We experience a wide array of emotions in life, so social and emotional skills are important to practice, no matter your age. Social and emotional learning (SEL), defined by CASEL, is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions, achieve personal and collective goals, feel, and show empathy for others, establish, and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

Well-implemented SEL programs can help improve learners’ academic performance, reduce classroom behaviors, and positively affect learner’s success in school. Each one of our 13 complete classroom units, featuring a set of five lessons, complete with slide decks, printables, and videos, is aligned with CASEL’s social and emotional competencies.

Even if you can’t launch a new curriculum in your classroom, you can help all learners develop better social and emotional skills by incorporating new resources into the classroom and making changes in your classroom routines. Start small and focus on communicating the changes to the classroom! Here are some of our favorite ideas to get you started.

  1. Daily greetings and check-ins. Keep it simple and at a minimum, try to greet each learner daily with a smile, eye contact, and their name. In doing just that small greeting, you are modeling positive peer behavior and acknowledging their presence. Greetings can be added, too. You can try a wave, high five, fist bump, or a hug if it’s appropriate.
  2. Create a supportive classroom where all feelings are OK. Give learners the words they need to describe what they are feeling. Identifying and naming feelings or emotions is the first step to building healthy coping skills. You can use one of our emotion printables or the Emoji Mood Cards to help! Print, cut, and assemble the cards on a binder ring. Allow students to express their feelings individually when they aren’t sure what words to use.

    Emoji Mood Cards Flatlay

  3. Be present and ask questions. Outbursts and tantrums can be difficult to navigate but talking about the big feelings together can make a big difference. Acknowledge and validate feelings and emotions. Taking time to reflect on experiences with them allows them to feel heard and discover coping strategies they can practice moving forward.

After a challenging experience with a learner, circle back and ask some questions about what they experienced:

Ready to add a few more SEL skills into your classroom? Here are some of our favorite social and emotional learning resources to get you started.

  1. Break time breathing techniques. Making time to practice breathing is an awesome way to teach your students a simple self-soothing technique! Queue up this Animal Breathing Techniques Video during your next lesson transition and help them self-regulate their emotions while practicing mindful breathing.
  2. Take a mindful moment. Give learners a moment to be mindful and a chance to control how they want to self-reflect. With these printable Mindful Moments Cards, they have a range of options to choose from! From movement-oriented activities to simple sensory activities, there’s a way to meet every kid’s needs.

    Mindful Moments in Spanish and English

  3. Check your mood at the door. Our free printable Door Kit, It’s a Good Day for a Good Day, has everything you need to help your students check-in with their emotions before they come into the classroom! The anagram, ATTITUDE, explains what kids can do to give their moods a boost during hard moments.

    It's a Good Day for a Good Day Door Kit Printable Flatlay

  4. Encourage group and partner work. Being able to work well with others is an important life skill that encourages your students to learn about empathy and teamwork. For early learners, you can print the Find the Feeling Matching Game to help kids recognize and label feelings. It makes a great center activity, too!
  5. Add it to your creative time. One of the most common ways for kids to learn is through illustrations and visuals, and what better than pages they can color themselves! Print off these Positive Self-Talk Coloring Pages in English or Spanish and put them in a folder or make it part of your lesson to encourage their creative and kindness skills.
  6. Set up a Cozy Spot. What is a cozy spot? It’s a safe, comfortable space in your classroom aimed at providing a child with a space to go to when they feel the need to regulate their emotions without feeling punished. Use the free printables to decorate a space in the classroom and add in sensory toys, puzzles, or cozy seating.

    Cozy Spot Printable Collection

  7. Incorporate SEL into your morning meetings. Morning meetings give kids the opportunity to connect with their peers before lessons begin, so why not add an activity to connect with their feelings, too? You can start discussion with one of our Happy, Healthy Morning ideas.
  8. Take a yoga break. So many students love a movement break, and yoga is the perfect way to incorporate movement in a mindful way. That's where the Grow Your Flow: Simple Yoga Pose Cards come in! Pull a card and practice a pose as a group, and soon you'll have a class full of yoga pros.
  9. Make an interactive bulletin board. Our free bulletin board printable kit has all the pieces you need for the ultimate classroom SEL resource! With positive affirmations, healthy coping strategies, emotional recognition practices, and more, kids can take what they need to self-soothe or practice mindfulness before their next activity or lesson.

    My Feelings Matter Bulletin Board Flatlay

  10. Keep cool with coping strategies. Use these dual-language cards to help them cope with the feelings and emotions in a healthy way. The cards can be laminated and placed on a binder ring to be used in a cozy spot or as a teaching tool. Depending on the card, give students about 15 minutes to practice the coping skills with a partner or in a small group.
  11. Mindful meditation time. Dim your classroom lights and play some soothing music and enjoy some mindfulness time as a group! Ask your students to think about how they want to feel that day and use that feeling to create an affirmation using “I am…” statements.
  12. Install a movement-inspired sensory path. A sensory path is a series of guided movements or activities for kids to follow shown by creative posters or markings. Some pathways are focused only on movement, but Wellness Way is a 32-page printable pack that features a mood-specific pathway! In this pathway, kids are encouraged to practice positive affirmations and identify their feelings.

If kids are experiencing overwhelming feelings and emotions, it’s important to provide them with helpful tools and then allow them time to self-regulate. Research suggests that the best way for kids to learn how to regulate their emotions is to practice when emotions are not heightened.

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