Social Emotional Learning Activities for High School

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

For high school students, social and emotional learning (SEL) is of fundamental importance. These activity ideas will give you some ways to bring SEL techniques into your classroom.

Social and Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) refers to the ability of children and adults to engage with their emotions and with others in a healthy way. These are skills that can be taught and practiced. High school is a crucial time for this as teachers are trying to prepare students for life as adults in their society. In high school, some goals of SEL include recognizing and managing emotions, assertive but nonaggressive communication, impulse control, and empathy. The following activities are designed to be adaptable to the needs of your specific students and help them practice SEL skills at the high school level.


Divide students into groups of three. Each person will take turns being the thrower, spotter, and catcher. As a thrower, the student will write ten different stresses or anxieties on ten pieces of paper, then tape those pieces of paper to their body (face down). Let the student see himself or herself covered in these stresses, then blindfold them. The blindfolded student will peel off one piece of paper, crumple it into a ball, and try to throw it in a wastebasket. The spotter will provide verbal instructions (without touching the blindfolded student) on which way to face and how hard to throw. The catcher will be holding the wastebasket, and try to catch the throws. After the blindfolded student has thrown their ten balls, let them see themselves without being covered in their anxieties. Students will then switch roles so everyone can be the thrower.

The purpose of this is twofold. The first is to help the student visualize being covered in stress, then peel off the stress and discard it. Ask them to keep this image in mind when their anxieties are overwhelming them, and practice subtle motions for peeling off and crumpling up stress. Secondly, this activity is meant to show students that you can't always deal with stress on your own. Sometimes you need a spotter and a catcher.

  • Materials: Paper, tape, writing utensils, wastebaskets, blindfolds

Classmate Heroes

To start, let each student draw a slip of paper with a random scenario. Next, assign them a classmate at random. Each student will write a short story featuring that classmate as the hero, in which the classmate deals with the scenario and overcomes the obstacle. After students are done writing their stories, they will give the story to the classmate they wrote about. This activity helps students practice empathy, and will let them read a story that features them as the hero.

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