Encouraging Social Emotional Development Through Engaging Classroom Activities


pexels-photo-301926By: Mary Ware for LearnWell

Helping students become engaged learners is a goal of most teachers and educational programs. Finding ways to pique their interest, and helping them develop the skills needed to dive into and make sense of any given curriculum is at the root of teacher planning sessions. In the same manner, finding ways to develop students’ social emotional skill set is just as important.


Social and emotional skills are what help students makes sense of, and connect to both who they are, and the world around them. Skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making play a large role in a student’s overall success—both academically and in regards to becoming an well-rounded responsible citizen.


Schools and educational programs across the country have taken an interest in the philosophy of both growth mindset and social/emotional learning (SEL), and are implementing these ideas in countless ways. Hospital education programs can also benefit by incorporating social emotional learning into the curriculum, therefore helping students continue to make academic and social advancement while receiving treatment.


Here are some easy ways to add social and emotional learning activities to the hospital classroom:


  1. Start each class with a check-in. Allow students to identify how they are feeling (with the use of visuals or emotion charts as needed). Discuss as a group the goals for the class session, and ask each student how they might accomplish them and what support they may need based on their check-in.


  1. Model appropriate behavior and skills for students. If a student makes negative or inappropriate statements regarding their work or other’s actions, rephrase them in a way that helps identify the feelings behind the statements, and demonstrates a more responsible manner of expressing a need or making a point. Find teachable moments when possible.


  1. Use games to teach skills. As a welcoming activity or if there is extra time at the end of class, use games to bring movement and energy to the classroom while helping younger students learn about social emotional characteristics. SEL learning games such as Feelings Charades, Freeze Dance, and Principal Wild Says from Centervention help improve the ability to follow directions, identify emotions, and respond to tasks, which are all important components of the social/emotional skill set.



  • Take on the perspective of others for assignments. For Literature or History based assignments, consider having students write poems, letters, or statements from one of the characters or individuals’ perspective. By answering assigned questions, the student will be able to demonstrate comprehension of the subject, while the role play activity helps strengthen interpersonal and empathy skills.




  • Provide opportunities for group work. When feasible, allow students to partner up or form small groups to tackle a set of problems or an assignment. Encourage communication skill development such as listening, taking turns, respecting the viewpoints of others, and working toward a common objective. After the project, ask questions to identify what was difficult, and how they overcame differences in the group setting.




  • Allow for student self-expression. Being admitted to a hospital or other residential treatment facility can be extremely difficult for many student-patients. By allowing for student creativity and self-expression, teachers can help student-patients express what makes them personally unique, and can expand on the individual interests of each student to help tailor their academic experience.



Though student-patients may only be a part of the hospital classroom for a short period of time, it is still a valuable opportunity to aid in the development of social and emotional skills. By incorporating easy to administer activities and games into the regular class routine, students will be able to make progress academically while gaining important interpersonal skills and intrapersonal perspective.

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