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10 Helpful SEL Activities for the Classroom


SEL activities to encourage student participation


As a former principal who has navigated various educational settings, I understand the crucial role of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and its practical challenges. Through my work in schools nationwide, I've noticed a common thread: educators grasp the importance of SEL but need help with its application. To address this directly, I've compiled a list of practical activities teachers can implement in the classroom.


1. Practice Self-Care

Self-care is the cornerstone of effective teaching. Regular self-care prevents burnout, ensures sustained teaching efficacy, and models healthy habits for students.


Activity: Before class begins, visualize what stress feels like in your body and release it by taking three deep, mindful breaths. Inhale through the nose and exhale longer through the mouth.



2. Promote Collective Care

Cultivating a culture of support and a community of belonging within the classroom is essential. Collective care offers shared support and encourages an interconnected environment where each member thrives.


Activity: As a teacher, you play a crucial role in fostering a supportive community. Start your day with a community circle, allowing time for each student to share if they would like. This activity encourages student participation and reinforces your role as a facilitator of a safe and inclusive learning environment.



3. Model Mindfulness

We want to demonstrate self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy in our student interactions.


Activity: When you, as the teacher, are feeling upset with student behavior, take a moment to pause and respond, not react. Share with the students that you are using your breath to calm your body.



4. Build Community

A strong community nurtures trust, mutual respect, and collaboration among students, allowing them to feel safe and valued.


Activity: Play recess games such as kickball as a class, learning to follow the rules while having fun together.



5. Do Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises support student regulation by improving focus, reducing stress, and empowering self-agency.


Activity: Lead the students in a mindful minute. Ring a chime, have them sit quietly, and then ring the chime again when a minute has passed.



6. Incorporate Check-Ins

Check-ins give insight into their emotional state, help them practice self-awareness, and teach them how to better interact with their classmates based on their feelings.


Activity: Have the students identify an emotion they are bringing to the class for the day.



7. Teach Conflict Resolution

Role-play scenarios, discuss potential solutions, and reinforce the importance of active listening and empathy.


Activity: Have students sit in a circle. Discuss topics related to the class learning that are on their minds. For emotionally charged topics, ensure you have guidelines to foster a safe space.



8. Celebrate Identity

Teach students to appreciate and respect differences, cultivating a classroom of inclusivity.


Activity: Introduce a quote from the day's daily learning. Engage in a discussion to allow students to reflect on their beliefs and experiences, encouraging different perspectives.



9. Leverage Student Voice

When students feel heard and involved, they become more engaged and invested in their educational journey.


Activity: Student voice is a powerful tool in the learning process. Two students will start the class with a 3–5-minute presentation and discussion questions based on their interests in the course content. This activity encourages student engagement and inspires you, the teacher, to value and leverage their unique perspectives.



10. Celebrate Wins

Celebrating in the classroom boosts student confidence, motivation, and fun.


Activity: At the end of the day, students will write down their wins. Collect the papers and read each win, celebrating a great day with excitement for the next.


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