15 Activities to Foster Social Emotional Development in the Classroom

by | Sep 9, 2023 | ETS Instructors

Heart - ED Technology Specialists

In today’s rapidly changing world, social and emotional skills are more crucial than ever. As teachers, you play a pivotal role in nurturing these skills in your students. Social-emotional learning (SEL) activities not only improve students’ emotional well-being but also enhance their academic performance and prepare them for success in life. In this blog, we’ll explore some engaging activities that teachers can use to promote social-emotional development in the classroom.

  1. Emotion Charades: This activity encourages students to express and recognize emotions. Write down various emotions on slips of paper, and have students take turns acting out the emotions without using words. This game helps them understand facial expressions and body language, improving their emotional intelligence.
  2. Emotion Journals: Encourage students to keep emotion journals. Each day, they can write down how they felt, what caused their emotions, and how they responded. This practice fosters self-awareness and emotional regulation. Silk and Sonder provide a great list of prompts!
  3. Creative Art Projects: Assign small groups of students to work on art projects together. This promotes teamwork, communication, and the understanding that everyone’s contribution is valuable to achieve a common goal.
  4. Mindfulness and Relaxation Exercises: Start or end the day with short mindfulness exercises or deep breathing techniques. This helps students manage stress and build self-control. Awake and Mindful supplies these great kid-appropriate meditation videos.
  5. Storytelling: Ask students to share personal stories about challenges they’ve faced and how they overcame them. This builds empathy and teaches resilience.
  6. Role-Playing Scenarios: Create scenarios that mimic real-life situations, such as conflict resolution, bullying, or dealing with peer pressure. Have students role-play different roles to explore various perspectives and solutions.
  7. Feelings Check-Ins: Begin your class by having each student briefly share how they’re feeling that day. This creates a supportive and empathetic classroom atmosphere.
  8. Emotion Vocabulary Building: Introduce new emotion words each week. Discuss their meanings and ask students to share instances when they felt that emotion. This expands their emotional vocabulary and understanding.
  9. Community Service Projects: Engage students in community service or volunteer work. Encouraging them to give back fosters a sense of empathy, responsibility, and connection to the broader community.
  10. Peer Compliment Circle: Form a circle, and have each student give a compliment to the person on their right. This promotes positive peer interactions and boosts self-esteem.
  11. Conflict Resolution Workshops: Teach students strategies for resolving conflicts peacefully. Role-play different conflict scenarios, allowing students to practice these skills in a safe environment. Use these 5 steps from Sunshine Parenting as a guide.
  12. Gratitude Journaling: Encourage students to keep a gratitude journal. Regularly reflecting on things they are thankful for can improve their overall well-being and foster a positive mindset. Happier Human offers this extensive list of prompts!
  13. SEL Literature: Use books and stories with strong social-emotional themes as part of your curriculum. Discuss the characters’ emotions and actions to help students relate and learn.
  14. Emotion Thermometer: Create an “emotion thermometer” with different emotional states ranging from calm to highly agitated. Have students point to where they feel they are on the thermometer at various points throughout the day to promote self-awareness.
  15. Group Discussions: Arrange group discussions on relevant topics like bullying, peer pressure, or self-esteem. Encourage students to express their opinions and feelings while practicing active listening.

Promoting social-emotional development in the classroom is not just about academic success; it’s about preparing students for life. These activities not only foster emotional intelligence but also create a positive and inclusive classroom environment. As teachers, you have the power to shape not only what your students know but also who they become. 

To learn more on this topic, check out these fantastic courses. 

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