10 Virtual Social Emotional Learning Activities for Students at Home


Students have experienced a variety of stress and potential trama the past six months and schools must provide stellar activities to help students cope and build their social and emotional competencies. 

The five core competencies of social and emotional learning are:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Management
  3. Social Awareness
  4. Relationship Skills 
  5. Responsible Decision-Making

Teachers embed activities that promote these competencies into daily instruction. Students have been at home where parents have not been trained in social and emotional techniques so teachers need to plan thoughtfully on how they will engage students in the beginning of the school year. Below are 10 virtual SEL activities for students at home.

 SEL Read Aloud and Follow-Up Activity

Teachers can read or project a book on the screen that focuses on emotions and feelings. Many SEL curriculums have texts embedded or suggested texts related to the topic or theme. If your school does not have a SEL curriculum, here are a few titles:

Elementary: Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall and Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena

Middle: Deep Down Popular by Phoebe Stone and Stat #1: Home Court: Standing Tall and Talented by Amar’e Stoudemire

High: In Case You Missed It by Sarah Darer Littman and Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Teachers can ask students to draw a picture with a written response on how they have experienced a specific emotion or ways in which they struggle with that emotion. Students can use the chat box and place an emoji or gif with their feelings or share their response outloud with the class virtually.

Targeted Competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship-skills, and responsible decision-making

→ Read our Idea Guide for School Culture in Distance & Remote Settings

 Feelings Check-In

Many teachers utilize a feelings check-in when students enter the room so they can gauge where each student is emotionally before beginning the lesson. The mode in which students check-in looks different depending on the age and grade level but some examples are placing their name or picture under the emotion, completing a drawing, writing about their feelings, relating their feelings to the weather, or holding up a finger to show their overall mood. 

Ways to shift this activity to a virtual setting are students placing an emoji or gif in the chat box, choosing an emotion on an online survey, using non verbals like holding up fingers or objects to match their feelings, or sharing one emotion word to describe their current mood and feelings. This activity helps teachers know who to check-in with later, who needs more emotional support, and helps students learn ways to identify and vocalize their emotions. 

Targeted Competencies: self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness

 Daily Affirmations and Compliments 

Schools use daily affirmations to build students’ self confidence, self worth, and help students speak positively about themselves and others. Teachers can have students repeat the same affirmation together, create different affirmations for each student to say, or students can choose the affirmation they say to themselves at the beginning of class. The beauty of this activity is that students will start using more positive self-talk in their brains and may start complimenting others as a result of daily affirmations

Teachers can use affirmations and compliments virtually in every lesson. Students can repeat affirmations that the teacher chooses or one student can choose the affirmation statement that everyone else will repeat. Students can use the chat box to type their affirmation statement or vote on their favorite one in a survey. Teachers can have students compliment each other after someone shares their ideas and answers with the class or every student can share a compliment about a chosen student of the day. Teachers should remind students to say positive affirmations to themselves when they are feeling negative emotions about themselves. 

Targeted Competencies: self-management, social awareness, and relationship-skills

 Show and Tell 

Teachers use show and tell to build pride and confidence in students and this activity helps build relationships by finding connections with others. Teachers can expand upon the normal show and tell activity for students at home because they can share a spot in their home where they feel safe, go to calm down, share their rooms, their pets, and more personal things that they could not transport to a school building. Teachers can choose the item that students will show and tell about that links to a specific emotion or feeling. 

Targeted Competencies: social awareness and relationship-skills

 Scavenger Hunt

The teacher can create a scavenger hunt by screensharing a list of items for students to find around their house. The teacher can set a timer and the student that returns with the list of items first wins the game. Teachers can ask for students to find objects related to their grade and content like finding objects that are different colors, different shapes, starts with different letters, light and dark objects, states of matter, animal groups, etc. The teacher can then facilitate a dialogue and create graphs on the objects students retrieve. 

Targeted Competencies: self-management and relationship-skills

 Breathing Exercises

A very easy activity to begin virtual classes with is breathing exercises. Deep breathing is very helpful in decreasing stress by sending signals to our brain to calm down. Educators are sometimes not aware of what students have experienced in their homes right before class or during this quarantine period. Breathing exercises give students a chance to calm down, decrease stress, and reset their body before beginning academic content. After deep breathing, students will hopefully have a feeling of safety in the classroom and be ready to learn. 

Targeted Competencies: self-awareness and self-management


Yoga is great for movement and exercise, helps calm students, reinforces deep breathing, and clears students’ minds to be able to better focus on the lesson. Teachers can share their screen with the class to do yoga together virtually through a short video, teacher-led movements, or student-led yoga. Youtube has 3-5 minute yoga exercises for students that are short enough for virtual use and will help set the tone for the lesson.

Targeted Competencies: self-management

 Teach about Growth Mindset 

Using a growth mindset allows students to stretch their brains, learn new things, and see struggles or obstacles as an opportunity for growth. Operating from a growth mindset helps students at any age see where they are in relation to their goal and see progress as they take steps to reach it. It is important to teach students about the power of YET which will help them build perseverance and grit to continue to work towards their goals and not give up when it becomes challenging.

For younger students, there are quick videos like Sesame Street’s with Bruno Mars explaining what growth mindset is. For older students, teachers can present scenarios and students can build responsible decision making skills by collectively brainstorming solutions and determining the best way to change their mindset to reach their goals. 

Targeted Competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship-skills, and responsible decision-making

 Online games

There is a large selection of online games that teachers can use in virtual classrooms to help build SEL competencies. Quick games can target decision making skills, problem solving skills, cooperation skills, and working with others. Teachers can have students play together in the virtual classroom or assign games for students to complete on their own and discuss lessons learned as a class afterwards. 

Targeted Competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship-skills, and responsible decision-making

 Coping Skills

There are songs, videos, books, and activities that teach coping skills aligned to the appropriate grade level. Teachers can choose a coping skill and practice that skill with their students each day of virtual class in a week. Some coping strategies that teachers can teach are counting, breathing, positive self-talk and more. In individual student check-ins outside of the classroom, teachers can do more intense teaching and training of coping skills for targeted students. 

Targeted Competencies: self-awareness, self-management, and responsible decision-making