Social-emotional learning benefits are undeniable in the classroom. The entire framework has become a cornerstone of modern education, especially for elementary schoolers. It lays the foundation for learning and fosters essential skills for success in life. 

Integrating social-emotional learning (SEL) into the classroom helps students develop crucial skills such as empathy, self-awareness and emotional regulation. These skills are essential for academic success and foster a positive and inclusive school environment while promoting life skills. 

By embedding SEL in daily activities, educators can support students’ overall well-being and equip them with tools to cope better with academic and personal challenges.

We will explore the benefits of social-emotional learning for elementary students by looking at specific strategies and classbook activities that can significantly impact not only students’ academic growth but also their personal growth.

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Direct Social-Emotional Learning Benefits 

Social-emotional learning in the classroom offers benefits that extend beyond the school hours. They will positively impact students’ academic and personal lives from childhood through adulthood.

Here are some key benefits of incorporating SEL into the classroom curriculum: 

  • Improved Academic Performance: SEL advances students’ academic achievement and performance.
  • Enhanced Self-Awareness: Students gain an improved and deeper understanding of their emotions and thoughts.
  • Better Self-Management: Older elementary and middle schoolers learn to regulate their emotions, thoughts and behaviors.
  • Increased Social Awareness: Promotes empathy and understanding of diverse perspectives.
  • Stronger Relationship Skills: Supports improved communication, cooperation and conflict resolution abilities.
  • Responsible Decision-Making: Students learn to make ethical, safe and thoughtful decisions.
  • Reduced Behavioral Issues: Decreases instances of conduct problems, emotional distress and substance use.
  • Positive Long-Term Outcomes: Correlates with future success in education, employment and mental health.
  • Behavioral Benefits: Provides a high return on investment by reducing negative behaviors and increasing academic performance.
  • Bullying Prevention: Helps in building social-emotional competence and reducing bullying incidents.

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Long-Term Social-Emotional Learning Benefits

There was a study conducted in 2011 by CASEL and collaborating researchers demonstrated significant long-term benefits of SEL for students from kindergarten through high school. 

The 2017 meta-analysis follow-up involved nearly 97,500 students across 82 schools. They checked in on the students anywhere from 6 months to 18 years after they finished these programs to see how they were doing and found that students who participated in SEL programs performed better academically, with an average increase of 13 percentile points, and exhibited fewer conduct problems, emotional distress and substance use compared to those who did not participate.

Here are some specific findings: 

Better Skills and Attitudes: Students who participated in SEL programs had better social-emotional skills, more positive attitudes and generally felt better compared to students who didn’t participate in these programs.

Consistent Benefits: The benefits of SEL were consistent across different demographics, economic statuses and locations.

Long-Term Impact: The biggest factor for well-being later in life was how much students improved their social-emotional skills through these programs.

Important Outcomes: Even though they weren’t studied as often, some really important outcomes like graduating from school and making safe choices in their personal lives showed that SEL programs helped positively guide students’ overall development.

To summarize, learning social and emotional skills through these programs helped students become happier, healthier and more successful in the long run, regardless of their background or where they came from.

Why is Social-Emotional Learning Important?

Social-emotional learning activities equip students with the tools to manage their emotions – particularly in challenging situations - whether in the classroom or during everyday life. These activities also foster empathy, helping students express concerns and build healthy social relationships.

Social-emotional learning in the classroom fosters positive student development. Advocating for SEL to begin in preschool and continue throughout each student’s educational journey is crucial. 

Parent Support for SEL in Schools

A recent poll by the Committee for Children, conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group, revealed overwhelming parental support for SEL. The survey, which included 1,200 parents from diverse backgrounds, found that 54% of parents acknowledge their child’s school offers SEL and many wish for its continuation. 

Among parents whose elementary schoolers do not receive SEL, 83% strongly supported its implementation. This data underscores parents’ focus on SEL in their student’s education.

Social-Emotional Learning Strategies & Activities


SEL activities promote self-awareness by encouraging students to recognize their emotions and thoughts. Using their newfound awareness a student will understand how their behavior impacts others and provide strategies for managing their reactions.

Self-regulation is another key aspect of SEL, focusing on teaching students to control their thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Through SEL, students learn techniques to handle stress effectively which paves the way for a lifetime of improved stress management. 

Social awareness is developed by helping students understand others’ perspectives, fostering empathy and encouraging community participation. These skills are crucial for building a supportive and inclusive environment.

Developing relationship skills is essential for students to connect with others and build and maintain healthy relationships. 

These skills include:

  • Effective communication
  • Cooperation
  • Willingness to help others

Responsible decision-making is a significant outcome of SEL, enabling students to better handle and cope with the emotional spectrum and understand others more. This skill is critical for making thoughtful and informed choices.

The ability to form and sustain emotionally fulfilling relationships is closely linked to academic and professional success, as well as overall well-being. Since many relationships are formed in school, students must receive guidance on how to engage in positive interactions both in and out of the classroom. 

Implementing effective social-emotional learning strategies and activities in the classroom fosters the emotional and social development of elementary students. 

Here are some practical strategies that educators can use:

Morning Meetings

Meetings are a natural part of life. From the classroom to the boardroom or job site - people will regularly participate in meetings in one form or another for a lifetime. 

Starting the day with a morning meeting in the classroom provides a structured time for students to share their feelings, set goals and build a sense of community. 

The daily meeting routine fosters a supportive classroom environment where every student feels valued and isn’t afraid to step forward and share. 

Mindfulness Activities

Incorporating mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing or guided meditation, helps students develop self-regulation skills. These activities teach students to manage stress and stay focused, improving their emotional resilience.

Why not start the morning out in the classroom with a calm deep breathing exercise? Another time of day to consider such an interlude would be right after recess or lunch to help students refocus on the classroom. 

Collaborative Projects

Group skills are a necessity in life. Group projects encourage students to practice communication and teamwork. 

Students need to learn that through teamwork they can further their goals and achievements. By working together on classbook projects, students can become published authors, enhancing their sense of achievement and belonging.


Role-Playing Scenarios

Elementary schoolers naturally excel at role-playing games because they freely use their imaginations. Educators who encourage role-playing are utilizing a vital, natural component of childhood development to further educational goals. 

Role-playing different scenarios helps students develop empathy and social awareness. By acting out various situations, students learn to understand others’ perspectives and respond appropriately.

Emotion Journals

Throughout history, many published authors kept emotion journals. Many of the journals have later been made into books to provide a deeper insight into the writer’s mind and emotions.

Encouraging students to keep emotion journals allows them to reflect on their feelings and experiences. This practice promotes self-awareness and helps students identify patterns in their emotions and reactions.

Conflict Resolution Exercises

Teaching students conflict resolution techniques equips them with the skills to handle disagreements constructively and avoid angry emotion-filled outbursts. Instead, they can work seamlessly to resolve the dispute in an amicable fashion for everyone involved. 

These exercises emphasize listening, empathy and finding mutually acceptable solutions.

Form a group circle: 

  • Read from cards some various possible conflicts.  
  • Work around the circle having each student outline how they might resolve said conflict.
  • Encourage other students to build on each idea positively.

Conflict resolution exercises are a great way to teach teamwork to students.

Classbook Activities for Social-Emotional Learning

Integrating classbook activities into the curriculum offers elementary schoolers opportunities to explore their creativity and express themselves. 

Projects like collaborative storytelling or creating personal narratives reinforce SEL skills and culminate in students becoming skilled writers, boosting their confidence and pride in their work.

Gratitude Letters: Have students write letters expressing gratitude to people who have positively impacted their lives fostering appreciation and empathy.

Courageous Characters: Have students create a story where the main character must show courage to overcome a fear or obstacle. This activity teaches the importance of bravery and resilience.

Role-Playing Scenarios: Create writing prompts based on hypothetical social situations. Students can write about how they would handle these situations, promoting problem-solving and emotional regulation.

Emotional Weather Report: Ask students to write a “weather report” for their emotions. For example, “Today, my emotions are sunny with a chance of rain.” This helps them analyze and articulate their feelings creatively.

Goal Setting: Promote self-motivation and planning by having students write about their personal goals and the steps they need to achieve them.

Positive Affirmations: Guide students in writing positive affirmations about themselves. For example, “I am kind,” “I am capable” or “I can handle challenges.” This activity helps build self-esteem and a positive self-image.

Acrostic Poems: Encourage students to write poems about their emotions or experiences. Poetry allows for creative expression and can be a therapeutic way to process feelings.

Through various classbook projects, teachers can create opportunities for students to become published authors, further boosting their confidence and sense of achievement. This not only motivates students to take pride in their work but also reinforces the skills learned through SEL.


Five Social-Emotional Learning Competencies

Incorporating SEL aligns naturally with the Common Core standards and enhances a student’s ability to collaborate, communicate and engage in critical thinking. 

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL has five key competencies that can be fostered in the classroom, at home and within the community. The competencies all lay the groundwork for genuine social-emotional learning benefits.

These core competencies are:


Self-awareness involves learning to recognize emotions and understanding how they influence behavior. It also includes acknowledging strengths and weaknesses to build confidence in a student’s abilities.


Self-management is about controlling and directing a student’s thoughts, emotions and actions in various situations. Through self-management, a student can better attain their personal and academic goals. 

Social Awareness

Social awareness is the ability to empathize with others, especially those from different backgrounds or cultures. It includes acting ethically and with empathy in various settings such as at home, school and within the community.

Relationship Skills

Relationship skills are essential for building and maintaining healthy relationships throughout life. This skill involves effective listening, clear communication, conflict resolution and knowing when to seek or offer help. A student with relationship skills becomes proactive and caring. 

Responsible Decision-Making

Responsible decision-making entails choosing how to respond to situations based on ethical standards, safety, the consequences of actions and the well-being of oneself and others.

When you identify students struggling with the core aspects of SEL, you can provide early intervention. You can help the student improve self-control, empathy and other positive traits. 

The classroom is not just about learning the basics—reading, writing and math—it’s about teaching real-life skills to elementary schoolers. 

Learning behaviors that go beyond academics helps students develop essential “soft skills” like teamwork, understanding others and problem-solving. These skills prepare students for success in school, future careers and relationships with others. 

Help Your Students Become Published Authors!

A fantastic and engaging way to build SEL skills in your classroom is by publishing a book with your class through one of our FREE classbook publishing kits! Simply sign up online, and we’ll provide everything you need to publish your students’ writing and illustrations, including support throughout the process.

Use the SEL activities mentioned in this article as a starting point for brainstorming your classbook project. Each student will contribute a page of writing and a page of illustration, creating a collective work that is more than the sum of its parts. You’ll receive a FREE classbook publishing kit and parents can order additional copies as keepsakes and literary time capsules for the future.

For more writing activities, lesson plans and teaching strategies, visit our blog and online Teacher’s Lounge. With these resources and the SEL activities you’ve gathered, you’ll be well-equipped to help your students achieve their educational milestones!