Yearlong SEL Class Lesson Ideas for K-12

Currently, I am a K-12 school counselor at a small private school in Costa Rica. Each month I teach SEL (social-emotional learning) lessons to each class. Given the age range, it takes quite a bit of planning and variety. Even though I focus on two main topics (one for primary K-5, and one for secondary 6-8), I have to find developmentally and age-appropriate lesson ideas for each grade level. It honestly ends up being a grab-bag of my own resources, other counselor's resources, and things I piece together from online. In case you find yourself in the same boat I wanted to share what I've used so far this year.

August: Meet the Counselor

1st-4th and 6th-12th grade

I always start the school year off with a Meet the Counselor lesson. I used this PowerPoint Jeopardy-style game show to introduce my role to students. I edited the questions to match the needs of the age level. This was such a fun way to start the year and especially important since it is my first year at the school.

Kindergarten

I used the same lesson for everyone except for kindergarten and 5th grade. For kindergarten, I sat on the rug with them and talked about the ears, eyes, mouth, and hands of the school counselor. Ears to listen when they need to talk, eyes to look out for students and see ways to help, mouth to say kind words and not repeat what they say (confidentiality) and hands to give hugs and high-fives! This is a great activity to do with a Mr. Potato Head or photobooth props if you have them!

5th Grade

For 5th grade, I wanted to try out a more interactive hands-on lesson so I used this escape room style one, Mission: Meet the Counselor. It took more prep than the PowerPoint game show but was a lot of fun!

September: Growth Mindset

Our principals were really making a push for growth mindset so I wanted to make sure all of the students knew what it meant to have a growth mindset.

Kindergarten

I found this free interactive game from All Students Can Shine. It was so much fun and perfect for kindergarteners to play as a class.

1st-5th

I used this digital guidance lesson I created. One of my favorite parts about it is this Class Dojo video. For 3rd-5th grade, we went a little deeper with these free growth mindset task cards from Pathways 2 Success.

6th-8th Grade

I used most of the same slides from the digital guidance lesson but in addition, I played this Growth Mindset Board Game as a class by projecting the game board on the board, passing out the cards, and using large foam dice. The board game was fun but I made the mistake of showing the 6th graders the Class Dojo video too and they assured me they had already seen it and it was too baby-ish for them. Gotta love middle schoolers!

9th-12th Grade

For the high schoolers, I started the lesson by showing them this Youtube video. After the video, I split them into partner groups to discuss a growth mindset through the lens of friendships, academics, and non-academic activities. I used a few discussion questions to get them talking. Click here to download the worksheet for free.

October: Bullying Prevention

Kindergarten

I didn't want to introduce the negative concept of bullying to early for kindergarten students who didn't yet know about it so I decided to teach basic kindness instead. Fortunately, my school has a TpT School Access account so I get access to a lot of great counseling resources. I used this Kindness and Bullying Prevention Lesson from Counselor Keri.

1st and 2nd Grade

I created a quick digital lesson to help students define bullying by understanding the difference between accidents, on purpose mean behavior, and bullying behavior. Download it for free here. I love this For the Birds video I play at the end. It's a great way for students to analyze bullying behavior.

I also used a seasonal twist with this lesson! I always like to teach bullying prevention in October because it is Bullying Prevention Month and it is toward the beginning of the school year. After the lesson and video, I set up centers with these fall and Halloween themed bullying prevention activities.

3rd-12th Grade

I used this more in-depth digital lesson for everyone else, but I modified it slightly and showed different videos depending on the age range.

  • 3rd-5th: I showed this youtube video on how to be an upstander from the NED Show and ended the lesson with this bullying prevention activity from Counselor Keri.

  • 6th-8th: To modify for middle school students I took out the parts of the slide show about tattling and showed these powerful videos, Because of You, Talent Show, and Kitchen. We ended with a fun activity called a salad bowl game where students describe and act out bullying prevention terms.

  • 9th-12th: I did exactly the same as middle school except instead of playing the salad bowl game I had students write down the top problems in our school, trade papers and brainstorm solutions. (Similar to the 5th-grade activity but in a less childish way.)

November: K-5 (Self-Regulation) 6-12 (Cyber Safety / Digital Citizenship)

Kindergarten

I started by showing kindergarten students this video of a chameleon changing colors. It was a great introduction activity before I read the What Color Is Your Chameleon Lesson to them as a story. The lesson explains self-regulation while externalizing students’ changing feelings to a chameleon. We finished with a coloring sheet. Download it for free here.

1st-2nd Grade

I showed 1st and 2nd grade this PowerPoint with visuals to introduce the concept of self-regulation. Download it for free here.

Next, we played a seed sort game from this fall-themed self-regulation activity. They finished with a coloring sheet where they colored in the parts of a pumpkin that they thought they could use for coping strategies to get “back to green”. I used pumpkins because it was November! I find that seasonal twists keep students more engaged. Download the coloring sheet for free here.

3rd-5th Grade

For 3rd-5th grade, I used the same PowerPoint as before but I also showed this clip from Inside Out. Students can observe how Riley's emotions change throughout the day as she switches between different self-regulation zones. After the video, we played this fun and highly interactive scoot game!

6th-7th Grade

For grades 6th and up I used November to teach cyber safety and digital citizenship. I used this PowerPoint Guidance Lesson but instead of the Super Digital Citizen video, I used this one about friendships and social media. The videos are from Common Sense Media and they have a wealth of lesson materials and videos related to digital citizenship. We ended the lessons with a fun debate where I split the class in half to argue the benefits and risks of sharing information online. It is a cool opportunity for perspective-taking, especially when students have to debate for a side they don’t personally believe in.

8th-12 Grade

For high school, I decided to narrow in on cyber safety specifically as it relates to sexting. I usually lump 8th grade in with 6th and 7th, but because I knew of some sexting incidents that were going on with our 8th graders, I decided to give them the high school lesson. I used the Google Slides Presentation on sexting from Common Sense Media. You have to create an account to view them but it is free. Bonus: they are available in English and in Spanish! As part of the lesson, I showed the corresponding Pause and Think video and Late Night Texting student handout.

December: K-5 (Friendship)

Kindergarten

I showed kindergarten students this video on friendship and conflict resolution. Afterward, they did a snowman I-Statements craft. It’s 1 of 20 winter activities I have in this bundle. Again, I used snowmen because it was December!

1st-2nd Grade

For 1st and 2nd grade students, I used a holiday-themed activity too. I started with playing the digital version on the board of this Christmas I-Statements activity. After the digital activity, they used the paper version to dress an elf with I-Statements!

3rd-5th Grade

With 3rd-5th grade, I used this Friendship PowerPoint Lesson and the same video I showed kindergarten students. We spent a lot of time on the I-Statements role play part of the lesson.

*I didn’t teach SEL lessons to secondary students in December because of midterms.

January: Goal Setting

I decided to start off the new year with goal setting for all grade levels!

Kindergarten

For kindergarten students, I used this goal-setting story and lesson from Counselor Keri.

1st-2nd Grade

I used another Counselor Keri lesson on goal setting for 1st and 2nd graders. I also showed this video about determination.

3rd Grade

I used this SMART goals lesson form Counselor Keri, but I switched it up a bit by showing it on the overhead projector via PowerPoint to save paper. Afterward, I split students into breakout groups and gave them one of two goals (I want to get better at math or I want to get better at basketball). They then had to alter that goal to make sure it fit the SMART goal requirements.

4th-5th Grade

I played a board game on overcoming obstacles with 4th and 5th graders using the projector and oversized dice. It’s one of the many activities in my goal setting small group.. Next, we played charades to act our common ways they procrastinate followed by an accountability partner and procrastination flipbook. Those are both activities from the same group curriculum.

6th-8th Grade

I used the s’more goal setting handouts from my goal setting small group. Then I laminated copies of this motivation assessment survey so kids could write on them. They asked each other questions to see what they were motivated by.

9th-12th Grade

I showed high school students this TED talk from entrepreneur Tim Ferris. The video is kind of long so I started it 5 minutes in. I then split them into groups to practice fear setting by identifying their goal, fear, prevention, and cost of inaction. I also gifted juniors and seniors this Lifestyle Planner from The SuperHERO Teacher.

February: K-5 (Skills for School Success / Study Skills) 6-12 (Stress / Test Anxiety)

Kindergarten

With kindergarten, I used a Counselor Keri lesson on school success skills with the same circus theme as the month before.

1st-2nd Grade

With 1st and 2nd, I used this lesson on responsibility from Counselor Keri. Even though it wasn’t exactly study skills, this group needed a refresher on responsibility and we focused heavily on the following directions part as a skill for school success.

3rd-5th Grade

With 3rd-5th, I used this Study Skills PowerPoint Lesson and I projected this prioritization page on the board so as a class students could come up with things they have to do and things they want to do in a typical day. Then we took turns prioritizing them. Afterward, I gave them paper strips with different need-to-dos and want-to-dos on them (play soccer with friends, unload the dishwasher, do homework, watch Netflix, etc) and had them sort them in order based on priority. This prioritization activity is one of the activities in my Stress Busters small group curriculum.

*Starting in February I let the secondary students teach the lessons to each other. Students researched and presented lessons to the grade below them in exchange for community service hours.

March: K-5 (Empathy) 6-12 (Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Relationships)

Kindergarten

For kindergarten kiddos, I have plans to use this lesson from Counselor Keri on understanding others’ feelings. At the time of writing this, our school was let out early due to the Coronavirus Pandemic so I haven’t yet taught this lesson.

1st-2nd Grade

For lower elementary students, I used this guidance lesson from Dr. Nation’s Education to have students sort between examples of empathetic and non-empathetic behavior.

3rd-5th Grade

With upper elementary students, I started by showing this video on empathy followed by this fun empathy scoot game!

*Like in February I did not prepare or teach a lesson to secondary students. I merely supervised the student-led lessons. I gave them these unhealthy vs. healthy relationship cards as a guide to go off of.

I will keep this updated as we finish out the school year. As of now we are meeting virtually due to the Coronavirus Pandemic so things may go digital. Stay tuned!

I hope you find this guide helpful as a starting point as you plan out your year’s worth of SEL guidance lessons.

Yearlong SEL Class Lesson Ideas for K - 12

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