It is important for middle school students to be practicing social-emotional learning throughout the year to help support them socially, behaviorally, academically, and in preparation for high school. Skills such as relationship building and self-management skills will help middle schoolers to cope with what can be a difficult time developmentally. Find below 20 different activities that you can use with your middle schoolers to support their social-emotional learning (SEL).
1. Check-in Journal
A check-in journal is a great daily activity to start with your class meetings when building SEL skills. Each journal day has a different way to check in with an SEL Question of the Day. Some of the topics included are gratitude, giving other compliments, emotional "temperature" check, and more.
Learn more: Teach Create Innovate
2. "I am" Self Esteem Builder
Looking at personal strengths can sometimes be hard for this age group. Use this simple "I am" activity for building students' self-esteem. They will clip on different positive words that describe them. Extend the activity by having peers add on clips.
Learn more: Etsy
3. "Think, Say, Do"
This is a proactive measure to help tweens and teens deal with anxiety and stress. They will come up with different stressful or anxious thoughts they have and then create positive messages of self-talk and actions they can take. Extend the activity by making this a gallery walk where classroom feedback can be given to help support their peers.
Learn more: Myle Marks
4. The Paper Challenge
Challenging moments can be the best teachers! Use this paper challenge to support students' social-emotional skills. Students will use just paper and scissors to recreate a VERY difficult paper structure. Students will surely get frustrated and the teacher takes notes of frustrations and brings everyone back together for whole-class discussion around growth mindset.
Learn more: Musings From the Middle School
5. Different Perspective Scenario
This is a great class lesson to teach about perspective and social skills. It gets students to think about what it is like in a certain situation and how different people may respond differently.
Learn more: Boom Learning
6. Growth Mindset Escape Room
Escape rooms are fun classroom activities. In this activity, which can also be used as a classroom icebreaker, students will learn about growth mindset in groups as they try to work together to escape!
Learn more: Think Thank Teacher
7. Hurtful Words
The activity is simple: the teacher discusses how words can hurt, even if that was not our intention. Students then write about times someone has said something hurtful to them or vice versa. Then they share and follow up with more discussion on the power of words.
Learn more: Teaching Muse
In this group activity for students, they get to give and receive compliments. Students will learn what makes a quality compliment and how to receive one. It then leads to a chance for students to practice! Students share peer compliments with one another.
Learn more: Counselor Keri
9. Anger Dice Game
The anger dice game gets kids thinking about how they can respond when they are angry. This gives students time to think of safe people they can talk to, self-soothing strategies, or a favorite breathing technique. The great thing is that it also promotes communication skills between peers and adults.
Learn more: And Next Comes ESL
10. Kind or Trash?
Social-emotional learning skills include understanding kindness. Play "Kind or Trash" with your class. In this game, students will look at scenarios and determine if it is a "kind action" or "trash"...and the trash goes in the bin!
Learn more: Coffee and Carpool
11. SEL Cootie Catcher
The cool way to practice some SEL skills is through this cootie catcher choice board! Students create the catcher and then can play the game with their peers to determine which SEL-related activity they will work on.
Learn more: Rock Your Homeschool
12. ELA and SEL
Bring social-emotional skills into classroom learning! We often focus on SEL in isolation, but it should be intertwined throughout the day in academic learning. Cards with questions are used in the English Language Arts (ELA) classroom to relate social-emotional learning to what is being read in the classroom. The students use the discussion questions to learn more about the text and SEL!
Learn more: The Small But Mighty Teacher (TPT)
13. Circle of Control Chart
A quick activity for the morning meeting on the first school day is this "circle of control" anchor chart. Students discuss what they can and cannot control. It will challenge students to focus more on what they can control.
Learn more: Diane Romo
14. In Someone Else's Shoes
In this activity, read about and define empathy. Then give scenario cards to students to play in "someone else's shoes". They will see through each scenario what is like to be in another's shoes and build empathy.
Learn more: Learning for Justice
15. Third World Farmer Simulation
Another activity to teach empathy, which would be great to teach during the social studies class period, is "3rd World Farmer". It is an online interactive game where students learn about the hardships of farming in less developed countries where resources aren't readily available.
Learn more: 3D World Farmer
16. Active Listening Inventory
Active listening is not only a life skill but an academic one as well. Students take a self-assessment to see just how well they actually listen. It also helps to explain to students the difference between hearing and listening.
Learn more: Stacey Lloyd
17. Control Art Activity
Any middle school teacher knows that sometimes our students like to hold a grudge. This art activity teaches students what to keep and what to let go of. It will help them differentiate between what is actually important to "hold on to".
Learn more: Creativity in Therapy
18. "My Bubble"
This activity teaches about personal space and boundaries. A big part of emotional growth is being able to hold our personal boundaries. This worksheet helps students put it on paper to better understand that they have personal bubbles and they have the right to hold others to their boundaries.
Learn more: Christine McNeill
19. Perseverance and Positive Self-Talk
Positive self-talk is great for middle schoolers to develop! To help support his skill, play a game of "I Have, Who Has" to teach students examples of positive self-talk!
Learn more: Counselor Chelsey (TPT)
20. Prevent Anxiety with Time Management
Organizing your day is a functioning skill that we all need - without it, we can get anxious. A great way to teach students how to manage their time is this activity on prioritizing. Students can get bogged down with all the things they must accomplish during the school week. This activity focuses on categories the "to do" list into 3 sections: urgent, important, and it can wait.
Learn more: Myle Marks