Ways to Promote Social Emotional Learning

Classroom Management, Back to School
Blog Header for Blog Post Ways to Promote Social Emotional Learning. Photo of 2 boys and 2 girls at school.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is an important part of every school day. Now more than ever with distance learning and COVID, SEL will need to be a big focus when we go back into school in person and/or digitally. SEL is important for every day classroom interactions and beyond. These life skills that students can learn will help set them up to be successful in future life situations.

Importance of SEL

SEL is important for so many reasons, but below I’ve picked some of the top ones I see in the classroom.

  • Teaches life skills
  • Promotes positive self-esteem
  • Teaches teamwork
  • Helps kids express feelings and needs
  • Helps students understand others
  • Gives students the opportunity to learn about self-control

As teachers it’s important that SEL is not just a passing thought, but something that we integrate into our classroom everyday. I’ve come up with 6 easy ways to incorporate SEL into your classroom.

Social Emotional Books

Picture of the book - What Should Danny Do? School Days

Books are always a great way to teach life skills. Students can identify with characters and things they are going through. Reading SEL stories can also open up an opportunity for great classroom discussions about friendship, self-control, emotions, etc. If you are looking for some SEL books, check out my list of 10 Must-Have SEL Books for the Classroom>>> HERE.

Building Classroom Community

Picture of the paper ring challenge

Classroom community is another way to promote social emotional learning in your classroom. The first few weeks of school teachers work tirelessly to help the students get to know one another and to build up that classroom community. Your class is like a family and it takes time and effort to make that happen.

Getting to know you activities at the beginning of the year is one way to build community. One activity I love doing is having the kids interview each other. This is a great way for them to get to know a classmate they didn’t know before. If you are interested in an interview page already created and more get to know you activities, check out my Getting to Know You Back to School Writing Activities.

Team building activities are another great way to build classroom community. I know this year things will look different with COVID, but I love doing table team competitions. In the past, we’ve done who can build the tallest tower, who can make the largest paper chain, and who can balance the most dice on a popsicle stick. These competitions are silly and meant to be fun. They are also a great way for the kids to feel more comfortable.

Morning Meeting

Picture of a sorting activity during Morning Meeting

I could talk about Morning Meeting all day long! If you know me, you know Morning Meeting is one of my favorite parts of the school day. While it incorporates academics, Morning Meeting is also a great chance to promote Social Emotional Learning skills. This is a great time to read SEL books, have discussions during share, and work on activities where students can get to know each other better. If you are interested in learning more about Morning Meeting, click HERE.


Picture of scenario card with a clipart of a boy

Kids do not come out of the womb knowing how to deal with social and emotional situations. They often learn through experiences. Through these experiences, they sometimes make a great choice when handling a situation, but they also sometimes don’t know what to do and might not make the best choice.

While reading SEL stories, we tend to discuss the scenarios of what has happened. This gives us a chance to talk about the situation and how the character handled it. Questions I often ask include: Did they make a good choice?, Could they have handled it differently?, What could they do next time? These questions and discussions expose kids to every day situations that they might face some day. They also provide them with background knowledge, which might help them know how to handle these situations.

I just created a brand new resource to help with these discussions. In this resource, you will find 24 different every day child scenarios that you can project on the board. As you read through the scenarios and questions, you and your class can discuss the situation and how to handle it. You can find this SEL Discussion Cards >>> HERE.

Helping Kids Process Situations

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, kids often do not know how to handle social and emotional sitituations when they happen. Part of our jobs as teachers is to help them. As situations arise in the classroom, I always try to take time to talk with the individuals involved and help them work through the situation. Now I know it’s not always possible to do it right there in the moment, but try to find some time that day to help the kid/s with how to handle what happened.

Calm Down Area

Picture of Safe Place Cards for ideas to help when students are angry.

So a Calm Down Area is a safe space in your classroom for students to go and take a minute for themselves. It’s almost like the child is putting themselves in time out. However, it is not meant to be a punishment. It’s meant to be a space for the child to take a break, calm down, and reflect. Your calm down area can be called many things- safe space, Zen Zone, Reflection Pod, etc.

At the beginning of the year, make sure you introduce it to your class and explain what it is for. You can also model how to use it. I’ve seen calm down areas really help students who are working on self-control. It can honestly be helpful for anyone – we all need a break sometimes!

Helpful Links

I hope you found these SEL ideas helpful! Please click on the links below for more information on what I posted above.

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