16 Social and Emotional Learning Activities

From reading, writing, and arithmetic, social and emotional learning (SEL) can be woven into nearly any subject.

Many teachers believe in the importance of teaching students social and emotional skills, but not all are aware that SEL concepts can easily be taught right alongside core academic instruction in classrooms or afterschool programs.

It’s easy to get started teaching SEL in your core instruction! Here are 16 activity and lesson ideas — organized by subject area — to get you started.


How to Teach Math as a Social Activity Establishing a cooperative learning environment is an effective way to teach math to a group of students with varying skill sets and levels of mastery. See how this teacher promotes SEL while teaching students core content.

Saving Sam: A Team-Building Activity Oh no! Sam the Worm’s boat has capsized, and his life jacket is trapped underneath it. Can your students use teamwork and collaboration to get him back in his boat without touching him? This fun activity promotes creative problem-solving and teamwork to reinforce engineering skills.

Seed Keepers – Native American Agriculture Teaching students the farming traditions of Native Americans can be a fun way to reinforce social and emotional and 21st-century skills. In this FutureFit™ project, students explore the “three sisters” growing technique and how to save heirloom seeds.

Identifying Emotions Activity: Chameleon Moods Helping students learn how to identify physical signs of escalating emotions can be an effective way to teach self-regulation. In this activity, students learn this important skill while they learn about chameleons and why they change colors.

Trap a Naughty Leprechaun Using Simple Machines Catch that leprechaun! Get students’ creative gears spinning with this project that teaches engineering, math, communication, and problem-solving.

Language Arts

Books Give Us Wings Books can help students understand the world from different points of view by exploring different cultures and societies. Books can also help students rise above bullying and peer pressure and overcome loss or adversity. Foster a love of reading by teaching students that books aren’t just entertaining — they can also “give us wings.”

Conflict Resolution Vocabulary: “-ate” Words Communicate, negotiate, mediate. Teach students the many words that end in “-ate”, and explore how to use these words to resolve conflicts.

Writing Prompts and Conversation Starters Daily writing prompts can be a fun and effective way to practice SEL. This inexpensive printable includes 150 prompts to address self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Conversation Skills: Staying on Topic Listening skills are important for effective communication and also for demonstrating respect for others. Practice communicating with others with this fun game.

 Social Studies and History

Empathy and the Persona Poem A persona poem is written from another person’s perspective and can be a powerful way to teach empathy. This activity works well in either language arts or history class, and this particular lesson is better for 7th or 8th grade students (though you can modify for younger students by selecting an age-appropriate topic).

SEL Lessons and Activities to Enhance Social Studies Social studies is an excellent platform to teach social and emotional skills such as self-management, relationship building, social awareness, and responsible decision-making. Enhance your social studies and history lessons with these activities and teaching practices.

SEL Activities That Promote Global Learning Teaching SEL alongside global learning can deepen students’ interpersonal skills while increasing their knowledge and awareness of world issues. Global learning, which is sometimes referred to as global citizenship instruction, and SEL both help students develop respect, collaboration, and responsible decision-making while helping learners become responsible and active global citizens. Use these activities with your elementary, middle, and high school students to improve their global learning.

Physical Education and The Arts

How to Integrate SEL into PE to Improve Classroom Climate Teaching SEL in physical education class is an excellent way to help students navigate many of the challenges they face in sports and in life. SEL reinforces many of the skills needed for teamwork, cooperation, goal-setting, and confidence. At the same time, it can help reduce conduct problems, low self-esteem, and emotional distress.

Art Activities for Social Emotional Learning Artistic expression goes hand-in-hand with SEL. Check out this site for lots of ideas for reinforcing SEL through drawing, collages, and other craft activities.

Charades for Kids: Feelings and Empathy Acting out emotions and engaging students in role-playing can promote kindness and empathy. Let students’ creativity flow while encouraging them to explore feelings and empathy through dramatic expression.

Smithsonian Folk Ways Recordings Music can be a fun way for students to explore other cultures and customs. By learning about different musical traditions, students learn to accept differences in others and celebrate diversity. Check out this wonderful resource that includes lesson plans for a range of age groups, and have fun exploring music from around the world.

Incorporating SEL activities in classrooms and afterschool programs can make lessons more engaging and help students find deeper meaning in core subject areas. At the same time, students learn the critical social and emotional skills needed to succeed in school and in life. To get started with SEL assessment and strategies from Aperture Education, contact us through the form below.

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