Social Emotional Learning in Middle School

Social-Emotional Learning


Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is an educational method that was developed by the non-profit organization CASEL, which believes SEL should be integrated into the pre-K to grade 12 curriculum. The organization’s main mission is to help spread SEL to the various parts of the world through research and programs, with the goal of supporting students’ learning and development.

The main pillars of SEL are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making

These pillars are critical to the SEL framework because they help promote intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cognitive competence (Explore SEL, n.d.) in children. The goal of SEL is to help students better comprehend their emotions and to demonstrate empathy for others (What Is Social Emotional Learning (SEL): Why It Matters | NU, n.d.). Stronger skills in these areas will help benefit them in the future, whether in school, work, or everyday life.

Research shows that students who applied SEL to their studies scored an average of 11 more percentile points than students who did not apply SEL (What Does the Research Say?, n.d.), which demonstrates the academic importance of using it. Students who are taught through SEL programs have also demonstrated improved classroom behavior and a better ability to manage stress. With the benefits and research on SEL, it is clear that teachers should be applying SEL in their classrooms and teaching styles. 

Though students in middle school are still young and enjoy participating in games and activities, it is important not to make the games too childish and straightforward because they will lose interest, therefore, the difficulty needs to be increased with age. Without a challenge or an obstacle in their tasks, students will not be able to harness the pillars of SEL in order to learn and grow as students and individuals.

Here are some activities that teachers can incorporate into their classrooms.


  1. If you want your students to improve their self-awareness, which is the ability to understand one’s emotions, you can do daily check-ins, or create a buddy system that allows students to discuss and reflect on their day. You could also try a few minutes of quiet time during class, which will help students be aware of their emotions as well as how to process them. This process allows students to take a moment to relax and decompress after a long day or difficult lesson.
  2. For self-management, which is how you can manage your thoughts and emotions, teachers can teach how to set good goals, and how to manage stress. An activity to try with students is positive self-talk, promoting problem-solving in a positive way (Aguilar & Bridges, n.d.). This will help students plan better for their future as well as help them manage their emotions
  3. For social awareness, which is how students can be more empathetic towards others, teachers can have class or group discussions that promote students to be more aware of their peers’ thoughts and feelings. A simple daily question such as “What is something you are grateful for today?” can start many meaningful conversations.
  4. For relationship skills, which is the ability to establish healthy relationships, it is important to look at students’ communication and teamwork abilities. Group activities are great for developing relationship skills among students. Creating group activities that are centered on students learning from one another is the most beneficial.  
  5. The last SEL pillar is responsible decision-making, which is the ability to make caring choices about social behavior and social interactions. To improve responsible decision-making skills, it is good to work on making decisions, analyzing situations, and solving problems. There are many different activities for improving problem-solving, such as the POOCH approach, where P is the problem, O is options, O is outcomes, and CH is choices (Aguilar & Bridges, n.d.). 


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Students can be given hypothetical situations where they will make a POOCH table and decide which path they should take in order to achieve the best result. The POOCH approach will help them clearly think about all their options and possible consequences that may arise.

How Does MathProject Implement SEL for Middle School Students?

  1. To enhance students’ self-awareness, we use the buddy system to foster comfort in class. We also like to ask them questions like “Where do you think you went wrong”, “What can you do to improve”, “What should we do next”, etc., to help them with their math. 

  2. We use Google Classroom to improve our students’ self-management skills. We set a clear due date so that students know when they should submit their homework. We also send emails to parents to remind students to submit their homework.
  3. To improve social awareness and relationship skills, we have group sessions so that students can practice their social skills. Even in one-on-one sessions, students can practice their social skills with our teachers.
  4. To improve responsible decision-making, we encourage students to go to our math-aid hours to help improve their math skills. Making the choice to attend can be seen as making a responsible choice.


Overall there are many different activities and ways you can apply SEL learning to teaching middle school students and the outcomes of doing SEL will benefit them in the future. This will enhance empathy, interpersonal skills, and cognitive competence, benefiting high school students in the future. Therefore, it is beneficial to include SEL in teaching.


  1. Aguilar, C., & Bridges, C. (n.d.). A Guide to the Core SEL Competencies [+ Activities and Strategies]. Panorama Education. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from
  2. Explore SEL. (n.d.). Explore SEL. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from
  3. What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL): Why It Matters | NU. (n.d.). National University. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from
  4. What Does the Research Say? (n.d.). CASEL. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from

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3 Ways to Promote Social and Emotional Learning through Math. (2020, April 13). EDC. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from

The 5 Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Core Competencies. (2020, September 4). Positive Action. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from

Aquilar, C., & Bridges, C. (2022, November 4). A Guide to the Core SEL Competencies [+ Activities and Strategies]. Panorama Education. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from

Lapidot-Lefler, N. (2012, November). Promoting the use of Social-Emotional Learning in Online Teacher Education. International Journal of Emotional Education, 14(2), 19-35.

Making These 4 SEL Strategies Work in Your Classroom. (2018, May 15). ASCD. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from


Reframing Classroom Management: A Toolkit for Educators. (n.d.). Learning for Justice. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from

Siew, N. C., & Bull, R. (2018, August 24). Facilitating Social Emotional Learning in Kindergarten Classrooms: Situational Factors and Teachers' Strategies. International Journal of Early Childhood, 50(3), 335-352.

Using Roles in Group Work. (2022, August 10). Center for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from

What Is the CASEL Framework? (n.d.). CASEL. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from

What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL): Why It Matters. (2022, August 17). National University. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from