10 Social-Emotional Activities for Grades K–8

Did you know that social-emotional skills can easily be taught to students K-8 right alongside core academic instruction in classrooms or afterschool programs? From reading, writing, and arithmetic, SEL can be woven into nearly any subject. In fact, SEL often makes teaching core instruction easier because when students have strong social and emotional competence, they are more engaged, motivated, and ready to learn.

We promise that it is easy to teach SEL in your core instruction! Here are 10 activities and lesson ideas — organized by subject area and grade level — to get you started.

Do you teach secondary grades? Be sure to check out our blog, 10 SEL Activities for High School Students.


Grades K–6

Saving Sam: A Team-Building Activity – Oh no! Sam the Worm’s boat has capsized, and his life jacket is trapped underneath it. Can your students use teamwork and collaboration to get him back in his boat without touching him? This fun activity promotes creative problem-solving and teamwork to reinforce engineering skills. 

Grades K–6

Identifying Emotions Activity: Chameleon Moods – Helping students learn how to identify physical signs of escalating emotions can be an effective way to teach self-regulation. In this activity, students build this important skill while they learn about chameleons and why they change colors.

Language Arts

Grades 4–6

Books Give Us Wings – Books can help students understand the world from different points of view by exploring unfamiliar cultures and societies. Books can also help students rise above bullying and peer pressure and overcome loss or adversity. Foster a love of reading by teaching students that books are not just entertaining — they can also “give us wings.”

Grades 3–8

Conflict Resolution Vocabulary: “-ate” Words – Communicate, negotiate, mediate. Teach students the many words that end in “-ate,” and explore how to use these words to resolve conflicts.

Grades 1–5

Conversation Skills: Staying on Topic – Listening skills are important for effective communication and also for demonstrating respect for others. Practice communication with this fun game. 

Social Studies and History

Grades 2–8

Empathy and the Persona Poem – A persona poem is written from another person’s perspective and can be a powerful way to teach empathy. This activity works well in either Language Arts or History class, and this particular lesson works well for 7th or 8th grade students (though you can modify for younger students by selecting an age-appropriate topic). 

Grades 6–8

SEL Lessons and Activities to Enhance Social Studies – Social Studies is an excellent platform to teach social and emotional skills such as self-management, relationship building, social awareness, and responsible decision-making. Enhance your Social Studies and History lessons with these activities and teaching practices.

Physical Education and The Arts

Grades K–8

Art Activities for SEL – Artistic expression goes hand-in-hand with SEL. Check out this site for lots of ideas for reinforcing SEL through drawing, collages, and other craft activities.

Grades K–8

Charades for Kids: Feelings and Empathy – Acting out emotions and engaging students in role-playing can promote kindness and empathy. Let students’ creativity flow while encouraging them to explore feelings and empathy through dramatic expression. 

Grades 4–8

Music and Mood – Listening to music increases the amount of dopamine (a mood-enhancing chemical) in the brain, which means it can have a positive effect on our mental health. This is especially important to help students work through high levels of stress, anxiety, and isolation. Use this free lesson to teach students how music can improve their emotions and perceptions.

Incorporating SEL activities in classrooms and afterschool programs can make lessons more engaging and help students find deeper meaning in core subject areas. At the same time, students learn the critical social and emotional skills needed to succeed in school and in life. To get started with SEL assessment and strategies from Aperture Education, contact are SEL advisors today!