10 SEL Activities For High School

Students in a class write down notes or thoughts on a piece of paper.

High school is an essential time for students to develop their social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. SEL activities can help students develop the skills they need to succeed in the classroom and life. From group activities to individual reflection, a variety of SEL activities can be used in the high school classroom. This article will explore 10 SEL activities for high school students.


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What Is Social Emotional Learning?


The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is the nation’s leading organization advancing the development of academic, social and emotional competence for all students. CASEL defines SEL as,


“The process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”


The five SEL competencies are: 

  • Self-awareness

  • Self-management

  • Responsible decision-making

  • Relationship skills

  • Social awareness


Within these 5 core competencies are opportunities to develop skills and strategies around many SEL skills like goal setting, conflict resolution, healthy relationships, and more. A wide range of SEL activities for high school students can help achieve this.

Social Emotional Learning wheel.
Social Emotional Learning wheel.

What Are SEL Activities For High School?


Social emotional learning is a broad and all encompassing subject. Teachers want to know exactly how to hit on SEL competencies in lesson plans. But, the beauty of SEL is both explicit and implicit SEL activities can support students.


Explicit SEL Activities For High School: These are targeted SEL lesson plans that focus directly on SEL skills in class. In explicit lesson plans, SEL skills are clearly labeled and defined as part of the lesson. For example, teachers use mindfulness lesson plans as a way to incorporate explicit SEL activities for high school students.


Implicit SEL Activities For High School: There are unlimited options and opportunities to incorporate SEL skills into activities and lesson plans implicitly. While high schoolers might not know they are building SEL skills in real-time, teachers can feel confident knowing they are addressing them throughout the classroom. For example, even something like a pickleball unit in physical education is tapping into a wide range of social-emotional skills.


Combined, explicit and implicit SEL activities for high school students can support the complete picture of student development. Let’s dive into 10 examples teachers can use in their classrooms!

10 SEL Activities For High School


There are lots of new ways to introduce SEL lessons to students in the classroom throughout the school year. Below, we have broken down the 5 social-emotional learning competencies and provided an explicit and implicit activity for each. Altogether, these 10 SEL activities for high school students demonstrate the wide range of SEL opportunities in the classroom.


The definitions for the 5 SEL competencies are sourced directly from the CASEL framework, and all SEL activities are from PLT4M. PLT4M has always advocated for the power of social emotional learning in physical education.

1) Self Awareness


Self-awareness: The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose.


Explicit – Mindfulness Of Thoughts Activity 


In this mindfulness lesson plan, high schoolers are introduced to the power of using the STOP Method.


S- Stop and still your body

T- Take three deep breaths

O- Observe and notice sounds around you

P- Proceed


The STOP Method is a powerful tool that supports a better level of self-awareness for students. All of PLT4M’s SEL activities for high school students give students actionable tools to use in everyday life.


Implicit – Bodyweight Bootcamp Activity 


In this guided bootcamp workout, PLT4M instructors break down different ways to scale and modify a workout, helping students find their strengths and limitations. In addition, students can build confidence and purpose through an empowering workout.


2) Self Management


Self-management: The abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations. This includes the capacities to delay gratification, manage stress, and feel motivation and agency to accomplish personal and collective goals.


Explicit – Emotions Activity 


In this lesson, high schoolers practice labeling and experiencing different emotions during a meditation exercise. With this practice, students learn to develop skills to label and identify emotions as they arise to navigate different situations in life effectively.

Implicit – Fitness Activity 


Workouts are great SEL activities for high school students because they develop the self-management skills of delaying gratification, feeling motivated, and working to accomplish goals. In the world of fitness, students practice working towards goals that take time, effort, and energy to achieve. In this activity, students practice the bodyweight air squat and, over a few weeks, start to apply it to more challenging workouts, developing critical skills around self-management.

3) Responsible Decision Making


Responsible decision-making: The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations. This includes the capacities to consider ethical standards and safety concerns, and to evaluate the benefits and consequences of various actions for personal, social, and collective well-being.


Explicit – Concern For Others Activity 


Over many of our emotional topics, we have focused on how we feel. But concern is an interesting emotion because it often results from how we experience emotion in relation to others. Concern is worry or anxiety for others. We care about others in our lives and want to help support them. This short video helps students visualize how they would support others who experience sadness or other negative emotions.

Implicit – Strength Training Activity 


A fitness center or weight room is a fantastic place to teach the skills of responsible decision-making. Through an introduction to basic weight-lifting movements, students learn how to create a safe space for themselves and others to explore fitness and exercise. In this example, students practice the barbell back squat and learn how to make choices around scaling, modifying, and working out in the weight room.

4) Relationship Skills


Relationship skills: The abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups. This includes the capacities to communicate clearly, listen actively, cooperate, work collaboratively to problem solve and negotiate conflict constructively, navigate settings with differing social and cultural demands and opportunities, provide leadership, and seek or offer help when needed.


Explicit – Communication Activity 


We all communicate in so many different ways. Whether it is one on one, in friendships, in school, in writing and through technology. Our focus with this activity will be on speaking and listening. Mindfulness can help us with both of those things.


Explicit SEL activities for high school should provide real world skills. In this lesson, students learn about the THINK acronym when communicating. Does what we are about to say fit the THINK acronym?


T: True

H: Helpful

I: Inspiring

N: Necessary

K: Kind


Implicit – Pickleball Activity 


Games are excellent SEL activities for high school students. Playing games like pickleball promotes all social-emotional skills, especially relationship skills. Through teaching basic skills and gameplay of pickleball, students learn to build healthy relationships in small groups as they practice drills and skills like the one below.

5) Social Awareness


Social awareness: The abilities to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts. This includes the capacities to feel compassion for others, understand broader historical and social norms for behavior in different settings, and recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.


Explicit – Heartfulness For Others Activity 


SEL activities for high school students help kids learn about the different perspectives and people around them. If we can open our hearts to empathy and compassion, we can connect and learn from those around us. In this lesson, we explore how we can start to have an open heart and mind to the people around us.

Implicit – Yoga Activity 


Yoga is an exercise practice that different cultures and communities have utilized for thousands of years. By teaching the basic elements of yoga, teachers can also start introducing and discussing exercise in the context of culture and history.

Key Takeaways on SEL Activities For High School


Although SEL happens throughout the school day, physical education is one of the best opportunities for high school students to incorporate explicit and implicit SEL activities.


There are endless social-emotional learning activities to choose from for high school students. Throughout the school year, students can practice and explore social-emotional skills that will empower them in the classroom and community.



What about SEL Activities for younger students? 


Many of the SEL activities for high school students can be used or modified for a middle school audience. For younger children in elementary school, there also lots of different options for SEL lessons.


Do other types of PLT4M lesson plans address SEL competencies?


Yes, we just scratched the surface in this article. There are lots of ways teachers can take PLT4M materials and target the SEL standards and competencies while also teaching other skills and topics. Other PLT4M lesson plan options include:


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