social-emotional-learning-friendsStrong 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.


Have your students work together to discuss the different people, places and things in their fairytale land that they added to the worksheet. They can then narrow down what they will keep in the fairytale land. Next, have each student write a paragraph or two about the aspect of the story they were assigned and draw a picture of what they wrote about on their own pages of the classbook. Then, collect their work and organize it into a classbook with each of the different fairytale lands. After, have a class discussion about what it was like creating a story as a team. Once you receive your classbook, have each group read their fairytale aloud to the class and throw a fairytale-themed classbook party to celebrate!

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.


Have your students work individually or in groups on their comedy routines. Comedians draw inspiration from the world around them so encourage your students to spend some time thinking about funny things they have experienced or seen in the past to write the beginning, middle and end of their routine. Make sure that they keep their audience in mind. Do they think their joke will hurt feelings? Is it appropriate for school? Is the joke grosser than it is funny? Have them finish crafting their jokes and put on a comedy show where they all perform their bits. After the show is complete, have your students draw a picture of their performance and combine the jokes and drawings into an awesome classbook that is full of funny.

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.


After your students have written their notes, have them start crafting a short observational story based on what they saw. They can use this worksheet to organize their notes after they return to the classroom with the Main Topic being “What I See on the Playground.” After your students fill out the worksheet, have them start writing their story. Again, ask them to be as detailed as possible to bring what they saw to life on paper. Once they have completed their observational story, have them add a drawing of what they saw to bring visual context to their writing. Combine their work into a classbook that will remind them to always be aware of others throughout the rest of the year and beyond.

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.


Have your students write out what their difficult decision was and how they made their decision step-by-step. Then have them think about whether this was a good decision, what the consequences were (if any), and how it affected them and the other people in their lives. You can also have your students write out how they utilized the steps of the decision-making process to make their choice or why they would use the decision-making process next time. After your students have written about their decision and outcome, have them create drawings of what happened throughout the process. Once complete, gather their work to make a classbook that they can look back at whenever a tough decision comes their way!


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.