12 SEL Activities for High School Students

High school teachers are masters of juggling very busy schedules. Between balancing core instruction, administering assessments, grading homework, and ensuring students are prepared for college and career, these educators have a lot on their plates. SEL can make your jobs easier!

Students with strong social-emotional skills are more motivated, engaged, and better understand the value of their learning. SEL also helps reduce disruptive behavior and office referrals, which allows teachers to spend less time on behavior-management and more time on their instruction. Additionally, SEL can improve high school students’ college and career readiness and help them set goals for life after high school.

SEL is not just “one more thing on a very full plate.” It improves academic preparedness and achievement, and it is easy to integrate in your core instruction. Here are 10 activities and lesson ideas for high school students — organized by subject area — to help you get started.

Do you teach primary grades? Be sure to check out our blog, 10 SEL Learning Activities for Grades K–8.


Spark SEL in Math Class

Social-emotional learning is very relevant in math class. Skills like a growth mindset, perseverance, risk-taking, relationships, and attitude are important as students interact with math curriculum’s processes and expectations. Visit this site for tips, strategies, and activities to strengthen your math instruction with SEL.

Design and Launch Soda Bottle Rockets

STEM projects are a natural fit for SEL because they require students to work together, communicate their ideas effectively, problem-solve, and overcome obstacles. This bottle rocket activity encourages older students to practice these important skills while trying not to get a soda shower! 

Integrating SEL and Engineering in Science Class

In science lessons, engineering activities are a terrific opportunity for students to grow social-emotional skills in low-stakes, high-engagement environments. This activity integrates SEL skills like collaborate, creative problem-solving, resilience, and teamwork while learning and practicing engineering tasks.

Social Studies, Civics, and History

SEL Activities That Promote Global Learning

Teaching SEL alongside global learning can deepen students’ interpersonal skills while increasing their knowledge and awareness of world issues. Global learning (sometimes referred to as global citizenship instruction) and SEL both help students develop respect, collaboration, and responsible decision-making while helping learners become responsible and active global citizens. Use these activities with your high school students to improve their global learning.

Seed Keepers – Native American Agriculture

Teaching students the farming traditions of Native Americans can be a fun way to reinforce social and emotional and 21st century skills. In this FutureFit™ project, students explore the “three sisters” growing technique and how to save heirloom seeds. 

SEL and Civics: Document Analysis Worksheets

Civics and SEL go hand-in-hand. This activity teaches students to think critically about the content of primary sources. It also helps students develop organizational skills, problem-solving skills, and a deeper awareness of our society.

Language Arts

Developing Social-Emotional Skills Through Literature

Literature is a natural fit for exploring and developing social and emotional competence. Novels and short stories are filled with emotions. As we read along, we also experience emotions — both about the characters and the story and about ourselves. Use these guiding questions, tips, and prompts to make the connection between SEL and analyzing literature. 

Writing Prompts for Teen SEL

Daily writing prompts can be a fun and effective way to practice SEL. This site provides free writing activities to address self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. 

What Goes Around Comes Around

If students exhibit a pattern of negative language and actions, this can be a great activity to help them understand the consequences of their negative and positive thoughts. You can teach this as a standalone lesson, or it can easily be integrated into Language Arts, i.e. as a character analysis or writing prompt.

Physical Education and The Arts

4 Ways to Use Athletics to Promote SEL and Character Development

Healthy athletic competition is a natural vehicle for building students’ social and emotional competencies. Here are four ways you can help students learn teamwork, cooperation, goal-setting, and confidence in Physical Education classes and school athletic programs.

Smithsonian Folk Ways Recordings

Music can be a fun way for students to explore other cultures and customs. By learning about different musical traditions, students learn to accept differences in others and celebrate diversity. Have fun exploring music from around the world with this wonderful resource that includes lesson plans for a range of age groups.

High School Art Lessons

Giving students the ability to express themselves and explore their emotions through artistic expression is an excellent way to build social and emotional competence. This site has many art lessons for high school students, and many can be adapted around SEL. Try “Life Documentation Through Design,” “Your Eye From a Mirror,” “Where is Your Refuge?,” and more!