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SEL Activities for K-2 Students

What is SEL?

SEL stands for social-emotional learning. It’s an approach to education that focuses on developing students’ skills in self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship-building. Overall, SEL is all about helping students identify their emotions and become better members of their school community (and beyond).

Doing SEL Activities in the primary classroom is necessary for students to develop as empathetic friends | Check out my favorite ideas for incorporating SEL in your classroom

Why is SEL important for K-2 students?

SEL is important for kindergarten to second-grade students because it helps them develop the skills they will use throughout their lives. Social-emotional skills are used throughout school years and adulthood, but it’s so important to start early!

When K-2 students learn SEL skills early on, they show greater academic success and improved behavior in the classroom, as well as stronger social-emotional competencies. SEL also helps young students learn how to better understand their emotions and those of others, recognize when they need help, and successfully navigate social situations.

Here are some SEL activities for K-2 students.

Tell a Story

First, have students take turns telling a story. To begin, have them use props or pictures to help illustrate the story. Storytelling as a social-emotional learning activity helps students share their emotions through characters in a low-risk activity.

Keep in mind that storytelling is a skill that takes time to develop.

Turn and Talk

Next, choose a topic and have students take turns discussing it with a partner. Simple topics work best to practice listening and communication skills during SEL time. Questions like “What is your favorite food?” or “What is your favorite season?” can develop into more advanced emotional questions like “What does a good friend look like?” or “What do you do when something is hard?”

To make it easy, I’ve created a pack of 48 prompts to spark conversations between kids. The pack is filled with silly questions to get kiddos talking to each other!

I’ve also included a digital version that you can project in your classroom so the entire class can answer the same question at once, either in a large group or by turning and talking to a partner. You could also get your kiddos up and moving by cruising around the classroom and finding a new partner to answer each question.

Go check it out!

Morning Meeting

I love starting each day in my classroom with a class Morning Meeting. All elementary students can use this SEL activity for K-2 students! The morning meeting is a perfect way to start the day. Talk about what’s coming up, and let your kids talk about their highs and lows from the day and night before. It’s a great way to build community and share emotions.

I’ve made it easy to jumpstart the conversation by including a Chit Chat question for each day.

Listen to Music

Choose calming or meditative music to help students relax. Ask students to identify how they feel while listening to the music and discuss the different emotions. Music provides an outlet for young students to express their feelings and emotions. Also, encourage students to create their own music by playing classroom instruments as well!

My favorite music to listen to is the Piano Guys! They have a piano version of popular songs so you can’t help but hum {or sing!} along.

Feelings Charades

Finally, have students act out different feelings, such as happy, sad, or angry. Invite other students to guess the feeling they are expressing. When students are able to express their emotions before they have escalating negative feelings, it can help them identify some of the triggers of difficult emotions that arise.

You can grab a free set of Feelings Charades below!

Social-emotional learning or SEL activities for K-2 students should not be one-off or just beginning-of-the-year events. Use SEL activities daily to help your students manage emotions, show empathy and kindness, and work together as a community of learners. Consult your school guidance counselor to help develop additional activities or supports for students who need them. Which SEL activities for K-2 students will you try in your classroom?

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