Social Emotional Learning Activities for Elementary Classrooms

Social emotional learning is a huge buzzword in education. We talk about the importance of meeting students’ needs and teaching SEL skills, but rarely are we given the resources to do so. What exactly is SEL? And how do we incorporate it into our classrooms? 

Essentially, social emotional learning is the practice of helping out students navigate their emotions, develop healthy identities, and exhibit empathy for others. The idea – in theory – sounds great, but we know our days are already overfilled and overflowing with responsibilities. How can educators afford to add one more thing to their plates? 
The good news is that incorporating SEL into your classroom doesn’t have to consume your time, and research shows that the benefits (improved classroom behavior and academics, stress management, etc) are worth it. 
Now that we understand what SEL is, let’s talk about the four pillars of emotional intelligence, and how you can bring them into your classroom. 
Pillar #1: Self Awareness 
The skill of self awareness is a tough one, but extremely important. Have you ever felt like something was off about your mood, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on it? This is where self awareness is handy. This skill helps students (and adults!) detect their emotions and understand what drives them. Self-awareness also incorporates the ability to know your own strengths and weaknesses, and have confidence in yourself. 
Pillar #2: Self Regulation 
Self regulation consists of being able to control emotions, how you express them, and have a positive outlook on a situation. When in the heat of the moment, it’s easy for anyone to be overwhelmed by stress and frustration. However, students that have self regulation are able to use their skills to bring their body back to a calm state. Self regulation also includes showing resilience, being honest, and having goals. All key skills for success in school and life! 
Pillar #3: Empathy 
Having empathy allows students to step into other students’ shoes and make connections to their peers. How often do you watch your students grow frustrated and upset with each other? One moment, they are friends. Next, they can’t believe so-and-so would act that way! By building empathy for others and helping them see how their behavior impacts others, they can begin to make better connections with their peers. 
Pillar #4: Social Skills 
One large aspect of social skills is helping students understand visual cues about how someone is feeling. Body language is a large part of communication, and helping students understand that will help them be more successful in social situations. Social skills also include learning to actively listen (because talking is much easier!), helping others, and displaying appropriate manners. 
If you are wanting an easy way to include SEL into your classroom, check out my extensively researched SEL journal. This journal is a no-prep needed way to keep SEL in your classroom all year long. The journal is built around the four pillars of emotional intelligence, so your students can build skills in each area. 
Here are some of the skill focuses you will find in the journal. 
Self-awareness: physical signs of feelings, identifying / naming emotions, complementing, areas of strengths and areas for growth 
Self-regulation: I feel statements, growth mindset, gratefulness, personal & academic goals 
Empathy: Venn diagrams to relate to characters and other people, Effects of behavior, Encouraging statements 
Social skills: recognizing body language for social cues, identifying times for manners, discussion activities for inviting self into social situations 

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