Social Emotional Learning

How to include Social Emotional Learning Activities All Day Long.

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Do you ever feel like there is not enough day to fit in social emotional learning (SEL) activities?  Isolating little blocks of time for all the things we need to teach puts so much pressure on us. We can end up downloading that stress to our students as we push them to finish within a certain time frame. 

I  love to integrate content areas.  I don’t always because the time to plan the integrations is not always available, but one of my passions is integrating social emotional learning activities throughout the day.

In my most recent blog post, we discussed what does social emotional learning mean. You may want to check that out. However, I don’t want you to lose track of this post, so I will leave a link for it at the end as well.

This essential instruction often gets forgotten as we run out of time either in the day, or in our planning time.

But . . . what if you could easily include it into your day?

Being an SEL Teacher All Day Long

The jury is in folks!  👏

Emotional Intelligence or EQ is recognized by many as more important for success than IQ. The implication of that for us, as teachers, is that our students need to included it in  our day-to-day instruction. 

Every day.

All day long.

In this blog post I will share some practical tips and, where appropriate, activities including picture book suggestions to get you started.

This is not an all encompassing list. However, it is a good framework for getting started, with some easily implemented activities.

Even if you already have  a school wide curriculum for social-emotional learning , I want you to keep reading!  Social and Emotional Learning instruction is not a one and done.  

Think about your own life.  Did it take you one reminder from an adult to learn to share or wait your turn to speak?

When you are changing patterns of behaviour in your own life, is it a simple thing for you to do? 

No! 🙂 Certainly not for me. We all need to practice.  

I know that for the tough ones I listen to audio books while I walk to help me to maintain my focus on changing some of my bad habits and poor choices. 

Even if your district is providing social-emotional learning lessons, it is important to review the skills and then have your students practise them.

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Social Emotional Learning Strategies

Effective Strategies for Teaching SEL

I am aware that curriculum is not provided, or even approved in all areas.  These sample activities provide you with suggestions on how to do your best at including SEL instruction.

Your best is all you can do. It is all anyone can do. 

Also, the activities are appropriate for any grade level, but I have identified these as for elementary because of the book suggested.

In case the books listed below are not available in your school, I have  included links with free videos of these books being read online and Amazon links to the books. 

**If you choose to use the video, I encourage you to like or subscribe to support the person who is reading and their channel. **

**If you choose to purchase the books through the Amazon links, you will support the author, and I will receive a small commission.**

1. Create a Safe Environment

Consider reviewing my blogs on the importance of classroom expectations and classroom expectations 😉.  I will leave the links for those blogs at the end of this blog.

Nurture a classroom culture where students feel safe expressing their thoughts and emotions without fear of being judged.

Sample Activity: “Feelings Circle”

Book Recommendation: “The Color Monster” by Anna Llenas*  or from Amazon.

This is a beautifully illustrated book that explores various emotions using colors. It helps the children  connect to and express their feelings. It is  a perfect choice to kickstart a discussion on emotions before the “Feelings Circle” activity.

   – Dedicate a few minutes each day to a mindfulness exercise.

   – Guide students in focusing on their breath and being present in the moment.

   – Discuss how mindfulness can help manage stress and emotions.

   – Have students sit in a circle.

   – Pass around a soft object like a stuffed animal or ball.

   – When a student holds the object, they share a recent emotion they’ve experienced and why.

   – Encourage active listening and empathy from other students during these sharing moments.

2. Model SEL Skills

Demonstrate emotional intelligence and problem-solving in your interactions with students. This activity is a great way to start the day, but can also be included in content areas helping students connect and communicate their feelings throughout the day.

Sample Activity: “Emotion Charades”

Book Recommendation: “The Way I Feel” by Janan Cain*  or from Amazon

A delightful book that shares a range of emotions using colorful illustrations and relatable situations. It provides a great starting point for discussing emotions and acting them out during the “Emotion Charades” activity.

   – Write different emotions on pieces of paper and place them in a hat, box, or bag.

   – Students take turns drawing an emotion and acting it out without using words.

   – After each round, discuss how recognizing and expressing emotions can improve understanding.

3. Incorporate SEL into Lessons

Sample Activity: “Storytelling and Empathy”

Book Recommendation: “The Invisible Boy” by Trudy Ludwig or from Amazon.

“The Invisible Boy” is a heartwarming book about a boy named Brian who feels left out. It’s a great book for exploring themes of empathy, inclusion, and kindness, making it an excellent prelude to the “Storytelling and Empathy” activity.

   – Read a story or present a scenario that involves a character facing a moral dilemma.

   – Discuss the character’s emotions and motivations in addition to discussing other topics. For example in ELA incorporate descriptive language, Beginning-Middle-End or First Next Then Last etc..

   – Encourage students to share how they would handle the situation, promoting empathy and ethical decision-making.

Include social emotional learning topics into your curriculum by discussing emotions, empathy, and decision-making when relevant.

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4. Use SEL Resources

Leverage curriculum for social-emotional learning resources, such as books, videos, and worksheets, to facilitate discussions and activities in your class.

If you can’t finish the lesson all at once, don’t. Rather than picking and choosing activities, incorporate them elsewhere as you are able.

5. Collaborate

Work with your colleagues to ensure a consistent approach to social-emotional learning activities for elementary throughout the school.

Social-Emotional Learning Activities for Elementary

To make SEL meaningful for your students, consider these strategies. I have provided sample activities and book title suggestions.  

In case you do not have these books in your classroom, I have also included links to where you can find videos of these books online and Amazon links to the books.  If you choose to purchase the books through these links you will support the offer, and I will receive a small commission.

1. Role-playing 

Engage students in scenarios that require emotional intelligence and problem-solving. 

Book Recommendation: “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires or from Amazon

“The Most Magnificent Thing” tells the story of a young girl who encounters challenges while creating something special. This book encourages resilience, problem-solving, and teamwork, making it an ideal read before the “Problem-Solving Role Play” activity.

Activity:  “Problem-Solving Role Play”

   – Create scenarios related to common conflicts students may face.

   – Assign roles to students and have them act out the scenario, working together to find a solution.

 – Discuss the emotions and strategies used during the role play.

2. Group Discussions

Create a safe space for open discussions about emotions and relationships. I have included similar activities into Science and Social Studies as we learn about different cultural celebrations at Christmas, or habitat destruction, or even just looking closely at meal worms.

Activity: “Empathy Circle”

*Book Recommendation: “Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy” by Bob Sornson* or from Amazon

“Stand in My Shoes” teaches children about empathy and the importance of understanding others’ feelings. It aligns perfectly with the theme of empathy and can spark thoughtful 

discussions before the “Empathy Circle” activity.

   – Choose a topic related to emotions or relationships.

   – Have students sit in a circle and take turns sharing their thoughts and feelings on the topic.

   – Encourage active listening and respectful responses.

3. Journaling

Encourage students to keep journals to reflect on their emotions and experiences. This would work throughout content areas in a similar way to group discussions, but the sharing would occur in a journal instead.

Book Recommendation: “Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day” by Jamie Lee Curtis* or from Amazon.

“Today I Feel Silly” is a fun and imaginative book that explores a wide range of emotions. Reading this book can inspire students to reflect on their daily emotions, making it an excellent choice for the “Daily Emotion Journal” activity.

Activity  “Daily Emotion Journal”

   – Ask students to write a brief journal entry each day, focusing on their emotions, what caused them, and how they managed them.

   – Periodically review the journals together to discuss patterns and strategies.

4. Collaborative Projects

Assign group projects that require teamwork, empathy, and effective communication. Of course, this is easily appropriate for any content areas

Activity: “Community Service Project”

*Book Recommendation: “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña* or from Amazon.

“Last Stop on Market Street” is a feel good story about a boy named CJ and his grandmother as they volunteer and make a difference in their community. This book can inspire discussions about community service and working together before the “Community Service Project” activity.

   – Have students work in groups to identify a community issue they care about.

   – Guide them in planning and implementing a project to address the issue, fostering collaboration and empathy for others.

5.  Social-Emotional Learning and Mindfulness Activities

Incorporate mindfulness exercises to help students manage stress and develop self-awareness.

When is it important to take a moment to breathe?  

Perhaps as they line up to go to assembly for an exciting event. 

Or  maybe to steady themselves before a subject that is difficult for them. 

What about prior to a hands on Science activity? 

Or even if someone is visiting with an animal. 

Book Recommendation: “Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere” by Kira Willey* or from Amazon.

“Breathe Like a Bear” offers various mindfulness exercises designed for children. It’s a fantastic resource to introduce mindfulness and calm breathing techniques before the “Mindful Breathing” activity. This book is available in paperback, but in the best video I could find at the time of writing the teacher was using a board book unfortunately.

Activity: “Mindful Breathing”

   – Dedicate a few minutes each day to a mindfulness exercise.

   – Guide students in focusing on their breath and being present in the moment.

   – Discuss how mindfulness can help manage stress and emotions.

By incorporating these picture books into your SEL activities, you can create a more immersive and engaging learning experience for your students, fostering a deeper understanding of social and emotional concepts.

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Social-Emotional Learning Lesson Plans

Once you have taught the activities above, you can start to incorporate the practice of social emotional awareness and skills throughout your day. 

Using content relevant to your curriculum then connect the activity you have taught from the examples above to the content you are teaching.

Over time you can grow your list of activities.

I have also created resources that do  just that.  You may want to check them out. 

Social Emotional Learning, or SEL, is not just another educational buzzword but a powerful tool for nurturing well-rounded individuals who can thrive in all aspects of life.

 By understanding what Social Emotional Learning means, embracing its benefits, and implementing effective strategies, you’ll not only boost your students’ success but also create a positive and supportive classroom environment where everyone can flourish, which would definitely boost your success!!

Embrace the power of SEL and watch your students grow into confident, empathetic, and capable individuals ready to take on the world!

Become a  social-emotional learning teacher for your students, and understand why I consider it a pillar of classroom management!

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Share your favourite book or activity for teaching students what is social emotional learning in the comments below.

Related postsl

What Does Social Emotional Learning Mean for Your Class?

My blog post on creating  Classroom Expectations.

My blog post on building Classroom Community.

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