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 sure how to teach these skills. The good news is that SEL concepts can easily be taught right alongside core academic instruction in classrooms or afterschool programs.

Here are 16 activity and lesson ideas — organized by core subject area — to get you started.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 help them explore how to use these words to resolve conflicts.


SEL 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. Help students learn how to communicate 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 due to the sensitive nature of the topic (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.

Arthur’s World Neighborhood

Exploring the diversity of the world around them develops students’ social awareness and acceptance of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. These activities, printables, and resources will give students many opportunities to practice these important skills.

The Arts

Group Time: Teaching Culture Through Cooking

Food has an almost magical way of bringing people together. We can learn so much about cultures, customs, and traditions through the culinary arts. Try one or more of these activities to increase students’ social engagement, perspective-taking, and appreciation of diversity.

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.

Creating Harmony: How Music Can Support Social Emotional Development

Making music with students can have a deep and lasting impact on their social and emotional development and promotes group cohesion, cooperation, self-regulation, and self-confidence. Get into the rhythm and have fun with these participatory group music and movement activities.

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 learn even more strategies for incorporating SEL into instruction, contact our experts today.