social emotional skills

Social Emotional Activities

Social emotional skills are a huge priority in the preschool classroom. I plan a social emotional experience or activity for every single day, for a couple of reasons – the first being that I want to give my students every opportunity to practice recognizing and regulating their own emotions. The second reason that I focus on this so heavily is that the classroom is a safe place to practice social skills, if my students have the opportunity to practice these skills in the classroom, then they will have more confidence in their ability to behave appropriately outside of the classroom. Finally, I include these skills on my lesson plan because social emotional development is a domain on our early learning standards, and I try to implement an activity for each domain every day.

What all of this means is that I have to come up with roughly 250 social emotional activities each year.  I do have a couple of activities that I revisit throughout the year, such as drawing self-portraits, and practicing conversations, and occasionally I am able to implement different components of a single activity, to make it last for an entire week so we can really explore the topic, but that is still a lot of activities.  When it comes to academic activities, there are no shortage of ideas for math, science, language arts, and even social studies, but social emotional lessons are a different stories, mostly because this is a subject area that is often taught through natural occurrences – situations that arise between students which become learning experiences – so these lessons are not usually planned.

I’ve made it my personal mission to start collecting all of the best social emotional activities on my Pinterest boards, and I wanted to share a few of these here:

This genius idea is from K-1 Teaching besties, and seriously, this is perfect. How many classroom issues arise because one student tattles, and another student SWEARS that the tattler is not telling the truth.  Encouraging students to “leave you a message” on the phone gives them the opportunity to share what is bothering, and teaches them that every single issue does not have to be addressed immediately.  It’s a means of self-regulation and classroom management at the same time. 
This is a great tutorial for making your own weighted cushion. I have one of these in my classroom and the children love it. Some of them put it on their laps or shoulders during circle time, and others choose to carry it around the classroom to get some of their energy out between activities.  Jacqui at The Brighter Side of Special Needs has a lot of other great suggestions for using these too!
Kids need visuals, and the experts over at Behavioral Interventions for Kids know that.  They came up with a great visual for explaining the two different ways that we can deal with anger.  First, you blow up an angry looking balloon and pop it with a pin – this demonstrates what it looks like, and also how it feels, when we don’t control our anger.  Then, blow up an angry looking balloon and slowly release the air – this is what it is like when we slowly calm ourselves down.  When you get so angry that you “pop” it can be scary for everyone, but when you slowly calm down, no one gets startled, scared, or hurt.  WOW!
You can purchase this set from Oriental Trading, and I have a similar set in my classroom that is slightly more “cartoon-ish” but I think it would be really awesome to create a set using photos of my students.  I also love that this set includes the eyes. we often focus on how we express emotions using our mouths, but the eyes are also incredibly expressive.  A set like this could be used in so many different ways – if I had a set made from my class’s photos then I would ask my students to figure out who the eyes and mouths belong to, I might also have them sort the emotions (which ones look happy?), and put the masks in front of their own faces and look in the mirror.  
These are just a couple of the social emotional activities that I’ve pinned recently, I’d love to know what you’ve been pinning. Leave the url to one of your boards in the comments and I’ll be sure to check it out!

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