Fall is a magical time of year! In many areas, the air is getting cooler and leaves are just starting to change colors. Students might be learning about pumpkins, sunflowers, and apples. At the same time, fall is also a great time to work on social-emotional skills.
From partner-reading fall poems with a classmate to going on a mindful nature walk, there are countless ways to integrate social-emotional skills into your fall classroom. Here are a few to try:
Go on a calming nature walk.
Skills we’re building: self-regulation, calming strategies
Nature walks are inherently calming and peaceful. This brings out a great opportunity to talk about calming strategies and how our bodies might feel when we’re calm. Take time to walk around together. Use your senses as you observe what’s around you, such as the crunching sound of leaves beneath your shoes and the sweet smell of pine trees in the air.
Skills we’re building: teamwork, planning
Have students work together on a fall-themed activity to paint a pumpkin. First, gather the pumpkins. You will need one per team or set of partners. Have partners work together to plan, design, and paint their pumpkin. Once painted and dried, the pumpkins can be on display in the classroom to showcase the teamwork skills students are building.
Color affirmations with a fall theme.
Skills we’re building: positive self-talk, confidence
Positive affirmations are a skill for the whole year. Use fall and autumn-themed worksheets to color positive self-talk phrases. Students can repeat the affirmation as they color to help them build a positive voice over time.
Write gratitude letters.
Skills we’re building: gratitude, relationships
Talk about what it means to be thankful for people and things around us. Then, have students practice gratitude by writing gratitude letters to people they are thankful for.
Design your own spider web.
Skills we’re building: creativity, perseverance, problem-solving, teamwork
Gather materials of your choice (such as yarn, cotton, string, paper, tape, etc.). Have students work together in pairs or partners to design their own spider web.
Create a fall gratitude bulletin board.
Skills we’re building: gratitude, self-awareness, appreciation
Have students list or write about something they are grateful for. Post these up on a bulletin board for your classroom. For early writers and learners, you can also identify one topic you are grateful for each day and post it up on the bulletin board together. Grab everything you need to create your own gratitude fall bulletin board.
Read a fall-themed book.
Skills we’re building: empathy, problem-solving, perseverance
Choose any fall-themed book from your library. Throughout the reading, pause to talk about the character, how they might be feeling, and what problems they are persevering through. You can integrate so many social-emotional skills into every read aloud. Need ideas? Get started with this free list of over 100 social-emotional read alouds.
Practice mindful breathing.
Skills we’re building: self-regulation, calming strategies, focus
Mindful breathing can be focused any time of year! Some exercises are especially great for fall, such as apple pie breathing. To give this a try, tell students to pretend a freshly baked apple pie is right in front of them. Slowly breathe in to smell the apple pie. Then, breathe out to cool it down. Try more mindful breathing exercises with a fall theme. You can add a fall-theme to any mindful breathing exercises just by heading outside and doing them together.
Build a scarecrow together.
Skills we’re building: teamwork, planning, flexibility
Put students into small groups. Have each team plan and design their own scarecrow. It’s ultimately up to you if you supply materials or students work together to bring them in from home. The theme of the scarecrow can be anything that the team wants. The goal is to make the best scarecrow together as a team. You can even have a competition with your class (or school) and have students vote on the best.
Read fall partner poems.
Skills we’re building: teamwork, working with others
Have students work with a partner to read fall and Halloween-themed poems. This works by students alternating lines as they read. Your learners can first practice with their partner and then recite for their class as a team together.
Color only with fall colors.
Skills we’re building: creativity, values, self-awareness, flexibility
For this activity, make a list of things that are important to students. Some examples might include: my family, friends, soccer, dance, music, my dog, or caring about others. List these on the board. Have each student choose one. Then, they can draw and color but only with fall colors. You can also use these free mindfulness coloring pages with the same idea; color them only with fall colors!
Read fall-themed social scenario cards.
Skills we’re building: problem-solving, self-control, decision-making
Read social situations with a fall theme for your students to discuss and choose what they would do. For example, have students imagine this scenario: “You jumped into a pile of leaves that someone at home just raked. An adult tells you to clean it up, but you don’t feel like it. What do you do?” These social scenarios encourage thinking about the problem, using self-control, and ultimately making a good choice.
Organize and sort leaves.
Skills we’re building: problem-solving, organization
Gather a bunch of different fall leaves. In groups, have your students sort them into categories. They can do this in multiple ways (there are no right or wrong answers). The goal is that they are problem-solving and organizing together. After groups finish their organizing, give them to strategy share and explain.
Grow pumpkin plants from seeds.
Skills we’re building: patience, growth mindset
Growing plants is always engaging for kids. Have your students get started by placing potting soil in plastic cups. Then, add a few pumpkin seeds into the cup. Water them, give them some sunlight, and observe them over time to watch them grow.
Go on a mindful scavenger hunt.
Skills we’re building: mindfulness, self-awareness, calming strategies, focus
With your students, make up a list of nature sightings they might see when they walk outside. This is a great way to build vocabulary at the same time! Students might list things like acorns, grass, birds, and leaves. Then, turn this into a mindful scavenger hunt. Head outside with a checklist and have students look for the items. Students can check them off or draw them to document what they find.
Create a KWL chart for a fall topic.
Skills we’re building: study habits, flexibility
Using a KWL chart is an evidence-based strategy to help kids and teens learn effectively. The K stands for “what we know.” The W stands for “what we want to know.” Finally, the L means “what we’ve learned.” Start with any fall topic such as pumpkins, sunflowers, or apples. Begin activating background knowledge by asking students to share what they already know about that topic. Add these under the “K.” Then, ask students what they want to learn and add these under the “W.” Finally, do the research together. This can be through a book, reading article, or video. Come back and complete the KWL chart by adding what you’ve learned under “L.”
Give outdoor free play time.
Skills we’re building: problem-solving, friendships, conflict resolution
Free play time is essential to allow kids to use the social skills they are learning. Give some extra free play time outside on a beautiful fall day.
Share happy fall memories.
Skills we’re building: emotions, relationships
Give time to talk and share about happy fall memories students have. These might include going on a hayride with their family or designing the best Halloween costume with a grandparent. To expand on this, students can turn their memories into a story with words and pictures.