Social-emotional learning is an important skill that is taught to elementary students but is often overlooked in high school.
Social-emotional learning teaches students how to manage their emotions, interact with each other, handle conflicts, self-regulate, and build other social skills that will help them be successful in the classroom and in adult life.
Here are 20 great social-emotional learning activities to develop those social skills with secondary school students!
1. The Great Kindness Challenge
A school-wide challenge in which students are given a checklist of kind things to do and their goal is to check everything off the list. Educators love it because it is easy, it encourages responsible decision-making, and it can challenge students in a fun and positive way.
Learn more: The Great Kindness Challenge
2. Connecting Literature to Life Experiences
Sharing appropriate stories with students is a great way to spark a whole-class discussion about what students go through, especially in connection with things like bullying, conflicts with peers, challenges at home, and making responsible decisions.
Learn more: The American Federation of Teachers
3. Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
Reflective tasks with school students about having a growth mindset or a fixed mindset are one way to get them thinking about the way they look at challenges and how their mindset can impact their ability to persist through them. It is the perfect opportunity for them to engage in positive self-talk.
Learn more: Sprouts
4. Journal Writing
Journal writing is a great way to get students (anybody really) to express themselves during the school day. Provide opportunities for students to just sit down and write with or without a writing prompt. You'd be surprised at some of the topics they write about!
Learn more: Teachers Pay Teachers
5. Apps and Video Games
Leverage the hold that technology has on our teenagers and provide them with some games they can play that will support their social-emotional growth. Learn more about some games that are suitable for high schoolers below.
Learn more: Learning Works for Kids
6. SEL Question of the Day
Have your students answer a question every day that makes them reflect on their daily life. They can answer the questions out loud, on an index card, anonymously, in whatever way supports the students. The goal is to get them to be reflective.
Learn more: Education
7. Playing Team Games
Playing team games encourages students to work as a team, compromise, negotiate, and work towards a common goal. It is a great way for them to build relationships with people and build those collaboration skills.
Learn more: Number Dyslexia
8. Clubs, Sports, other Extracurricular Activities
Encourage school students to join clubs, sports, and other extracurricular activities that line up with their interests. It is a great way for students to connect with like-minded peers and build a sense of community.
Learn more: Prep Scholar
9. Teach Executive Functioning Skills
Many students lack the executive functioning skills needed to be successful in the classroom, such as organization and time management. Provide opportunities for students to work on those skills in the classroom.
Learn more: Sprouts
10. Classroom Cool Off Spot
Provide a space in the classroom where students can go to regulate their emotions in a safe, peaceful space. Put up posters that demonstrate breathing exercises to help students during challenging moments.
Learn more: Natalie Lynn Kindergarten
11. Practice Mindfulness in the Classroom
Guided meditation is a beneficial exercise to integrate into the classroom curriculum. Build a five-minute guided meditation into your lesson plan at the start of class to get students calm and in the right mindset for academic learning.
Learn more: 25 Mindfulness Practices for Calming & Productive Classrooms
12. Use an Art Choice Board
Give students some time to choose an activity from the Social-Emotional Art Choice Board (or a choice board of some sort). These activities let them express their creativity while also being reflective and they require nothing more than your usual classroom resources.
Learn more: Teachers Pay Teachers
13. Adult Mentoring
Believe it or not, students long for positive adult connections beyond just academics. This gives educators insight into their students’ lives they wouldn’t normally get by just sticking to academic material. A mentoring program or adult-led activities are great opportunities for students to connect in a meaningful way and help them build those relationship skills.
Learn more: Real Rap With Reynolds
14. Positive Affirmations
Teach students the power of positive affirmations. Positive self-talk is a tool that people of all ages use and can be done privately or publicly. It doesn’t take much to say nice things about yourself. The key thing is BELIEVING in them.
Learn more: Successful Black Parenting Magazine
15. Opportunities for Rewards
Most people work for a reward nowadays. Our rewards as adults are our paychecks! Students love and thrive off of rewards. Provide opportunities for students to earn rewards! These can be for completing work, being helpful, kind actions, and any responsible decision they may make!
Learn more: World Language Cafe
16. Self Portrait Project
Have students complete self-portraits at different points in the school year. It is a creative way to see how their image of themselves changes throughout the year. Keep track of all portraits so they can see their growth at the end of the school year!
Learn more: The Art of Education University
17. Things You Want Your Teacher to Know
Have students anonymously write on a post-it note, things they want their teacher to know. Doing this will help develop a healthy relationship with students and provides opportunities for students to have a voice!
Learn more: CBS Mornings
18. Discuss Current Events
Some current events directly impact the emotional and physical well-being of our students. It is not helpful to act like these events do not exist. Open up the classroom for controlled discussions with norms that practice active listening to allow students to discuss the events around the world that affect their lives.
Learn more: Near Pod Blog
19. Setting SMART Goals
Setting an attainable goal is a proven way to help people be successful. It gives them something specific to work towards and the goals can be measured as they go so they can see how close they are to meeting them. Goal setting can create a very motivational moment for students.
Learn more: 2 Minute Classroom
20. Support Your Students
Show your students you are there for them! Attend their competition, sporting events, club events, etc. Students love when people are there for them and some children don’t have people showing up for them in their everyday lives. So if you can, be the one who shows up for them.
Learn more: The Southerner