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12 Engaging Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Activities For Middle School

Teaching your middle school students about self-awareness, social awareness, and self-regulation is a crucial part of their education that will set them up for better decision-making and improved mental well-being down the line.

In a world where social interaction and overstimulation are more prevalent than ever, social-emotional learning shouldn’t be neglected.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Activities for Middle School

Middle school students from grades 6 to 8 will benefit from SEL activities that engage their cognitive ability to read their emotions as well as the emotions of others, supporting them to build better and more positive relationships throughout life.

While emotional intelligence (EQ) tends to increase with age, it can still be taught and nurtured with social-emotional learning activities that are just as fun and engaging as they are educational!

Below, find 12 engaging social-emotional learning (SEL) activities for middle school students if you’re looking for the best ways to engage your class.

Summed up, these SEL activities are interactive, creative, and heaps of fun!

1) Circle Of Control

This “circle of control” SEL activity is a great one to start with, which will teach your middle school students about the difference between things that are in their control and things that are out of their control.

Since it’s often unproductive to worry about things that are out of our control, this SEL exercise offers a valuable lesson that will teach your students how to manage their emotional reactions to unfavorable situations and negative thoughts.

2) Active Listening

There’s a big difference between active listening and passive listening. This SEL activity won’t just benefit your students’ social skills but encourage their capacity to focus and concentrate in class.

This active listening skills sheet teaches the difference between hearing and listening, complete with a self-assessment that will get the students to think about how well they actively listen and behave in various social situations.

3) Time Management

Time management doesn’t just benefit productivity; it also helps our ability to manage stress and anxiety. With this time management SEL exercise, you can teach your middle students about the importance of prioritization to avoid getting overwhelmed.

This simple worksheet provides three text boxes for your students to fill in with everyday things that are “Urgent!”, “Important!”, and “It Can Wait!”.

This will stimulate their imagination and memory as they organize things such as playing games and doing homework.

4) I Think, I Say, I Do

Negative emotions and thoughts can feed each other and then lead to negative actions as a direct result.

Learning to process thoughts and emotions is key to better decision-making and behavior, which makes this “I Think, I Say, I Do” SEL activity one worth doing.

The worksheet is titled “When I Feel Anxious”, followed by fillable text boxes for “I think…”, “I say…”, and “I do…”, which will help your students think about and evaluate how they process anxiety. If desired, you can also modify the exercise for different emotions.

5) “What Will They Say”

Encouraging your middle school students to assess the behavior of others is another great way to develop their social awareness and decision-making skills, which they can apply to their own everyday actions.

These “What Will They Say” cards present different problematic scenarios and situations along with speech bubbles for what the person is thinking and what the person should say.

This will engage their ability to assess both the behavior of others and themselves.

6) Character Role Playing

SEL role-playing is effective since it will help your students to put themselves in the shoes of others, encouraging compassion and empathy.

What’s great about this SEL activity is that it provides role-playing cards that will help them to better understand their classmates.

The role-playing cards include various classmate profiles and everyday interactions that can happen at school.

These scenarios will get the children to think about how they might react and behave, which you can also organize as a group activity.

7) “I Am”

Helping your students build confidence and self-esteem is important for their ability to interact with others, actively participate in class, and approach projects and exams with confidence.

This simple “I Am” SEL activity will get the students to find something about themselves that they’re proud of. It involves arts and crafts, too, making the exercise both creative and interactive.

8) Sticks And Stones

“Sticks and Stones” offers a message that’s worth reinforcing through SEL. It can teach your middle school students that words are only harmful if they choose to accept them as true, which will help them to better deal with criticism and negative remarks.

This SEL activity is quick and simple, with an emphasis on anti-bullying.

It encourages the students to write down something someone said that hurt their feelings as well as think about something they said that might have hurt someone else’s feelings.

9) My Bubble

Another valuable lesson in social-emotional learning is teaching your students about boundaries and personal space.

This will encourage them to think about the personal space of themselves and others, with a focus on respect and understanding.

This “My Bubble” SEL worksheet is a writing exercise with various prompts that will get the students to write down what they like about their personal space and how they respect the personal space of others.

10) Anger Dice Game

Anger is a strong emotion that can be effectively addressed through SEL. It’s important for middle school students to manage anger and their responses to the anger of others, which will help them to improve their mental health and social skills in general.

This Anger Dice SEL game, which involves rolling the dice and answering a question that corresponds with the number they roll, is a fun and interactive way to get your students to think about how they should behave when they feel angry.

It also teaches the importance of managing their anger and other strong emotions.

11) Giving Compliments

The ability to speak and express thoughts confidently is a valuable skill that will help your students long after their time in school.

And one great way you can encourage self-expression is by teaching them to give compliments to each other.

This SEL activity benefits in two ways by encouraging confident self-expression and boosting self-esteem as the students take turns to give compliments. Before the exercise, provide them with some examples to help encourage them.

12) Daily Emotions Check-In

One of the best ways you can help your middle school students recognize and process their emotions is through “emotion check-ins”.

This SEL activity involves jotting down their feelings with notes on why they feel that way and what might help them to feel better.

What’s great about this worksheet is that it uses emojis to help students identify how they’re feeling. This exercise can be daily, weekly, or even encouraged as something for them to do in their own time as homework.

You may also like these STEM activities for middle schoolers.


Social-emotional learning doesn’t have to be awkward or daunting when you present the subject in an interactive and engaging way.

To help your students develop their self-awareness, social skills, and decision-making abilities, the above 12 engaging social-emotional learning activities for middle school students are just a few great ideas for how you can make SEL productive and fun!

You may also like these additional activities for middle school students.

Simon Lewis

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