10 Social Emotional Development Activities for Elementary Students in 2022

If you are an elementary teacher looking for social emotional development activities for your students, then you found the right place! This post includes 10 activities you can do with your students to practice SEL skills. Check out the list of 10 social emotional development activities below!

10 Social Emotional Development Activities

Below are 10 social emotional development activities for elementary students in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade.

1. Morning Meeting

Morning meetings start your day off with your students checking in on each other. It also sets the tone for your day. This is also a great time to reteach any SEL concepts that you think your students need. Some teachers also use this time to teach their SEL lesson for the day or week. It is a time that students are usually most ready to learn and are already used to gathering together. 

2. Read Alouds

Read alouds are excellent social emotional tools that create a lasting memory for your students. First, find a read aloud that matches the social emotional concept that you are targeting. Next, pre-read it for places to stop to discuss what is happening in the book. Finally, read it aloud to your students. You can use the read aloud as a base to build off of for different activities. Some examples are crafts, anchor charts, journal writing, and other activities. Leave the book in a place where students can access it and reread as necessary. Check out our Social Emotional Read Aloud Bundle for a list of 35 books that are excellent for teaching SEL. There are activities included that are designed for each book. These SEL units also include read aloud lessons and activities.

SEL book activities

3. Reflection Journals

Reflection journals are an easy ongoing activity to incorporate into your classroom. They provide students with a private and safe way to express their feelings, thoughts, and opinions. Students can keep the journals in their desks or another safe place. You could assign journal writing time or have students use their journals as needed. You can use social emotional writing prompts within the journal or you can have blank pages for free writing. 

4. Role Playing

Role playing different social emotional based scenarios is a great way to practice social emotional skills while your students are in a good learning space. This way when students are in a situation where they need to use their social emotional skills and may not be thinking as clearly, they are familiar with the skills that they need to use. Role play teaches how to solve peer conflict, apologize, problem solve, and use productive language with someone you disagree with or have an argument with. These SEL units include role playing activities.

5. Group Work

Working in groups builds communication skills, collaboration skills, and teaches students the importance of hearing others’ points of view and opinions. Working in groups also gives students the experience of working with people who have different ways of thinking and solving problems. Group work helps build classroom community while also allowing students to look introspectively at how they learn, their roles in a group, and what their skills are that they bring to a group. 

6. Art Activities

Art activities are a great way for students to express themselves! They can easily be incorporated into your classroom as an SEL activity. A self collage is a great way for students to practice the SEL concept of self-awareness. They can gather or draw pictures that represent who they are. Drawing can also be taught as a way for students to learn to regulate themselves and help them calm down and process their emotions. 

7. Games

Both academic and nonacademic games are great opportunities to teach SEL concepts and to have students practice SEL concepts. Games help with turn taking, conflict resolution, and being respectful. This also helps build relationship skills as students have experiences working with different people in the classroom. This is one of my favorite social emotional development activities! These SEL units include fun games!

8. STEM Activities

Stem activities incorporate many SEL concepts! Having students work in groups to solve a STEM challenge blends teamwork skills, relationship skills, problem solving skills, and being a respectful and productive group member. It also exposes students to the concept that not everybody thinks the same way or has the same strengths as them. People will choose to solve problems in different ways and will contribute different things to a group. Students need practice with hearing each other’s ideas and working together to come up with the best solution to their problem. 

9. Facial Expressions Cards

Use picture cards of people making different facial expressions. Use the cards to have students practice identifying the emotion that the person in the card is feeling based off of their facial expression. This is a great way to have students practice empathy and identifying how someone else feels. It also creates awareness of students that the facial expressions they make during the day makes people think that they feel a certain way, even if they might not be feeling that way. Another great idea to teach this concept is to name an emotion and have students make the face they would make if they were feeling that emotion. Pass around a mirror so they can see how they look. 

10. Classroom Jobs

Classroom jobs are a great activity to incorporate SEL concepts into your day. The best part is that they are probably something that you already do! They build classroom community and teach responsibility. It teaches students that everyone is responsible for keeping the classroom functioning and well kept. Try to find a job for everyone! This is another one of my favorite social emotional development activities!

We hope you found these social emotional development activities helpful! If you want to learn more social emotional learning, head on over to this post about SEL in the classroom and this one about SEL at home.

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Grab this freebie and engage your students in a fun seasonal activity. It’s a great way to practice opinion writing.