5 Easy-to-Implement SEL Strategies for Your Classroom

5 Easy-to-Implement SEL Strategies for Your Classroom

Most educators, and perhaps even most people, can easily remember their favorite teacher. It may have been someone during your elementary, middle, or high school years that made an impact on you in some way. Our best teachers, the ones who changed our lives, all have something in common: they built a relationship with us. We trusted them. We knew they cared about us because they showed it in a variety of ways.

When asked what matters most to people in this world, one common answer is family and friends. People matter. Our relationships with those people are treasures that we highly value, perhaps more than just about anything else. During the pandemic, many of us faced isolation as we avoided gathering in groups; we stayed home much of the time, schools moved to virtual and remote learning, and we did not have the opportunity to see family and friends much, if at all. Many of us tragically lost people we deeply cared about.

As we have begun to be able to meet in person again, and as schools are reopening, we realize how happy we are to be around people. The isolation and lack of social contact during the pandemic was an epiphany for many: our relationships are some of the most important things in our lives. This is true for adults and youth alike. We need each other. Humans are social beings, and learning is a social process.

It is imperative, then, that now, more than ever, we intently focus on building and fostering positive relationships with our students and among our students. While every teacher knows the importance of building strong relationships in the classroom, we have a renewed sense of urgency to not only develop these relationships, but also to teach our students about how to build, develop, and foster relationships.

While there are many ways to build relationships in the classroom, here are five tried and true strategies that can be utilized. These strategies, among others, are highlighted in Effective Strategies for Integrating Social-Emotional Learning in Your Classroom.


Teacher welcoming student back to class1. Greetings

There have been several viral videos that show creative ways teachers greet their students each day. At the core, daily greetings in which you at a minimum make eye contact, smile, say hello, and say each student s name shows them that you see them and acknowledge they are here. As appropriate, add in a physical gesture such as a wave, high five, fist bump, handshake, hug, salute, or other gesture. 

Greetings can be incorporated when students greet each other as well. For example, when students are meeting in a small group or partner activity, have them incorporate in a simple greeting by saying something like Hi _____ (person s name)” and potentially using another formal or informal aspect of greetings such as It s nice to see you/work with you” or How s it going?” This allows students to practice both informal and formal greetings and builds deeper connections and relationships as students get to know each other.


Elementary students writing in a notebook in the classroom2. Daily Check-Ins

Checking in with your students daily, and having students check in with each other, builds self-awareness and social awareness, while also fostering relationships and empathy. There are many, many ways to check in with students: from simply asking them how they are feeling, to doing an emoji check-in (where they show how they are feeling with an emoji), a weather report, or using an emotions wheel to pinpoint specific and precise vocabulary to name our feelings. 


3. Follow-Up and Feedback

For the learning process to occur, we need feedback. When we provide both positive and corrective feedback to students with a smile and with a friendly voice, it shows them that we care about them and their learning and their progress. Following up on students after a check in, either the same day or shortly afterwards, shows students that we care about their well-being as well.


4. Peer Interactions and Group Work

Building varied peer interactions among students serves several purposes. As mentioned learning is a social endeavor, and often students need to process information with a peer. These interactions also help to build relationships as students discuss content and work together on tasks. Frequent opportunities to interact, through quick questioning, as well as through more extended activities, allows students to get to know each other better. Strategies such as icebreakers, Find Someone Who, and Task Teams all help to get students interacting, getting to know each other, and deepening relationships.


Middle school tudent giving the teacher a high five5. Appreciations and Shout Outs

Everyone likes to hear when they are appreciated. Providing an opportunity for students to appreciate their classmates and for the teacher to show appreciation to their students gives us the opportunity to both express gratitude and to hear directly from others how our actions impact others in a positive way. As we share our appreciations and hear the appreciations of others, we make connections to people. 

As the teacher, make a note as to who is sharing appreciations and who is being appreciated during these times. Make a point to look for opportunities to appreciate students that are not getting as many acknowledgments and shout-outs from their peers. Consider setting aside a time each week, such as on Thankful Thursdays, to have students share aloud their appreciations for a few minutes. Alternatively, create a gratitude wall where students can write their appreciation and post it for others to see.

These simple yet effective strategies go a long way in continuing to build, develop and foster relationships with and among students. Relationships skills are one of the key aspects of integrating social-emotional learning in your classroom; one that you are likely already doing, and may be able to expand upon and deepen.


Middle school tudent giving the teacher a high fiveNext Steps:

Join my free on-demand webinar to learn easy-to-implement strategies based on the five core SEL competencies developed by CASEL: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. I will share strategies from my new book Effective Strategies for Integrating Social-Emotional Learning in Your Classroom. The strategies can be incorporated at any grade level, in any content area. Strategies for linguistically and culturally diverse students will be particularly emphasized.


In this session, we will:

  • Identify key reasons to integrate SEL into every classroom, every day.

  • Integrate easy-to-implement strategies for use in any content area.

  • Explore strategies for building SEL skills in classrooms with linguistically and culturally diverse students.


Register Now:

Watch the on-demand webinar at your own pace.


Author bio

Erick Herrmann

Erick Herrmann, Educational Consultant

Erick Herrmann is an educational consultant with Teacher Created Materials. He has taught at the high school level as a Spanish teacher and Title VII coordinator, elementary literacy and ESL teacher, and served as a Teacher on Special Assignment. He is deeply committed to high quality instruction for all students, and enjoys sharing effective, engaging instructional strategies that teachers can immediately use in their classrooms.