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7 Social Emotional Learning Activities for the Classroom (w/ SEL Skills List)

7 Social Emotional Learning Activities for the Classroom (w/ SEL Skills List)

“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards; curiosity itself can be vivid and wholesome only in proportion as the mind is contented and happy.” ~ Anatole France

There’s an undeniable connection between the way students feel and how well they learn. A student who feels misunderstood or discontented is likely to have difficulty retaining what they learn – something that can impact them for the rest of their lives.

At Alludo, we understand the social and emotional needs of students and teachers. We’ve seen the way that support for teachers has a positive impact on teacher retention and we know that happy students have the best possible chance of success. It’s for that reason that we have included many social and emotional learning activities in the Alludo Content Catalog.

We’ve put together this list of seven social emotional learning activities for the classroom to help teachers and students in your district reap the benefits of SEL.

Table of Contents

  1. What Does SEL Look Like in the Classroom?
  2. How Does Social Emotional Learning Benefit Teachers?
    1. Teachers Learn SEL Skills with Students
    2. Teaching SEL Helps Teachers Manage Stress and Burnout
    3. Teaching SEL Improves Teacher Retention
    4. SEL Improves Teachers’ Decision-Making Skills
    5. SEL Creates a Supportive Environment for Teachers and Students
    6. SEL Makes Teachers More Effective
    7. SEL Makes Teachers Want to Teach
  3. How Do You Plan Social Emotional Learning Activities for Your Class?
    1. Are There Existing SEL Curricula to Choose From?
  4. 7 Social Emotional Learning Activities to Try
    1. Mindfulness
    2. Emotional Call-outs
    3. Quote of the Day
    4. Circle Sharing
    5. Identity Bingo
    6. Conversation with a Stranger
    7. Appreciation, Apology, Aha
    8. Alludo's Take

What Does SEL Look Like in the Classroom?

Social emotional learning takes into consideration that students are developing in multiple ways at the same time. While the primary focus of education is on intellectual development, SEL recognizes that students are also developing emotionally and socially and that the best teaching methods acknowledge these parallel developments.

These are the characteristics of SEL in the classroom:

  • Teaching the five key SEL skills: self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, social awareness, and responsible decision-making.
  • Defining goals and behavioral expectations for students.
  • Developing a school-wide infrastructure that supports SEL and provides necessary resources for teachers.
  • Preparing staff to teach SEL, which should include professional development that’s learner-centered and relevant. (The Alludo platform is an example.)
  • Creating opportunities for students to practice SEL skills.
  • Establishing a regular SEL check-in to measure students’ progress.
  • Connecting and coordinating with other educators to share ideas and brainstorm solutions.

Putting these seven characteristics together reveals that teachers who want to teach SEL require proper support and infrastructure. They should understand the purpose of SEL and the key skills being taught, have materials and resources to teach them, and get both administrative and peer support along the way.

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How Does Social Emotional Learning Benefit Teachers?

While the focus of SEL in the classroom is on helping students with their social and emotional development, there are significant benefits for teachers, as well.

Teachers Learn SEL Skills with Students

Teachers may sometimes put their own self-care aside in favor of helping students. While on the surface that might seem like a good thing, it actually increases teachers’ stress and can have a negative impact on students.

When teachers are empowered to add SEL to their lesson plans, they will be learning important skills alongside their students and more likely to take care of themselves emotionally as a result.

Teaching SEL Helps Teachers Manage Stress and Burnout

There’s an ongoing teacher shortage in the United States and districts of every size are coping with the snowballing effects on students and teachers. 

Teaching SEL helps teachers recognize the signs of stress and burnout and provides them with the tools they need to manage stress and avoid burnout.

Teaching SEL Improves Teacher Retention

Because of the shortage, teacher retention is a priority for every school district. Proper teacher training in SEL encourages teachers to develop emotionally themselves.

Teachers who bring SEL into the classroom are less likely to leave their jobs because they’re more likely to feel supported and to maintain a healthy emotional state even when teaching is stressful.

Teacher Happiness Report

SEL Improves Teachers’ Decision-Making Skills

Stress triggers a chemical response in the body that can shut down critical thinking and make it difficult to make good decisions.

SEL helps teachers manage stress and as a result, may also help them do a better job with decision-making both in and out of the classroom.

SEL Improves Teachers’ Relationships with Students

Teachers who teach SEL gain an understanding of their students that takes their emotional intelligence and social development into consideration.

The result is that teachers feel connected to their students and are more likely to have positive relationships with them than teachers who don’t use SEL in the classroom.

SEL Creates a Supportive Environment for Teachers and Students

One of the best things about SEL is that it increases support for both teachers and students by providing them with instruction regarding important social skills.

Teachers and students may experience burnout without SEL, but learning crucial skills makes sure that everybody feels supported.

SEL Makes Teachers More Effective

Because students’ social and emotional development can impact their intellectual development, it stands to reason that bringing SEL into the classroom makes teachers more effective.

When teachers have a full understanding of the challenges students face, they’re going to be most effective at meeting students where they are and providing them with what they need.

SEL Makes Teachers Want to Teach

Teacher happiness plays a key role in teacher retention and success, as we learned when we compiled data for our teacher happiness report.

Teachers who are happy and content in their jobs are likely to be highly effective at connecting with students and at the same time, more likely to stay in their jobs than teachers who aren’t happy.

How Do You Plan Social Emotional Learning Activities for Your Class?

In order to incorporate SEL in the classroom, teachers must have the proper instruction and tools to plan SEL activities and teach them.

  • Create an SEL Curriculum. The first step is to create a curriculum that incorporates SEL. In this example, student reading involves studying culturally relevant texts while building foundational reading skills. 
  • Teach Students to Monitor Their Own Progress. Self-awareness and self-management are both core SEL skills. Requiring students to monitor their own progress helps build both while also creating an atmosphere of accountability.
  • Buddy with Another Class. Pairing with another classroom can help students practice their SEL skills by interacting with a group of peers and new teachers.

The Alludo Content Catalog includes microlearning activities to help teachers create SEL curricula that teach core skills and elevate student learning.

Are There Existing SEL Curricula to Choose From?

You may be wondering if it’s necessary to create an SEL curriculum from scratch. In fact, there are a number of existing SEL curricula and resources that teachers can draw on and incorporate in their classrooms, including:

  •  The Character Effect. This flexible, personalized SEL program draws on positive psychology and mindfulness and introduces a positive shared language that can be used at school and reinforced at home. 
  • 7 Mindsets. This digital SEL curriculum takes a mindsets-based, teacher-first approach to bolster student wellness and achievement, healthy school cultures, and educators happiness and retention.
  • CASEL. This framework centers on the CASEL wheel, which has five core competencies — social awareness, self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills — and ties them to communities, families, schools, and classrooms.

K-12 Professional Development Strategy Framework

7 Social Emotional Learning Activities to Try

Now, let’s explore seven social emotional learning activities to try in the classroom.


Teachers can encourage mindfulness in their students by starting each day with a mindfulness exercise to help students ground themselves and get in touch with their emotions.

For example, the teacher might ask students to ground themselves physically by taking a few deep breaths and listing four things they can see. Then, they can ground themselves emotionally by listing three things they’re grateful for and making one or two positive self-talk statements about themselves.

Students should be encouraged to repeat the breathing and grounding exercises as needed if they start to feel disconnected or stressed.

Emotional Call-outs

The more students are asked to describe their feelings, the more likely they are to be able to regulate them and deal with them.

Teachers can use creative formats to encourage students to get in touch with their emotions. For example, each student could choose an emoji to show how they feel and take a moment to talk about why they chose it.

Quote of the Day

Choosing a quote of the day can help students learn about and practice SEL skills. Ideally, the quote should be a jumping-off point for conversation. Teachers can find quotes in stories about current events or from a book or website.

The quote doesn’t need to be from a celebrity or great thinker. It can be a common saying. “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should” is an example because it provokes conversation around social and emotional responsibility.

Circle Sharing

Giving students an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings is a good way to practice SEL skills. Sharing groups may be large or small.

In circle sharing, students each get a chance to talk. It may be useful to have a microphone or talisman for the student speaking to hold, with all students understanding they can talk when it’s their turn.

Interest/Identity Bingo

Bingo is an easy game that everybody can play. You can create SEL Bingo cards by using character traits or interests instead of numbers.

For example, you might have statements such as “I know how to play a musical instrument” or “I speak more than one language” to help kids learn about one another.

Conversation with a Stranger

It can be all too easy for students to separate into cliques and not get to know people who aren’t in their small circle of friends.

SEL can help kids get to know one another. You can encourage kids to talk to one another by having them pair up with someone they don’t know, ask a few questions, and then introduce their conversation partner to the class using what they have learned.

Appreciation, Apology, Aha

At the end of the day, it may be useful to have another emotional check-in, with a twist. Ask students to share something they appreciate, something they apologize for, or something they realized during the day.

These moments provide students with more emotional grounding at the end of the day and encourage them to take responsibility for their actions.

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Alludo’s Take

At Alludo, we recognize the importance of social emotional learning for both teachers and students. We know that encouraging teachers to incorporate SEL activities in the classroom can help everybody be more mindful and accountable and less stressed and burned out.

We host several SEL topics in the Alludo Professional Development Content Catalog, including SEL in the Classroom & Support, and Self-Care for Wellness.

Decrease Teacher Stress and Improve Retention with SEL 

Providing teachers with SEL resources training can help them do a better job of connecting with their students while also managing their stress and reducing teacher burnout and turnover.

Want to empower teachers in your district to bring SEL to the classroom? See how Alludo can help make it happen with our free professional development platform trial, including:

  • Hundreds of core topics
  • Asynchronous microlearning activities
  • Timely and specific feedback
  • Analytics that show learning impact
  • Access anytime, anywhere

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What's New in the Alludo Catalog ?

What's New in the Alludo Catalog ?

“It would take us years to roll out all the PD that we can on Alludo." - Kathy Jackson, Director of Teaching and Learning for K-12, YCJUSD

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