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Essential Social Emotional Learning Activities To Help Your Students Thrive

How important are social emotional learning activities in the classroom? Should teachers really take time away from academics to devote to social emotional learning? How will social emotional learning lessons actually help our students?

The research is very clear – social emotional learning absolutely helps students. Studies have shown that social emotional learning activities can…

  • Improve academic performance
  • Reduce problematic classroom behaviors
  • Help students manage stress

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But how can we possibly fit more into our jam-packed schedules? And how can teachers find the time to research and prep these important social emotional learning lessons? I’ve got you covered.

Read on for the social emotional learning topics your students need most, and fun SEL activities you can easily squeeze into your week!

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Social Emotional Learning Topics Your Students Need

Social emotional learning for the classroom sounds great and all, but how can we teachers actually put it into action? There are SO many SEL topics out there, so I’ve done the work for you and selected the ones that students will most benefit from in a classroom setting.

While there are many other topics that would still be valuable, these social emotional learning lessons focus on skills that will help students thrive at school. These are the ideas that will help students improve academically, manage their behaviors, interact positively with faculty and peers, and build their self esteem as learners.

Here are 7 essential topics for social emotional learning activities that we can teach and reinforce with students. (Click each topic heading to jump to activities for that topic!)

  1. Growth Mindset: Growth mindset is so important for learning, as it helps students tackle challenges and build the belief that they can learn new things. Social emotional learning activities with growth mindset in mind are a must-have for the classroom.
  2. Social Skills: Social skills help students self-regulate in the classroom and interact with their peers in a positive way. Focusing on social skills saves us valuable time in the long run, since it helps students build more independence and need less help from teachers when problems come up.
  3. Friendship Skills: Conflict resolution, making new friends, being inclusive, and practicing kindness are all important friendship skills that students need to feel happy and safe at school.
  4. Mindfulness: Studies have shown that mindfulness can reduce stress and increase happiness with all people, and that includes kids too! Mindfulness practices are also a great way to help your students find calm after an exciting task.
  5. Celebrating Diversity: Our classrooms are full of students who come from all different backgrounds. They bring a variety of life experiences to school with them, and it’s so important we honor those differences, and also teach students to appreciate those differences in each other.
  6. Self-Love: Student self esteem can be a huge roadblock in learning and cooperating. We can help students practice self-love and positive mental health skills.
  7. Gratitude: Practicing gratitude actually makes us happier! And gratitude can make our classroom more positive spaces.

Social Emotional Learning Activities For The Classroom

I’m sharing some of my all-time favorite social emotional learning activities for the classroom. The ideal situation would be to have one day a week with a time block set aside for SEL lessons. However, I know this can be hard to swing for some teachers.

Fear not – these activities can be squeezed into your morning meeting, a transition between lessons, or even an add on to a read aloud. You don’t have to get fancy!

If you start to get overwhelmed at the thought of researching, planning, and prepping social emotional learning lessons, just remember – there are lots of great resources out there already! (And that’s why I created this year long Social Emotional Learning Curriculum – that you don’t have to waste your time reinventing the wheel.)

Growth Mindset Activities

Growth mindset is a great place to start with your social emotional learning activities. Here are a couple of my absolute favorite activities to get you started!

Fixed Vs. Growth Mindset

Teaching students to understand the differences between a fixed versus growth mindset is the beginning of building a strong growth mindset. This social emotional learning activity is a must-have for teachers who want to help their students build persistence.

growth mindset posters
The template for this anchor chart is part of this resource.

This anchor chart is a great visual for students as they are learning about fixed mindset and growth mindset.

Positive Self Talk

Learning to speak kindly to ourselves is a huge SEL topic. Luckily, there are many amazing social emotional learning activities centered on this very concept. Help your students understand the importance of speaking kindly to our minds by giving concrete examples, modeling frequently, and doing fun social emotional learning activities like this cute fortune teller to help students put it into practice!

fortune teller growth mindset classroom activity
This fun craftivity is part of this resource.

(Looking for more growth mindset activities? Check out this Growth Mindset Lessons and Activities resource.)

Social Skills Activities

Social skills are so important to academic success, yet teachers rarely get the time or support they need to be able to teach them. Here are some engaging social skill activities that you can do with your class anytime to start their learning:


A student’s ability to self regulate will contribute a lot to their ability to succeed in the classroom. This group activity is a great way to give students concrete examples of ways they can recenter themselves when big emotions take over.

the importance of social emotional learning
This anchor chart template is part of this resource.

Setting Boundaries

Learning how to set boundaries can help students feel safe and empowered when difficult situations arise. Here are two social emotional learning activities that can help students understand their “magical powers” of boundary setting.

social emotional learning skills
This activity is part of this resource.

(Looking for more social skills activities? Check out this Social Skills Lessons and Activities resource.)

Friendship Skills Activities

As teachers, we end up spending a lot of our time putting out fires between students and navigating friendship conflicts. Some of the most important social emotional learning activities we can do are lessons that help our students build independence with friendship skills.

Making New Friends

Many students need support with making new friends. This flipbook helps students with concrete strategies they can practice and put in action to make new friends.

friendship activities
This craft activity is part of this resource.

Navigating Friendship Conflicts

Even the best of friends have arguments and disagreements. Students can learn the best ways to handle these conflicts with modeling, read alouds, and social stories. These social stories are a great social emotional learning activity for helping your students build their friendship skills.

friendship lessons
This activity is part of this resource.

(Looking for more friendship activities? Check out this Friendship Lessons and Activities resource.)

Mindfulness Activities

As more research is done, the benefits of mindfulness continue to be uncovered – not just for adults, but for kids too! Practicing mindfulness helps us be present, eliminate stress, and navigate big feelings – all things that students can use practice with. Here are a few of my favorite social emotional learning activities for teaching mindfulness to kids.

Breathing Exercises

Breath plays a very important part in regulating our emotions. These fun breathing exercises help students become aware of their breathing and give some tools to try when they need to self-regulate.

This craft is part of this resource.


Get your students moving with these simple yoga moves. Movement is a great tool for helping students reset their bodies and their minds. You could post this in your calm corner, or use it for brain breaks during your school day.

mindfulness for students
This anchor chart template is part of this resource.

(Looking for more mindfulness activities? Check out this Mindfulness Lessons and Activities resource.)

Celebrating Diversity

Learning to accept others and embrace differences is a skill that we should be teaching children as early as possible. These social emotional learning activities are aimed at helping students celebrate their uniqueness, understand differences between themselves and others, and honor the diversity in their classroom and school.

Celebrating Differences

This anchor chart display is a wonderful visual to help students understand that differences are beautiful.

This anchor chart template is part of this resource.

Different But The Same

This activity helps normalize differences by having students identify things that are unique and things that are the same about their tablemates and themselves.

social emotional learning
This anchor chart template is part of this resource.

(Looking for more diversity activities? Check out this Celebrating Diversity Lessons and Activities resource.)


More than ever, students need support with positive mental health and self love. This is an important piece of social emotional learning that should be done at school.

Here are a few ideas for social emotional learning activities for kids to practice self love:

Affirmation Station

This mini affirmation station is a fun craft to help students practice positive messages for themselves.

This anchor chart template is part of this resource.

Taking Care Of Me

An important social emotional learning activity for students to help them reflect on ways they can take care of themselves and their mental health when things get tough.

This anchor chart template is part of this resource.

(Looking for more self-love activities? Check out this Self Love Lessons and Activities resource.)


Practicing gratitude has many benefits, and it can help students social emotional well-being at school. There are lots of gratitude activities you can do with students – here are a couple to get you started!

Gratitude Journal

This simple gratitude journal for students is an easy way to incorporate gratitude into your school day.

Grateful To Be Me

Help students reflect on the things they can be grateful for in this fun social emotional learning craft.

This anchor chart template is part of this resource.

(Looking for more gratitude activities? Check out this Gratitude Lessons and Activities resource.)

Social Emotional Learning Activities For Students

I hope these ideas about social emotional learning and social skills have given you some inspiration to try out some SEL activities with your students. Remember, these are lifelong skills, so your students aren’t going to master them in one lesson. It will take many discussions, real-life experiences, and loving examples for students to build up these skills.

If you feel inspired to dive in and make social emotional learning a regular part of your classroom, then you’re ready for the Social Emotional Learning Curriculum. It has 7 units and a whole school year’s worth of lessons. They’re research-based and easy to implement so you can do this important SEL work without adding more prep and planning to your plate.

Which social emotional learning activities are you going to try out? Let me know in the comments!

Resources For You

Articles For You

10 Growth Mindset For Kids Activities Your Students Will Love

The Top Friendship Skill That Your Students Need

11 Fantastic Week of Kindness Ideas To Try In Your Classroom

How To Use Mindfulness In the Classroom: A Complete Guide

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