Social Emotional Learning Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

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

Social and emotional learning is very important to master by the end of middle school, but not always easy. These activities can help you integrate new SEL strategies into your classroom.


Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a process by which students (youth or adult) learn healthy communication and social interaction. Teaching and practicing SEL helps students understand and manage their emotions. At the middle-school level, SEL focuses on empathy, impulse control, communication, assertiveness, and emotion recognition. The following activities can help you integrate SEL methods and techniques into your middle-school classroom. Since every class and individual student will differ, these activities are designed to be adaptable to your needs.

Social Emotional Learning Activities for Middle School

The News Reporter

Start by asking students to reflect on three times they felt a certain emotion (such as anger). In a journal, students will write down everything they remember about these three instances. They will then write a narrative of each event as if being described by a reporter on the evening news. This means that they are reporting on each event with cold hard facts about what happened, not feelings, opinions, or judgment of who was right or wrong.

Next, students will read the three reports and look for similarities or trends. They will then write a fourth news segment, this time from the perspective of an expert. This expert will be describing the trends of the reports and presenting a conclusion about what triggers are causing this emotion. The goal is to get students to put aside their emotions and examine the triggers that set off emotional outbursts.

  • Materials: Writing supplies

Four Communication Styles

The goal of this activity is to help students understand assertive, aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive communication styles. Go over what each of these looks like, and ask each student to draw a random scenario. Students will write four short stories in which the main character responds to this scenario, each time with a different communication style.

If this is a little abstract for your students, have them write the stories featuring known characters who exemplify these communication styles. These could be characters from fiction, history, or popular culture, depending on student interests. For example, instead of asking students to write a story in which an abstract assertive character handles a situation, they could explore what Captain America would do in this scenario.

  • Materials: Slips of paper with random scenarios, writing supplies, list of characters as desired

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