Fun Activities for Social-Emotional Learning in the Classroom — IDEAcon 2021


Conference Recaps — #TCEA #IDEAcon


Session: Managing Mindfulness

Speakers: Jennifer Waldvogel, NBCT, M.S. Ed, Teacher on Special Assignment, Yorkville District 115


Adding social-emotional learning activities into your classroom increases students' social-emotional well-being by helping them manage their emotions. It promotes self-regulation in the classroom and beyond.


#1 Simple Mindfulness Activity in the Classroom Movement Breaks


Getting some exercise will release endorphins and pump up the energy in your class! Physical movement wakes up your students and encourages them to engage throughout the day. Jen and other educators had some creative ideas for teaching mindfulness to elementary students.

  • Stand up and stretch

  • "Giving students the opportunity to just stand and stretch for a minute has so many benefits for learners!"

  • Math aerobics

  • "I had a great time covering angles, lines, line segments through body movements!"

  • Trivia quest

  • "Where students answer review trivia questions in teams and the correct answer moves them around the room to the next question or challenge."

Alphabet bug scavenger hunt - outdoor SEL activity
  • Do a dance party every week during announcements

  • 3-minute headphone dance party - either on Zoom or in-person classes

  • 4-minute Chair Yoga Dance


Scheduling mindfulness activities in class may not even take place in the classroom. Instead, lead your students to connect with nature and get some fresh air.

  • Walk outside around school buildings, in hallways, across the fitness field

  • During remote learning, students can go outside themselves and bring back a photo or leaf to show that they went outside

  • Outdoor scavenger hunts such as finding bugs that fill out the alphabet


5-Minute Meditation for Students


Use these mindfulness meditation exercises for students in a calm, dark, and quiet environment. Turn off lights in the classroom for a few minutes. Since these are only a few minutes in length, they are perfect for implementing during a transition in class or right before a stressful activity such as a test.


Emotional Regulation Strategies for the Classroom


Offer students pathways forward on managing emotions in the classroom. Teach them strategies to deal with emotions so they can improve their self-control and self-regulation. It starts with teaching students how to understand their feelings.


A popular method is to have students use mood meters to label emotions with colors and expand their vocabulary to describe a wide range of emotions.

Deledao's Mood Meter to help students understand and label emotions

Once students understand their emotions, teachers can ask students to use critical thinking to figure out how to respond in various situations. The goal is to help students realize that they cannot control outside factors but can control how they react to the external environment.


Jennifer created a list of 12 scenarios that teachers can pose to students and get them thinking about responsibility and self-control. A sample of those scenarios is listed below.

Scenario 1


One of my friends always seems to make bad choices that I normally wouldn't make and now I get in trouble too because I am caught making poor choices. I am tired of getting in trouble.


What should I do to avoid getting in trouble?


Scenario 12


I haven't been reading much on my own time like I'm supposed to. Now my class gets to have a party for those that made their reading challenge. Reading is not interesting to me, but I do realize I need to read more to get better at it.


What can I do to make this more enjoyable?


How can I be more responsible in my learning?


Who do I ask for help?


By presenting likely scenarios students may encounter, teachers also offer students different viewpoints on how other students may experience school. Diverse perspectives give students opportunities to practice empathy for others.


As Jennifer closes her session, she captures the goal of practicing mindfulness in the classroom - it's to get students to say, "I know where I'm going…and how to get there."


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