SEL Activities for Students

  • Anagha Vallikat
    Anagha Vallikat

A classroom must not just be about textbooks and curriculum. Global experts and teachers bring special activities into the curriculum that will help develop social skills and empathy. These activities aim to develop feelings and emotions such as gratitude, kindness, social and self-awareness. The socio-emotional learning approach prevents children from culture to help them achieve personal goals and establish relationships based on friendship, trust and love.

Ultimately, SEL ensures that students have the foundation to improve their academic performance using less social and emotional stress.

What is SEL?

SEL is a process through which all young people and adults develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve individual and collective goals, express empathy for others, experience and empathize, establish and maintain supportive relationships, knowledge and skills and approaches. Receive and apply—responsible and caring decisions.

In practice, socio-emotional learning emphasises social and emotional skills in other subjects such as mathematics, science, and reading.

SEL promotes educational equality and excellence through genuine school-family-community partnerships to establish a trusting, and collaborative relationship, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and a constantly evaluated learning environment and experience. SEL can help address various inequalities and enable young people and adults to build prosperous schools and contribute to safer, healthier and equitable communities.

About CASEL Framework

The CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) framework lays the foundation for implementing evidence-based SEL policies for your students.

This framework,  is a key component of CASEL 5 socio-emotional learning. Those five primary socio-emotional learning abilities include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision making, and relationship skills.

  • Self-awareness is the ability to have knowledge of one’s feelings and develop positive self-concepts.
  • Self-management is the ability to regulate one’s own emotions and to monitor one’s behaviour.
  • Social awareness is the ability to be aware of other people’s feelings and social situations.
  • Relationship skills are defined as the skills that enhance relationships and communication between them. And Finally,

SEL prioritises responsible decision making as the ability to solve problems and hold oneself accountable.

These basic ideologies help students live their socially and emotionally healthy lives in and after the school system.

CASEL also defines best practices for implementing SEL at different levels such as classes, schools, families and careers and communities.

Importance of SEL

Socio-emotional learning equips students with skills that they will use well after leaving school fundamentals and is an essential part of the way students learn in a rapidly changing society.

Similarly, socio-emotional learning activities provide children with the tools they need to cope with challenging situations, cope with new environments, develop a growth mindset, and build positive relationships with their peers and beyond.

While learning maturity, responsibility and self-control, students can achieve higher levels and build attitudes towards positive mental health.

Socio-emotional learning can go a long way in enhancing a great school experience for every student!

Also, socio-emotional learning affects the academic outcomes of students from all backgrounds.

The sooner socio-emotional learning skills are developed, the better!

According to a study reported by the OECD, teaching kindergarteners basic social and emotional skills “poverty can have long-term educational benefits on students’ reading and vocabulary, including in schools, suggesting that the SEL can help bridge the gap to success.”

The following are the major advantages of students having strong social and emotional skills,

  • Engage in learning more
  • Rare to drop out of school
  • Less likely to have a behaviour problem
  • Confidence and higher self-esteem

Compared to students currently taking school services, academic and otherwise, SEL programs are likely to be a wiser option. For example, research results on the practical benefits of the SEL program show that at the end of the program, about 27% more students will improve their academic performance and 24% more social behaviour and lower levels of stress.

SEL Activities

We will talk about various SEL activities possible for every learner in any age group to perform.

No matter what class your students are in, these activities can help teach key social and emotional skills.

A typical SEL Menu for 3rd– 5th Grade students

The above generic tasks can be categorized in various aspects of the goals falling in one or more of the five core SEL competencies.

The activities are also designed for students of different age groups, say, for youngest students in preschool till middle school.

Activities for kindergarten students:

Daily Greetings

Get students excited about a new school day and give them the chance to set personal boundaries. When students arrive in the classroom — either virtually or in-person — give them a list of different greeting options, such as a gesture of Thumbs up, wave a hand, high five, elbow bump, and so on. When choices are given, students get the opportunity to evaluate their wants and needs and their mood coming into the classroom. ‌‌SEL skills: Self-awareness, relationship building‌‌Materials: Chart or cards with greeting choices (optional)

Calm-down corners

It is a way to make students stress-free when facing a new environment and new face—allowing students to relax in the calm down corner with flexible sitting arrangements with exciting books and calm-down jars to help students deal with hard emotions.  ‌‌SEL skills: Self-awareness, self-management‌‌Materials: Assorted fidgets, furniture, and other items as needed.

Emotion identifiers

The best social-emotional learning strategies are incorporated into regular classroom instruction.  A simple craft can be devised where students draw faces on paper plates that represent simple emotions — happy, sad, angry, and confused can be some moods. Further, attach the plates to popsicle sticks and use them as masks during read-aloud and during entries in the class. ‌‌SEL skills: Self-awareness, social awareness‌‌Materials: Paper plates, crayons, popsicle sticks.

Similarly, the SEL activities for higher class students could be as listed below:

For Elementary School students:

  • Encouraging positive self-talk – a way to influence how students think about themselves.
  • Learning about student interests- get to know what students like, use a bingo card to list them and pick.
  • Random acts of kindness – promote random acts of kindness in your classroom to build a positive school culture and help students develop empathy.
  • Writing a story together – let students carry on compositing the story based on the clue prompt, e.g. “Once upon a time.”
  • Morning questions – get students interested in answering simple questions in social awareness, e.g., your favourite picnic spot, etc.
  • Playing games – game-based learning is a great source for students to learn socio emotionally and help build teamwork.

For middle school students:

  • Journal writing – helps boost process information, make sense of their emotions and reflect on the lesson.
  • Debating – easy way to formulate arguments, actively listen and respectfully disagree with their peers.
  • Quote of the day - Let students respond to a significant quote about the emotional situation of the author and speaker.
  • Student-led celebrations – this activity teaches responsibility, budgeting, time management, teamwork, and awareness.

For high school students:

  • Class meetings – helps community building and with student feedback, solve disagreements, plan class events, study tours, etc.
  • Interest presentations – let students showcase their hobbies and their likings in cartoons, soccer, knitting, bass guitar, and whatever.
  • Egg drop – a team-building responsible act where a structure is built that supports a delicate, uncooked egg when it’s dropped from the top.
  • Teamwork activities –  making events that let students effectively work with others to harvest collaboration and cooperation.

SEL activities for students across grades

  • Art activities – start picking a piece of music (or even a poem or story) for students to react to.
  • Practical tasks – let students be involved in watering plants, sharpening pencils, weather reporting etc.
  • Reading books – engage students in reading comprehension, read aloud to model emotions and encourage students to respond with their feelings, etc.
  • Mindfulness activities - Breathe in and out of a yoga pose to regulate their emotions when they’re sad, scared, or stressed.
  • Goal-setting activities – a self-management activity where students can host conferences, lead projects, etc.
  • Student check-ins – encourage students to be open and frankly share something they feel about internally.
  • Setting aside time for the online community – get engaged with students face-to-face to talk off-subjects and overall hurdles in coping with the assignments, etc.
  • Icebreaker activities – Encouraging the student to introduce himself in a low-pressure environment and going forward anything like the best moment of life, etc.

Building school activities around socio-emotional learning is not a quick process. Making your class or school district collaborate for academic learning with SEL education takes time and patience. Of course, socio-emotional learning activities can bridge the gap by combining academic knowledge with the child’s development.‌‌