One of the very best times to integrate social emotional learning practices into the day is first thing in the morning. It’s a great way to help kids and teens start their day off feeling connected, respected, and valued. By putting social-emotional learning first, we have pave the way for kids and teens to do their best for the rest of the day. That’s a win for everyone involved.
In addition to that, school days are just busy. We will the days with rigorous academic expectations and activities. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the time to integrate social-emotional learning practices. Again, this is just another reason why SEL practices first thing in the morning just make sense.
I’ve put together a list of fifteen of my favorite simple, engaging, and meaningful SEL practices to try. Of course, it’s important to remember that no teacher can integrate all of these practices all of the time. It’s best to choose a couple that resonate with you, put them into practice, and see how they work for your students over time.
Just another note that I made sure to add tags to resources that are free. Hopefully that helps you find what you works best for you at the moment!
Here are 15+ simple SEL practices to start the day:
1. Daily Greetings. Research shows that daily morning greetings reduce challenging behaviors and increase on-task time in the classroom. These are one of the simplest and most meaningful SEL techniques to put into place. Before each student walks in the room, greet them by name. You can even give students the choice for their daily greeting. They might choose a fist bump, wave, elbow bump, smile, or bow. Use this free daily morning greetings list to post outside the classroom and get started.
2. Emotions Check-In. An emotions check-in is a quick way to help kids and teens identify how they are feeling and what they might need to feel successful for the day. Make an emotions check-in part of a daily routine as students enter the room. Use these free emotions check-in pages as part of your daily routine.
3. SEL Check-In Journal. Try a daily do-now journal that integrate social-emotional skills with an emotions check-in, affirmations, and mindfulness all in one. This daily SEL Check-in Journal has prompts for the entire year. It’s a simple, structured, and meaningful way to start each day with a SEL focus.
4. Morning Meeting. A daily morning meeting can be the ideal time to integrate social-emotional skills. Morning meeting is a semi-structured time of the day to greet each other, chat, and complete an activity or two before moving on with the rest of the day. You can choose on social-emotional skill each day to highlight and discuss. Use this free morning meeting rules and expectations poster to start. I have also developed a yearlong morning meeting set filled with SEL skills discussions and activities for the full year.
5. Positive Affirmations. Positive self-talk statements are an empowering way to help kids and teens start their day. Have students create their own positive affirmation lists. Then, they can read these phrases each day. Some students might benefit from guided practice with positive affirmations. For example, the educator can start with a phrase and have students repeat it back. There are multiple techniques for using positive affirmations as part of your daily routine.
6. SEL Question of the Day. Write a SEL question of the day on the board each morning. As students walk in, they can independently write about the question or share ideas with a partner. Then, give time for a quick class discussion. Use this free SEL question list to spark some ideas in your classroom.
7. Mindful Breathing. Relaxing breathing techniques can help learners feel calm, confident, and focused before starting the day. Some of my favorite fun and engaging breathing exercises include Bubble Breathing, Apple Pie Breathing, and Shape Breathing. Check out these mindful breathing cards!
8. Mindful Morning Check-In. Start the day with a simple and engaging 5-step mindful morning check-in. This activity is a countdown from 5. It includes taking 5 deep breaths, noticing 4 things around you, listing 3 things you are grateful for, saying 2 positive self-talk statements, and identifying 1 thing you are looking forward to.
9. SEL Journaling. Provide a SEL journal prompt each morning. Have students write their own answer and then share with a partner to discuss. Use targeted questions to highlight skills like empathy, decision-making, friendships, and more. You can choose a journal prompt that best meets the needs of your students that day, or use this yearlong SEL journal with prompts and pages ready-to-go for you.
10. SEL Class Discussions. Use targeted social-emotional questions to spark meaningful conversations. Focus on one question per day or add in as many as you have time for. Use these SEL Task Cards with questions ready for you.
11. Read Alouds. Use a short story to read. Choose any story of your choice, or use a picture book that focuses on a particular social-emotional skill. Use this free list of SEL read alouds to give it a try.
12. SEL Choice Boards. Use SEL choice boards as a “do now” activity in the morning. Have students choose on activity to complete each day or assign the ones that are most important to you.
13. Skill of the Day. Choose a SEL skill for the day to discuss. Ask students to share what it means to them and why it is important. Use this free list of SEL skills from A-Z to give it a try. Students can color in each skill as you discuss them. If you love the idea of teaching the ABCs of Social Emotional Learning, check out this interactive mini-lesson set for SEL skills here.
14. SEL Whiteboard Messages. Post a question on the whiteboard and give space for kids to respond right on the board each day. Students will love getting to write their answer, but they will also get to see others’ responses as well. Use this SEL Whiteboard Question set to start.
15. Practicing Gratitude. Have students write down five things they are grateful for today. These can be big things, like family or friends. They can also be seemingly small things to be thankful for, such as a comfortable chair in school or the way the fall air smells. This free gratitude poster is in the free resource library.
16. SEL Quote of the Day. Use various quotes to highlight social-emotional skills. Use this free SEL Quotes list for some ideas, but you can even have students submit quotes for discussion!
17. SEL Curriculum. Start each day with lessons from a complete yearlong SEL Curriculum to teach skills for empathy, problem-solving, conflict resolution, friendships, decision-making and lots more. This curriculum is designed specifically for elementary students to learn SEL skills in a fun, meaningful, and interactive way.
I hope these ideas have been helpful for you! If you love them, be sure to share with colleagues to pass the importance of SEL on to others.