Strong social-emotional skills are vital when it comes to developing healthy relationships and learning to live amongst other people. Life in the classroom is one of the best opportunities to start learning how to interact with others on an emotional level. Help your students by encouraging them with activities that promote social-emotional learning. Here are 5 writing activities that encourage social-emotional learning for you to use in the classroom.
Use These Writing Activities to Encourage Social-Emotional Learning
1. Dear Journal…
Journal writing is one of the classic ways to encourage young children to express themselves through the written word. In addition t, it’s also a fantastic exercise in social-emotional learning.
Give them the opportunity to practice free writing in their journal and write about whatever comes to mind without worrying about grammar or spelling when given a simple prompt or even a single word.
Journal writing encourages your students to think about how they interact with the world. They’ll recall events and think about how those events made them feel. Journaling introduces introspection at an early age. If your students understand how something makes them feel, they have a better chance of understanding how things will make others feel, too.
We normally follow up our writing activities with a project idea that can be a shared class experience, but journaling is so personal that we decided to exclude that for this particular activity. You can have your students share their journal entries with the class, but let them decide if they want to do so. Your students can also look back at their journal entries to find inspiration for future writing prompts that can be used to create a classbook.
2. Create a fairytale land together. What places do you see? Who lives there? What things are there to do in your land?
Working together to write a story takes some serious work. Just ask the likes of Neil Gaiman and Pterry!
Of course, your students likely won’t be writing the next great classic - at least not yet! But putting their heads together to share ideas and arrive at a compromise does help to stretch their emotional muscles.
This activity is best done in small groups of three. Trying to coordinate too many ideas at once might be overwhelming for younger students.
The writing process for this activity will teach your students about collaboration and self-control, as well as the ability to make persuasive arguments. Communication skills are at the foundation of SEL activities and most of what we do in life, so sharpening these skills through collaboration is an excellent use of classroom time.
After your students have been assigned their group, give them this worksheet to start organizing and brainstorming their fairytale land. Each group member will be in charge of one of the following: the people in the story, the places in the story or the things in the story. You can let them choose who is in charge of which or assign them their part.
3. Write a comedy routine for the class.
Sometimes, you have to remind students that words can be fun! Some of the most fun you can have involves nothing more than words. Comedy is a great example of that.
Get your students to put together a comedy routine by choosing their favorite jokes or coming up with new ones, and putting them together to create a short performance. Young students love to put on a wacky show, so encourage them to be as playful as possible.
This activity is more than just goofing off, though. It will teach your students to think about how they make others feel and their audience.
Now, we realize that the subjectivity of humor may be a little above the paygrade of elementary students, but this still teaches them to think about how their jokes will make others feel.
Some research suggests that jokes and laughter play a key role in developing our social norms. Humor plays such a major role in human interaction that it’s hard to overstate how important it is to develop as a social talent. Being able to make light of situations and to interpret when others are being sarcastic or dry is important for healthy social understanding.
We suggest talking to your students about how jokes always have an interesting beginning, funny middle arc and a punchline at the end. Also, touch on the importance of writing jokes that they think are funny and others will think are funny without hurting any feelings.
4. Go outside and observe other kids playing. Write a story about what you see.
A huge aspect of social-emotional development is becoming aware of situations outside of yourself. Young kids, as you probably know, aren’t the most socially aware people around. Elementary school is often their first introduction to understanding social norms, empathy, diversity and showing compassion for other people’s needs.
Take your students outside during another grade or class’ recess time and have them take notes on what they see other children doing. They can focus on one group or move around the playground and record what multiple groups are doing. Are the kids laughing? Is someone upset that they didn’t score a goal playing soccer? What are the majority of kids on the playground playing? Encourage them to be as detailed as possible in their notes.
It is important to preface this activity by telling your students that they are only observing how other kids are acting while playing outside, they should not be judging or making assumptions about the other students.
5. Tell me about a difficult decision you had to make. Do you think you made the right decision? Why or why not?
Everyone from kindergartners to elderly people must be able to evaluate the potential impact that the decisions they make have on themselves and others. This includes consideration of ethics, health and safety, other people’s feelings, personal values and how a decision may affect the outcome.
Start this activity with a short lesson on the importance of using the decision-making process.
Here is a quick overview of the decision-making process:
1: Identify the Problem
2: Gather Relevant Information
3: Brainstorm Solutions
4: Identify Possible Consequences
5: Make a Choice
6: Take Action
7: Evaluate The Outcome
This process can be utilized throughout the rest of their lives to help them make great decisions. You can also give your students an example of how you have used the decision-making process in the past to make a difficult choice.
In addition to learning about decision making, this activity is also a lesson in self-reflection since your students will be looking back on a past decision. There is no decision too big or small for this activity. Maybe they had trouble picking out what to wear on the first day of school or maybe they had to decide on something major like if they want to play basketball this year. If your student feels like the decision was difficult, let them use it for this activity.
These 5 activities are a fantastic starting point for social-emotional learning. Words are one of the most powerful tools we have to understand ourselves and others.
Ready to bring your students’ writing activities to life? Start your classbook today!
Need more resources? Our online teacher’s lounge is an excellent place for you to find more suggestions on ways to improve your students’ writing.