Between balancing core instruction, administering assessments, grading homework, and ensuring students are prepared for college and career, high school teachers have a lot on their plates. SEL activities can make your jobs easier!
When students have strong social and emotional skills, they are more motivated, engaged, and understand the value of their learning. SEL also helps reduce disruptive behavior and office referrals, which allows teachers to spend more time on their instruction. Additionally, SEL activities can improve high school students’ college and career readiness and help them set goals for life after high school.
It’s easy to integrate SEL activities in your core instruction! Here are 10 activities and lesson ideas for high school students–organized by subject area–to get you started.
Grades 9–12: 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.
Grades 9–12: 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!
Grades 9–12: Stuck Strategies: A Math Lesson About Grit (& Data)
For many, learning math requires patience, perseverance, and grit. Students need to have confidence that they can work through the concepts and solve the problems. Use this lesson to help students identify proactive strategies before they get stuck, and build a culture of grit and resilience.
Grade 9–12: 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.
Grades 9–12: 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.
Grades 9–12: 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.
Social Studies, History, and Global Learning
Grades 9–12: 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.
Physical Education and The Arts
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.
Grades 9–12: 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.
Grades 9–12: 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!
Incorporating SEL activities into high school core instruction and afterschool programs can make lessons more engaging and help students find deeper meaning in core subject areas. It also reduces behavior incidents and gets students ready to learn. SEL also promotes college and career readiness and equips students with the soft skills employers are seeking in candidates.
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