroom into a nurturing space where students can thrive, both academically and emotionally.
What is SEL (Social Emotional Learning) for elementary students?
For elementary students, SEL is a crucial component of their education that supports their personal, social, and academic growth.
During the early years, children begin to form their self-concepts, understand their emotions, and develop social skills.
Implementing class meetings focused on Social Emotional Learning at the elementary level helps students:
Build a strong foundation for emotional well-being, resilience, and mental health.
Enhance their ability to understand and manage their emotions.
Develop empathy, compassion, and respect for others.
Learn effective communication skills to solve problems in various situations.
Create and maintain positive relationships with peers and adults.
Make responsible decisions that contribute to a positive school environment and community.
Integrating SEL into Your Curriculum”
Integrating social emotional learning lesson plans into the elementary curriculum enables students to develop the essential skills they need to navigate life’s challenges and thrive in their future academic and professional pursuits.
By using social emotional learning skills fostering meaningful relationships in a supportive and engaging learning environment, educators can help elementary students grow into well-rounded, emotionally intelligent individuals.
What are the 5 main areas of Social Emotional Learning?
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a framework that focuses on teaching students social and emotional skills that contribute to their overall well-being and success.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) identifies five core social emotional skills as the main areas of SEL:
Understanding one’s own feelings, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and values, as well as fostering self-confidence and a growth mindset.
Developing skills to regulate emotions, manage stress, set and achieve goals, and maintain focus and motivation.
Cultivating empathy, appreciating diversity, and understanding the perspectives of others in order to build positive relationships and navigate social situations.
Learning effective communication, conflict resolution, and cooperation skills to establish and maintain healthy connections with others.
Making choices that align with personal values, considering the well-being of oneself and others, and contributing positively to the community. Click here to read about CHAMPS and learn strategies for setting expectations.
To kick things off, let’s dive into the first category: self-awareness.
Developing emotional skills empowers students to recognize their emotions, strengths, and areas for improvement. By understanding themselves better, they become more equipped to handle the ups and downs of life.
Looking for social skill activities for elementary students? Here are eight educational activities for elementary students that will boost their self-awareness:
Emotion wheel: Have students create a wheel to identify and track their emotions throughout the day. This activity not only helps them recognize their feelings but also encourages emotional literacy.
Feelings Journal: Encourage students to write about their emotions and experiences in a private journal. This practice allows them to express themselves openly and reflect on their feelings.
Emotion sorting: Provide students with emotion cards and have them sort the cards into categories based on how the emotions make them feel. This exercise helps them understand their emotional responses better.
Self-awareness worksheets: Guide students through worksheets that prompt them to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. This activity fosters a sense of self-acceptance and growth.
Emotion collages: Ask students to create collages that represent different emotions using images and words. This creative activity encourages emotional expression and recognition.
Zones of regulation: Teach students about the different emotional zones and how to self-regulate. This framework supports students in managing their emotions effectively.
Feelings thermometer: Have students identify and rate the intensity of their emotions using a feelings thermometer. This tool helps them develop emotional awareness and self-regulation skills.
Identifying emotions in art: Engage students in discussions about the emotions depicted in various pieces of art. This activity promotes emotional literacy and encourages students to appreciate the emotional depth in creative expressions.
Now that we’ve covered self-awareness, let’s move on to the second category: self-management.
Mastering self control enables students to regulate their emotions, manage stress, and stay focused on their goals. These abilities are essential for success in school and life.
Check out these eight engaging activities that will help your students cultivate self-management skills:
Mindfulness exercises: Teach students mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or guided imagery. Practicing mindfulness helps them develop focus, reduce stress, and manage their emotions more effectively.
You can find several of these stories on Youtube. They make great virtual SEL activities for elementary students!
Goal-setting worksheets: Encourage students to set personal and academic goals for themselves. This activity promotes self-motivation and fosters a sense of purpose.
Positive affirmations: Guide students in creating and reciting positive affirmations to build self-esteem and resilience. This practice reinforces a positive mindset and helps them overcome challenges.
Mindful moments: Integrate brief mindfulness exercises into the school day, allowing students to pause, reflect, and refocus. These moments can be particularly helpful during transitions or after high-energy activities.
Self-regulation strategies: Teach students techniques for managing their emotions and behaviors, such as counting to ten, visualizing a calming scene, or engaging in physical activity. These strategies empower students to take control of their emotional well-being. Print these coping strategies and place them in a jar! Want to learn more? Read our post, Sensory Strategies to Help Kids with Self-Regulation in the Classroom.
Positive self-talk: Help students practice using positive self-talk to overcome challenges and build self-esteem. Discuss examples of negative self-talk and brainstorm ways to reframe these thoughts positively.
Emotion-based movement: Incorporate movement activities that help students connect with their emotions, such as yoga or dance. These exercises not only help them release pent-up energy but also allow them to express their emotions in a healthy way.
Brain Breaks – Taking regular breaks can help students stay regulated. Check out our post: Brain Breaks – 20 awesome ways to energize your students FAST!
Zones of regulation: Reinforce the concepts of the zones of regulation by having students practice identifying their current zone and brainstorming strategies to shift to a more desirable zone when needed. You can download some zones of regulations posters to hang on the wall.
With these self-management activities in your toolkit, you’ll be well on your way to nurturing a classroom environment where students feel they can successfully navigate their emotions and stay focused on their goals.
As we venture into the third category, let’s focus on social awareness.
Fostering social awareness in your students helps them develop empathy, recognize and appreciate diversity, and understand the perspectives of others.
These skills are essential for building positive relationships and navigating social situations.
Here are eight enriching activities to help your students strengthen their social awareness:
Empathy map: Have students create a map to understand the feelings and perspectives of others. This activity encourages them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, fostering empathy and compassion.
Perspective-taking activities: Guide students through exercises that require them to see situations from different points of view. These activities can involve role-playing, storytelling, or group discussions.
Social stories: Read stories to your students that teach important social skills or address common challenges. Engage them in discussions about the characters’ emotions, actions, and the lessons they can learn from the story.
Empathy-building exercises: Provide students with scenarios that require empathy, and have them brainstorm ways to support or help others. This activity teaches them to be sensitive to the feelings and needs of others.
Cultural awareness activities: Encourage students to explore and celebrate different cultures and traditions. This can include researching cultural customs, trying new foods, or learning about important historical figures from various backgrounds.
Identifying emotions in art: Have students draw and discuss emotions depicted in various pieces of art, focusing on how these emotions might be experienced by people from diverse backgrounds or cultures.
Social skills videos: Show short videos that teach essential social skills, such as active listening, cooperation, or empathy. Follow up with group discussions or role-playing activities to practice these skills.
Community outreach projects: Engage your students in community service or outreach projects, allowing them to interact with diverse groups of people and learn about the experiences and needs of others.
By incorporating these social awareness activities into your classroom, you’re setting the stage for students to become empathetic and understanding individuals who can positively contribute to their communities. Stay tuned for the next category, where we’ll delve into relationship skills that promote healthy connections and effective communication!
Moving on to the fourth category, let’s explore relationship skills.
Building strong relationship skills enables students to form and maintain healthy social relationships, communicate effectively, and resolve conflicts.
These abilities are crucial for personal and professional success.
Here are eight engaging activities to help your students develop robust relationship skills:
Emotion charades: Organize a game where students act out different emotions while their classmates guess the emotion. This activity not only helps students recognize emotions but also enhances their non-verbal communication skills.
Compliment circle: Arrange students in a circle and have them take turns giving compliments to each other. This activity promotes positive communication, appreciation, and fosters a supportive classroom environment.
Conflict resolution strategies: Teach students various conflict resolution strategies through role-play, having them act out scenarios to practice resolving conflicts.
Team-building games: Engage students in SEL games that encourage teamwork and collaboration, such as a group puzzle or relay race. These activities help students learn to cooperate, problem-solve, and trust one another.
Peer mediation: Train students to help resolve conflicts between classmates using mediation strategies. This process empowers them to take ownership of their relationships and promotes a peaceful classroom culture.
Sharing circles: Establish a safe and supportive environment where students take turns sharing their thoughts and feelings. This activity encourages active listening, empathy, and emotional support among classmates.
Friendship Bingo: Friendship Bingo is a great tool for creating a game where students mingle and find classmates who share similar interests or experiences. This activity helps students build connections and discover common ground.
Trust-building activities: Facilitate activities that build trust and rapport among students, such as the trust fall or a blindfolded obstacle course. These exercises reinforce the importance of trust in healthy relationships.
Finally, let’s delve into the fifth category: responsible decision-making.
Teaching students responsible decision-making skills empowers them to be socially aware, make choices that align with their values, consider the well-being of others, and contribute positively to their community.
Here are eight activities that will help your students become responsible decision-makers:
Acts of kindness: Brainstorm and complete acts of kindness for others in the school community. This activity helps students consider the impact of their actions on others. Here’s a kindness activity you can use!
Growth mindset discussions: Lead conversations about embracing challenges and learning from mistakes. This mindset encourages students to make responsible decisions that promote personal growth. We have lots of growth mindset resources in Minds in Bloom Unlimited! Have a look!
Emotional vocabulary: Introduce new emotion-related words and have students practice using them in sentences. Expanding their emotional vocabulary (and writing skills) helps them express themselves more effectively and make informed decisions.
Gratitude bulletin board: Encourage students to write down things they are grateful for and place them on a bulletin board to promote a positive classroom atmosphere. This activity promotes a positive outlook and helps students recognize the value of their choices. Here’s a quick gratitude tracker your students can use.
Social skills videos: Revisit the social skills videos, but this time, focus on responsible decision-making topics such as problem-solving, resisting peer pressure, or making ethical choices.
Appreciation Day: Organize a day when students celebrate a classmate by sharing reasons why they appreciate them. This activity helps students recognize the impact of their positive choices on others.
Zones of regulation: Reinforce the concepts of the zones of regulation by establishing a calm down corner in the classroom where students can practice making responsible decisions based on their current emotional state.
“I” statements: Help students to use “I” statements to express their feelings and needs. This can help them manage emotions and make responsible decisions when navigating interpersonal conflicts.
Social Emotional Learning Activities & Games
Here are five fun and engaging games teachers can play in the classroom to promote Social Emotional Learning (SEL) among their students:
Emotion charades: This is a fun and interactive social-emotional learning activity for kids that helps them understand and express their feelings more effectively. In this game, students take turns acting out an emotion while their classmates guess the emotion being portrayed. This activity helps students recognize and understand various emotions, improves non-verbal communication, and encourages empathy.
The compliment web: In this activity, students stand in a circle while holding a ball of yarn. One student starts by holding the end of the yarn and giving a compliment to another student, then tosses the yarn ball to that student while still holding onto the string. This process continues until everyone has given and received a compliment, creating a web of yarn. This game promotes positive communication, and appreciation, and fosters a supportive classroom environment.
Human knot: Students stand in a circle, then reach out to grab the hands of two different classmates. The objective is to untangle the “knot” by communicating and cooperating without letting go of each other’s hands. This game teaches teamwork, problem-solving, and effective communication skills.
Four corners: Designate each corner of the classroom as a different emotion (e.g., happy, sad, angry, and scared). Read various scenarios or situations aloud, and have students move to the corner that represents how they would feel in that situation. This activity helps students recognize and understand emotions, develop empathy, and engage in discussions about their feelings.
The silent line-up: In this game, students are tasked with lining up in a particular order (e.g., by birthdate, height, or alphabetically by first name) without talking. They must rely on non-verbal communication and cooperation to complete the task. This activity enhances non-verbal communication skills, fosters teamwork, and encourages problem-solving.
Whether you’re planning social emotional learning events or looking for SEL activities for kindergarten through to 6th graders, we gotcha covered! These games not only promote SEL in the classroom for elementary schoolers but also help create a fun, interactive, and supportive learning environment to develop essential life skills.
How do you find time to teach Social Emotional Learning?
Teaching social-emotional learning (SEL) in elementary school is an essential part of helping students develop crucial life skills for personal, academic performance, and social success.
By integrating SEL into your daily routine, even just a few minutes a day, you can create a supportive and nurturing learning environment.
Here are five key steps to teach Social Emotional Learning effectively in elementary school:
Start with the basics: Begin by introducing the five core competencies of SEL (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making). Use age-appropriate language and examples to help students, even at a young age, understand the concepts. For instance, discuss emotions, the importance of empathy, and simple decision-making scenarios.
Model positive behaviors: As an educator, you play a significant role in shaping students’ social and emotional growth. Be mindful of your own emotions and actions, and demonstrate positive communication, problem-solving, and empathy. Your example will encourage students to follow suit and adopt similar behaviors.
Incorporate SEL activities: Integrate engaging SEL activities into your lesson plans, such as games, role-playing, group discussions, and team-building exercises. These activities not only promote the development of SEL skills but also create opportunities for students to practice these skills in a safe, supportive environment. Classroom jobs are a great way to promote responsibility and cooperation.
Create a caring classroom culture: Establish a classroom environment that fosters respect, empathy, and inclusion. Encourage students to support and appreciate one another, and prioritize building a strong classroom community. This foundation sets the stage for students to feel comfortable discussing their emotions and engaging in SEL activities.
Communicate with families: Collaborate with parents and caregivers to reinforce SEL concepts at home. Share resources, activities, and strategies that families can use to support their children’s social emotional growth. Establishing a strong home-school connection can significantly enhance the impact of SEL in the classroom.
By incorporating morning meetings that focus on SEL and following these steps in your teaching approach, you’ll effectively promote SEL in your elementary classroom, setting students on a path to emotional intelligence.
Social Emotional Learning Resources
If you’re a teacher looking to learn more about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and find valuable resources, here’s a list of organizations, websites, and books that can help you enhance your understanding and effectively implement SEL in your classroom:
CASEL: A leading SEL organization offering research-based resources, guidelines, and best practices for educators. Visit https://casel.org/.
Committee for Children: Behind the Second Step program, they provide resources and tools for SEL in the classroom. Visit https://www.cfchildren.org/.
Approaches and Trainings:
Responsive Classroom: An evidence-based approach integrating academic and SEL skills. Access resources and professional development at https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/.
Mindful Schools: Offers mindfulness-based SEL training and resources for educators. Check out online courses and materials at https://www.mindfulschools.org/.
Book: “The Incredible 5-Point Scale” by Kari Dunn Buron and Mitzi Curtis – A practical method for teaching emotional regulation.
Book: “Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators” edited by Maurice J. Elias, et al. – A comprehensive guide for implementing SEL.
Book: “Teaching with the Heart in Mind” by Lorea Martinez Perez – Covers SEL principles, teaching strategies, and resources for creating supportive classrooms.
You can make a difference in a child’s life!
By incorporating these 40 activities across the five categories of social emotional learning, you’ll create a vibrant, supportive, and engaging classroom where your upper elementary students can flourish academically, emotionally, and socially.
These social-emotional learning activities for kids can also be adapted for preschoolers or middle schoolers, setting a strong foundation for all students’ emotional well-being and social skills.
So go ahead and start transforming your classroom today!
Other Blog Posts to Explore
- “Your Classroom Culture: 12 Questions to Ask Yourself” provides helpful questions for evaluating and improving your classroom culture.
- “20 Questions to Ask Kids” offers fun and engaging conversation starters for children.
- “20 Back from Winter Break Writing Prompts”
- “20 Spring Writing Prompts” provides writing prompts perfect for the season.
- “20 Back from Winter Break Writing Prompts” offers writing prompts to help ease students back into the school routine after winter break.
- “20 End of the Year Reflection Questions” provides reflection questions to help students process their school year and set goals for the future.
More related articles:
These related blog posts cover a range of topics, including classroom management, building relationships, inclusion strategies, and engaging conversation starters for kids.
- Introduction to CHAMPS: A Proactive and Positive Classroom Management Strategy
- Building Loyalty in Your Students: Fostering Strong Relationships
- Main Archives: A Collection of Educational Resources and Ideas
- 7 Inclusion Classroom Supports for All Teachers: Strategies for a Diverse Classroom
- 20 Questions to Ask Kids: Fun and Thought-Provoking Conversation Starters
Minds in Bloom Resources You Might Like!
Growth Mindset Coloring Posters – BUNDLE (50 Posters, Classroom Decor, & More!) | Print & Digital
Make coloring meaningful and decorate your classroom with these 50 growth mindset posters!
Want to share your ideas?
Leave your SEL lesson ideas in the comments so that other teachers can benefit from your knowledge and expertise.