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By: Mary Ware for LearnWell


When faced with challenging circumstances and difficult situations, the skills we have honed and developed over time play a large part in how we react to these times of trial. Our social and emotional skills in particular, are essential to understanding and responding appropriately to matters both big and small. Developing social-emotional skills has become a focus in districts over the course of the past few years, with teachers spending hours on professional development to learn how to help student grow in this critical area.

The 5 Areas for Social and Emotional Learning include:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Management
  3. Social Awareness
  4. Relationship Skills
  5. Responsible Decision Making

Whether a student is enrolled in their home district or receiving educational services in a hospital setting, there is ample opportunity to help students master these skills.

Here are some great lessons that can be used in a hospital education setting to promote social-emotional development.


Quality Lessons for Social and Emotional Skills

Elementary Level

  • Consider using books that teach messages central to the heart of social and emotional learning as the foundation for literacy units and activities. Here are 15 books and videos focused on empathy to help students understand how others may be feeling, by Proud to be Primary.
  • These 6 Dr. Seuss books are also great for teaching social skills. They cover topics ranging from fear and caring for others, to standing up for one’s own beliefs.
  • The movie Inside Out is an excellent starting point to talk about many different aspects of emotions. Spend some time browsing through these various activities to find one that works for your classroom, and accompany the lessons with short clips to provide an easy to understand method for identifying emotions.


Middle/High School Level

  • Provide students with the opportunity to show off who they are upon arriving at the hospital or treatment facility by creating a self-collage depicting things they enjoy or find important to them. This activity helps promote self-awareness as well as giving a good glimpse into the interests/life of the student in a short period of time.
  • Promote Active Listening in your classroom through demonstration and focused lessons. Give tips for how to engage with teachers, employers, or other personnel and show how to use them in context.
  • The Game of Life is a fun jumping off point to exploring decision making (and the need to make decisions responsibly). This is a great resource for middle school grades, and high school students could be provided with a class wide journey with cards representing different career choices, purchasing decisions and financial obligations.


Depending on the type of facility the student is admitted to, other members of the team may be more heavily focused on social and emotional learning during their stay. However, there are still many ways that hospital teachers can engage with their student-patients for skill development through fun and meaningful lessons such as the ones above.

The more we as teachers can work to make social and emotional learning a part of our everyday instruction, the greater benefit our students will receive.