Social and Emotional Learning Part 3 of 5: Social Awareness Strategies in the Classroom


Welcome to part 3 of our social and emotional learning (SEL) series - today’s focus: social awareness! (Head over to our blog archives for parts 1 and 2 which address self-management and self-awareness classroom strategies.)

Constructive communication, conflict resolution, peer learning, responsible decision-making, perspective-taking, empathy, an appreciation for diversity, and respect for others are at the heart of social awareness. When students demonstrate these skills, they maximize their learning potential. There are lots of ways to help students strenghten their social awareness skills! Here are a few ideas:

“Take a Seat & Make a Friend”
Inspire students to start friendly conversations with others outside of their typical social circles with this video. Watch as two people (who are strangers) share their bucket lists, create secret handshakes, ask questions to find commonalities, and end their conversations with selfies and hugs as new friends.

Reflect on Group Work
Provide students with opportunities to collaborate and work together on common goals - but don’t stop there. When the projects are complete, give students time to reflect by journaling about the process involved with working with their partners or groups of peers. Use prompts to guide students with their thinking. Here are a few examples:

  • How did you feel about working with your peers on this project? Please explain.
  • What were the advantages of working with your group on this project?
  • What challenges or roadblocks did your group experience while working on this project? How were those challenges overcome?
  • How do you think your group viewed your efforts as a member of the team?
  • What might you do differently the next time you work on a project with your peers?

Active Listening with Share Time
Active listening skills don’t necessarily come naturally for everyone. Teach, model and provide opportunities for students to practice using eye contact and respectful body language; asking questions to show interest; celebrating good news with smiles, high-fives, and congratulatory words; and making connections to what others share. As an elementary special education teacher, I reserved the first five minutes of my small group sessions to practice these skills daily by having students share one thing about what’s happening in their lives. At the middle school level, I carved 10-15 minutes of class time weekly for “share time.” (Students at both the elementary and middle school levels loved this activity!)

Gallery Walk
Conduct a “gallery walk” featuring students’ individual exhibits and presentations on topics of their choice. I love gallery walks because they give students an opportunity to learn about their peers while sharing their own knowledge and expertise about something they are passionate about. (This is another great opportunity for students to practice active listening and constructive communication skills.)

Learn about Empathy Through a Crying Baby
This worksheet approaches the concept of empathy by focusing on the innocence of and the unpredictable moods of a baby. Students will ponder questions such as:

  • What are some things that make a baby cry?
  • Babies can’t speak to tell us what’s wrong, but older kids can. What are some ways you can express yourself or communicate?
  • When a baby cries, it can be upsetting for the parents. A crying baby isn’t a “bad” baby, just a baby who needs help. Are there times when others do things that are upsetting to you, even though they don’t mean to?

This worksheet can be tailored for different grade levels to guide students with the process of understanding what it means to be empathetic toward others.

Interested in learning more about how social awareness and the other SEL competencies can increase academic outcomes and promote positive mental health among students and educators? Registration for our new course Social and Emotional Learning: Promoting Positive Mental Health Across the Curriculum opens soon!

Did you read the rest of this series?

Social and Emotional Learning - Part 1 of 5: Self-Management Strategies in the Classroom

Social and Emotional Learning - Part 2 of 5: Self-Awareness Strategies in the Classroom

Social and Emotional Learning- Part 4 of 5: 5 Strategies to Improve Relationship Skills in the Classroom

Social & Emotional Learning- Part 5 of 5: Responsible Decision-Making


Here are a few classes related to this topic:

Jill Rockwell
Jill has over 13 years of experience as a licensed teacher in the areas of Special Education, Reading Education, and Health Education. She embraces diversity and has worked with students in grades K-12 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California. Jill completed her Master of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls while teaching full time. She fully understands the soaring demands of today’s teachers. Her courses are designed to maximize the time of all educators by providing engaging, meaningful, and applicable activities which can be used to enhance teaching practices. She focuses on research-based best practices and technology integration throughout her own instructional practices. Together with her husband and two young boys, Jill enjoys traveling, biking and the changing seasons of the great outdoors in Wisconsin. 

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