Sometimes, the end of the day in the classroom can feel rushed and chaotic. The good news is that it doesn’t have to feel that way. The end of the day can be one of the very best times to integrate social-emotional skills into the classroom.
Why practice SEL activities at the end of the day?
- It’s a consistent time you can bank on. Even on your busiest of days, when you schedule end of the day SEL activities, you know you can make time for them.
- The end of the day is the best time for reflection and growth. After a long day, there’s always room for reflecting, learning, and making goals for the next day.
- End of the day SEL activities can build community. Simply put, it can be such a healthy community-building time to spend time together, practice gratitude, and reflect about the day.
- SEL activities can be engaging and fun. Many end of the day social-emotional activities are meaningful, fun, and engaging. This is a bonus that helps your students find the joy in learning together with their classmates.
- SEL activities can be calming. Set the tone for a relaxing and calming end of the day with mindful breathing, coping strategies, or coloring.
Here are some end of the day social-emotional activities to choose from:
Use mindful breathing exercises to set a calming tone for the end of the day. Some of my favorite exercises include “Cool Off the Pizza” and “4-7-8 Breathing.” The best thing is that there are so many different breathing techniques to try! You can get started with these mindful breathing exercise cards.
For this activity, gather in a circle. One at a time, have students share one thing they are grateful for today. These can be big things, like friends, family, or teachers in their lives. These can also be seemingly small things, too, such as feeling grateful for getting a new pencil from a friend when yours broke!
Daily Reflection Time
Use a few minutes to reflect about the day with some meaningful reflection questions. Some questions to try include:
- What are you proud of yourself for today?
- What did you accomplish today?
- What did you learn today?
- What was your favorite activity?
- What strengths did you use today?
Get started with this free list of reflection questions for you and your students.
Gather in a circle and have students sit comfortably. Choose a short story and read it aloud to the class. You can choose any story (since all stories will highlight SEL skills in some way) or you can choose from this list of SEL read alouds.
For this activity, have students first write or journal their responses on their own. Then, give time to share out for those who want to share with the class. Students will share:
- Three activities they did or topics they learned about.
- Two things they are proud of (or happy about).
- One thing they are looking forward to next class/day.
SEL Journal Writing
Journal writing is a great way to build social-emotional skills. To get started with SEL journaling, assign just one social-emotional question each day. Allow students some time to write and then provide time for group discussion. Come up with your own daily prompts or grab this social emotional learning journal with questions for the whole year.
Use positive affirmations and self-talk statements to boost confidence and community at the end of the day. Choose a few affirmations of the day. Recite them and have students repeat them back as a class chant. You can use any self-talk statements you want, but I’ve got a free list of over 100 affirmations to give you and your learners a boost!
Nothing says a calming end of the day like coping strategies practice. Try reading, exercising, deep breathing, or writing in a journal to set the tone. At the same time, students will be practicing meaningful strategies to help them cope with stress and tough emotions.
Help learners get organized for the following day with some extra organization time in the afternoon. Allow students to tidy binders, desks, backpacks, and common spaces in the classroom together.
Consider the Quote
So many quotes lend themselves to important SEL conversations. Read just one SEL-based quote each afternoon for your class to discuss and consider. A few of my favorites are:
- “You are enough and a work in progress at the same time.”
- “Apologizing doesn’t make you weak; it makes you real.”
- “Name your emotions. Sit with them. Give them the space they deserve.”
- “It’s never too late to stop and go down a different path.”
SEL Whiteboard Messages
Spend the end of the day with a targeted social-emotional question in your classroom. SEL whiteboard messages are questions that can be projected or written on the board to discuss. Some questions to get started with include:
- Self-awareness is having a clear and accurate view of yourself. What words describe who you are?
- Social awareness is understanding the social world around you. What is a social rule you are expected to follow?
- Think it out! What are some questions you might ask yourself before making a big decision?
Coloring is a great end of the day technique to reduce stress and promote positive feelings. You can ultimately use any coloring book or pages you find. These free mindful coloring pages are a great place to start!
SEL Partner Chat
Give group and partner chat time aligned with social-emotional skills. I love these social-emotional task cards filled with meaningful questions.
Try giving independent free-write time to your students. Learners can share anything they want in a journal. This might be about how their day went, thoughts they have, what they’re feeling, or anything else. If time allows, provide a space for students to share if they’re comfortable. You can also give the option of having students leave a sticky note on their journal if they want you to read and respond for the day.
Believe it or not, games are one of the best ways to build social-emotional skills in a fun and engaging way. Practically any board game lends itself to SEL skills such as turn-taking, self-control, conversations, sportsmanship, and including others. Spend the last few minutes of class giving free time for your students to play, laugh, and build SEL skills at the very same time.
Use whatever games you have in your classroom cabinets or use social emotional learning games to focus on skills like empathy, friendships, conversations, and more.
Spend the last few moments practicing yoga or stretching. Exercise in general can be a great way to end the day. Yoga, specifically, can help students feel calm, centered, and in control.
A few final notes: Remember to not be overwhelmed with the number of activities you can try. Choose one and give it a chance with your learners. If it’s not working for your classroom, come back and try something new! Which end of the day SEL activities are your favorite?