Social and emotional learning, often known as SEL, is the process that helps kids learn critical skills, attitudes, and mindsets for social and emotional success. These skills cover five major areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and responsible decision-making. It’s actually difficult to describe in just one sentence because SEL covers everything from building confidence and managing emotions to making friends and understanding ethical decision-making skills. These are truly the foundational skills that help kids to be successful in and out of school.
It’s important to note that SEL isn’t just one activity. It’s a philosophy that educators, administrators, and entire schools must adopt in order to help all kids build mental and emotional strength. Simply put, incorporating social emotional learning into classrooms helps kids thrive. Many educators might at first feel there is not enough time to add one more thing into the school day. Again, that’s why it’s important to think of SEL as something we integrate into what we’re already doing rather than something that gets “added on”. I created this list to help educators and schools have a starting point for integrating free SEL strategies and resources into their already-busy days. If you aren’t sure where to start, just choose one or two things. Help your learners build their confidence, learn strategies to cope with tough emotions, discuss what true friendship is, identify strategies for solving real-life problems, and so on.
Here are free social emotional learning resources:
- Social Emotional Learning Journal – Prompts focusing on understanding individual strengths and challenges.
- Positive Affirmations List – A list of 101 positive affirmations to build positive confidence and positive self-talk.
- Gratitude Activities – Quick activities that help kids recognize what they are thankful for.
- The Power of Yet Posters – Encourage students to use a growth mindset with these positive posters.
- Growth Mindset Task Cards – Use these task cards to help students learn they can accomplish their goals with hard work and grit.
- Coping Strategies Challenge – Have students learn 30 coping strategies in 30 days to teach about managing emotions.
- Coping Strategies Notebook – A tool that helps kids to practice and use their coping strategies when they need them.
- Anger Management Worksheets – An anger log to help kids track their triggers for anger.
- Calming Posters – Simple calming posters for a calm down area that remind kids to relax and breathe.
- Motivation Workbook – Workbook to help students learn strategies for motivation and completing tasks.
- Homework Binder – Resource that helps students organize their binders and have a dedicated spot for homework.
- Coping Strategies List – List of 100 different coping strategies kids can use to manage emotions.
- Executive Functioning Workbook – Set of workbook pages that target skills like time management and organization.
- Mindfulness Coloring – Free coloring worksheets to help encourage mindfulness.
- Executive Functioning Poster – Visual reference to help kids and young adults remember critical executive functioning skills, including organization and planning.
- Conversation Skills Lessons – Lessons for teaching and practicing conversation skills.
- Perspective-Taking Lessons – Lessons focusing on teaching how to perspective-take and develop empathy.
- Tolerance and Acceptance Pledge – Have students take a pledge to help them learn to accept others who are different from them.
- Getting to Know You Questions – Free list of over 30 questions to help kids get to know each other and build positive relationships.
- Conversation Starters – Over 20 printable cards to start meaningful discussions.
- Working with Others – Teach students explicitly how to effectively work with others in partners and groups.
- Social Problem-Solving Task Cards – Task cards that highlight real social problems for kids to discuss and identify ways to solve.
- Character Posters – Posters that remind students about integrity, kindness, and working hard.
- Student of the Month Awards – Awards that help build your classroom community by helping kids feel recognized.
- How Big is My Problem Task Cards – Activity cards and situations that help students identify problems and challenges.
- Teaching Social Emotional Skills with a Journal
- 25 Ways to Integrate Social Emotional Learning
- Art Activities for Social Emotional Learning
- Helping Kids with Social Emotional Needs
- How to Make a Coping Strategies Wheel
- 13 Ways to Avoid Power Struggles
- Why Positive Self-Talk is Worth It
- Teaching Social Problem Solving with a Free Activity
- 10 Mindfulness Activities You Can Try Today
APPS & WEBSITES FOR KIDS:
- Everyday Speech Social Skills Games (social awareness, relationships, decision-making) – Interactive online games for social skills, including conversation skills, school behavior, problem solving, and more.
- Breathe, Think, Do (self-management, decision-making) – Use with younger learners to help practice deep breathing and problem-solving skills.
- Go Noodle (self-management) – Hundreds of videos to help kids take a brain break and practice mindfulness.
- Headspace: Guided Meditation & Mindfulness (self-awareness, self-management) – This app provides meditation exercises with a coach that helps you learn as you go.
- The Mindfulness App (self-awareness, self-management) – A mindfulness app that helps you become more present in your daily life with guided and silent meditation sessions.
- Learn Social Skills (social awareness, relationships) – Use video lessons and readings to help kids learn skills.
- Aware (self-awareness, self-management) – This app leads you through daily mindfulness meditation techniques, including energizing activities and breathing practice.
- Stop Breathe & Think: Meditate (self-awareness, self-management) – Tailored to your specific emotions, this app helps you take a break and reduce stress through meditation.
- Listening Skills (social awareness, relationships) – Strategies for becoming an active listener.
- MyCalmBeat (self-awareness, self-management) – This app provides training and practice in slow, deep breathing for stress reduction.
- Breathe (self-management) – An app that assists in controlling your breathing.
- Gratitude Journal (self-awareness, self-management) – This app helps you focus on the positive by identifying what you are thankful for each day.
- Kids Coping Skill Puzzle (self-management) – Build a puzzle while sorting between positive and negative coping skills.
- Affirmation Reminder (self-awareness) – Select from a list of positive affirmations or make your own to add as reminders.
- ColorMe (self-awareness, self-management) – Free coloring app to help reduce stress.
WEBSITES FOR EDUCATORS:
- CASEL – Everything from basic information to detailed research surrounding SEL.
- Edutopia – Several articles and ideas for integrating SEL into the classroom.
- Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning – Tons of free resources to get you started.
- Education Week Webinar – Detailed information about how teachers can build social-emotional learning skills.
- Social and Emotional Learning Standards – Detailed information and links about which states have adopted SEL standards.
- NoVo Foundation – Information and strategies for SEL.
- Social Emotional Learning: What Is SEL and Why It Matters
- Social Emotional Learning: Trish Shaffer Ted Talk
- The Heart-Brain Connection: The Neuroscience of Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning
- 5 Keys to Social and Emotional Learning Success
- The Five Social and Emotional Competencies
- An Introduction to Social and Emotional Learning
- Social and Emotional Learning: A Schoolwide Approach
- Social and Emotional Learning in Action
- Hold a morning meeting. Use this time to check-in with students, review expectations, and start the day.
- Do a check-in and check-out with specific students in need to monitor their social-emotional needs.
- Build strong relationships from the start.
- Model and discuss social skills, highlighting them throughout the day.
- Use literature to highlight social and emotional skills.
- Incorporate consequences that give back to the community instead of punishments.
Note that these books aren’t free, but it is always free to borrow from your local library, so I wanted to share them!
- How Do I Feel? by Norma Simon (ages 2 to 7)
- Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee (ages 3 to 8)
- Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman (ages 4 to 8)
- Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell (ages 5 to 8)
- When I Feel Frustrated by Marcia Leonard (ages 2 to 6)
- Super George and the Invisible Shield by Laurie P. Mendoza (ages 7 to 11)
- Know and Follow Rule by Cheri Meiners (ages 3 to 6)
- There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi (ages 3 to 7)
- When I Care About Others by Cornelia Maude Spelman (ages 5 to 7)
- Can You Tell How Someone Feels by Nita Everly (ages 3 to 6)
- Hugo and the Bully Frogs by Francesca Simon (ages 3 to 7)
- Can You Be a Friend? by Nita Everly (ages 3 to 6)
- We Are Best Friends by Aliki (ages 4 to 7)
- You’re All My Favorites by Sam McBratney (ages 5 to 7)
- I Did It, I’m Sorry by Caralyn Buehner (ages 5 to 8)
- The Decisive Dolphin by Efrat Haddi (ages 3 to 8)
- Someday by Eileen Spinelli (ages 4 to 8)
Follow these boards, hashtags, and people for information on SEL:
- Pathway 2 Success – FB is one of the first places I share new ideas!
- Mental Fills – Social worker sharing ideas for small groups and more.
- The Counseling Teacher – Educator with background in counseling and teaching with tips for all.
- School Psyched, Your School Psychologist – Great social and emotional ideas for all educators.
- Informed Decisions – Social worker with a specific background with urban youth.
- Social Emotional Learning – Public FB group focused on sharing SEL ideas.
- Pathway 2 Success – Many of my boards target SEL skills.
- Books for Social Emotional Learning – A board focused on reading materials for SEL.
- Social Emotional Learning – Entire board focused on emotions, social skills, and more.
- Social Skills Group – A collaborative board with resources for social group ideas.
- Social Emotional Resources for Elementary – Another collaborative board focused on elementary kids.
- Pathway 2 Success – I love sharing ideas, resources, and freebies on IG!
- #socialemotionallearning – Follow this hashtag for SEL ideas and more.
- Pathway 2 Success – Twitter is a great professional network to share ideas.
- Brain Mendler – Amazing educator and presenter who brings on thoughtful conversations.
- #socialemotionallearning – Follow this hashtag for SEL ideas and strategies.
- #sel – Another hashtag to follow.
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