Teaching SEL: How to Use Picture Books to Teach Social Emotional Learning Skills in 2022

If you find teaching SEL to be very overwhelming, raise your hand! Trust me, you are not alone.

What if I told you that one of the easiest and most powerful tools for teaching SEL is likely already in your classroom? It’s true! These tools are picture books. There are tons of great SEL children’s books out there. I spotlight a bunch of them in my SEL reading activities bundle!

Teaching SEL through picture books is a great strategy for making social emotional learning topics relatable and fun for elementary students! Learn about 6 ways to use picture books to teach SEL in the classroom below!

6 Ways to Use Picture Books to Teach SEL

Below are 6 ways to use picture books to teach social emotional learning skills.

1. Teach Different Perspectives

Read alouds are incredible tools for teaching SEL concepts. One of the many benefits of using read alouds to teach SEL is the experience of having your students look at situations from the point of views of the different characters. Students will also be more comfortable talking about different problems in the story and how they would solve them based on the character’s experiences instead of their own. Our SEL read aloud bundle already has targeted discussion questions that focus on the different point of views of the characters from the stories in the bundle. 

2. Foster Class Discussions

Class discussions are the key to teaching SEL. Students grow their SEL skills through having conversations with each other. Class discussions are most authentic when they happen before, during, and after reading so that students can discuss their opinions and thoughts and how they change as the character’s actions change. Our SEL read aloud activities bundle has discussion questions designed for each book in the bundle. 

3. Create Anchor Charts

Anchor charts are a classroom goldmine! After selecting the read aloud that you are going to use for your SEL lesson, create an outline of an anchor chart that focuses on the concept you are teaching. Fill in the anchor chart as your students create meaning during your lesson. Hang the anchor chart in your classroom so students can reference it throughout the year. 

4. Lead Empathy Discussions

Empathy is one of the most important SEL concepts that your students will learn. When your students understand empathy, they will be able to put themselves in others’ shoes and understand how someone else is feeling. Choose a read aloud that targets the SEL concept you are trying to teach and pause during the reading to ask how the characters are feeling and why they are feeling that way. You can choose a book that targets empathy or choose a different read aloud. You will be able to do this exercise either way. Our SEL interactive read aloud activities bundle has a variety of books that target empathy and other SEL concepts. Our books that target empathy also highlight the points in the book where empathy is present. 

5. Build Community and Teach Diversity

Read alouds are an excellent way to teach the important SEL concepts of community and diversity. Read alouds expose children to different people and their various circumstances. They teach that communities are made up of all different people and that diversity is something to celebrate. Our SEL read aloud activities bundle includes books that specifically target diversity. 

6. Assign Writing Prompts

When read alouds are tied to writing prompts, students can create deeper meaning from the story. Writing prompts can be done as an isolated activity or as part of a reflective journal. Our SEL interactive read aloud activities bundle provides 30 writing prompts for each book, based on each book. You can find a book that matches the SEL concept you are targeting, and select the writing prompts that best fit your learning goal. 

SEL book activities

I hope you found this post about teaching SEL through picture books helpful! If you want go further with this topic, then head over to my SEL read aloud activities resource!

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