social emotional skills

Writing Prompts that Reinforce Social Emotional Learning

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Most teachers agree that social emotional skills are extremely important to teach on a regular basis in the classroom.  But sometimes, with the pressures of everything else that needs to be taught, these "extras" fall by the wayside.

So how can you find more ways to implement social emotional learning in and get all the other required work done?  One excellent way is to use writing prompts that reinforce social emotional skills.  Using these ideas in conjunction with your ELA program allows you to promote social emotional learning without feeling the pain of finding more time in your day.

And it makes a perfect way to have a discussion with your students about these very important concepts.

social emotional skills

For a quick refresher, let's look at the 5 components of social emotional learning:

  • Self Awareness
  • Self Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Skills
  • Responsible Decision-making

If you need more information about each of these components, you can reference my article regarding social emotional skills here.

And if you are looking for more than an article, I found this book to be by far the best help for me:

Social and Emotional Learning in Middle School: Essential Lessons for Student Success: Engaging Lessons, Strategies, and Tips That Help Students ... Navigate Middle School

The Details

I am going to categorize each of the writing prompts according to the components of social emotional learning.  That should make it easy for you to choose what to work on.  It will give you at least 5 different writing sessions with your students.

I do have a couple of recommendations.  First, make sure you give your students a choice.  It will make them much more eager to write if they can write about what they want to.

And second, make sure that if you tweak these that you are careful not to make the topics too vulnerable for the students.  We don't want them to write something they will regret later.  It has to be their choice as to how vulnerable they want to be in their writing.

Writing Prompts for Self Awareness

  1.  Are you a self-confident person?  If so, what do you think makes you that way?  And if not, what do you think you could do to be more confident in yourself?
  2. What do you think is your best character strength?  Why do you think it is your best?  Give a couple of examples of how you use this strength.
  3. When things get tough, do you persevere through them?  How do you do that?  How would you like to grow in your perseverance skills?
  4. When you feel like you've been "knocked down," how do you get up again?  How do you wish you handled situations that set you back emotionally or physically?
  5. Do you find it easy or hard to believe in yourself and your abilities?  Why do you feel that way?  What can you do to feel better about yourself?

Writing Prompts for Self Management

  1. What do you do when you feel like you really need something and can't wait for it?  What would be the best way to handle that situation?
  2. What do you think are the best three things you can do when you are angry?
  3. Talk about one time in the past week that you had to make a difficult decision and you were strong enough to make the right choice.
  4. When you feel yourself getting stressed out, what can you do to start feeling at peace again?
  5. Describe a time that you were really afraid of something.  How did you work through it?  Who did you have help you through it?

Writing Prompts for Social Awareness

  1.  How can you show respect for someone even if you don't personally agree with something they are doing?
  2. You see a student you don't know very well off to the side of the playground.  You are having a good time with your friends and don't really want to stop, but you know that something is wrong with that student.  What do you do?  Write a story about this.   Include what you said when you approached that student, how you worked through their difficulty, and how the story ended.
  3. You are at your favorite store with a few friends.  But then out of the corner of your eye, you see someone steal something and stuff it in their backpack.  What do you do?  How does the whole story play out?
  4. You have been asked to help feed the homeless this Saturday at your local homeless shelter.  How do you feel about this?  Afraid?  Uninterested?  Excited?  Nervous?  Explain how you feel it would go and how it would work out if you actually did this.
  5. Talk about an experience you had that you needed a super amount of courage.  Make sure to talk about the before, during and after circumstances.

Writing Prompts for  Relationship Skills

  1.  What do you do when a friend wants to borrow your prized possession and you don't really feel like sharing.  Write a story based on what your favorite item is, how you got it, when your friend asked for it, and how you worked it out.  This doesn't have to be a real story.  Feel free to invent a story.
  2. What would you do if there was a new person at school?  Would you work past the fear to introduce yourself and get to know them?  Write a story about how you could meet a new person that would eventually become your best friend.
  3. How do you feel about working in teams or groups at school? Write a story about what your favorite group project would look like, and how each member of the group would interact throughout the project.
  4. Tell a story about how you could show empathy to a fellow student that is really sad.
  5. Write a story about how you could show empathy to another student that has been disruptive and angry in class and on the playground.
  6. You have a friend that you don't know very well, but you would really like to become better friends with them.  What things could you do to get to know them better?  How could you share yourself in a way that is genuine and relational?
  7. When you are not getting along with a friend, what things can you do and say to help get things back on track for you?

Writing Prompts for Responsible Decision-making

  1.  Recount a story about a time that you were proud of yourself for making a good decision when it was a really difficult decision to make.
  2.  Talk about what kinds of decisions are really hard for you to make.  How do you get help to make them?  Whose help do you enlist to do this?
  3. Are you an organized person?  If not, write about what steps you would take to get more organized in your "perfect world."  If you are organized, talk about the steps you took that got you there.
  4. When you see a problem that someone else is having, do you step in to help, or do you stay back and wait to be asked to help?  Talk about the pros and cons of both of these options.  And if you have an experience to share regarding this, talk about what you did and if it was the right decision.  And also talk about how you would do it next time.
  5. Sometimes it is very difficult to ask for help because we want to be seen as independent.  Talk about good ways to ask for help and why we really need to at times.  And talk about the benefits of giving and receiving help.

Conclusion

So this is what I have for writing prompts for social emotional learning.  Honestly, I probably could have come up with about a hundred more.  Once I got started there were so many more thoughts I had.  I will be expanding this list over time, so make sure to bookmark this article for future reference!

If you liked this article, I think you will also like the following related articles:

Why Social Emotional Skills are so Important in Middle School

10 Perfect Picture Books to Teach Middle Schoolers Social Emotional Intellingence:  Some are Free!

Self-Care Books for Middle  Schoolers


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Comments 81

  1. These are very valuable writing prompts for a very important growth stage. When our kids are going through this they are learning and often confused with all of the emotions, it is a great time to reflect and get it out on paper.

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  2. I love your list of writing prompts. I can even use the list for my own personal assessment, in a way that it will be relatable, of course.

  3. These are wonderful ideas to help teach this to young people. It is so powerful to be able to support others through the process of becoming more emotionally intelligent and be able to know how to communicate those feelings. These lessons are something that will benefit them for their whole lives!

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  4. Love to read the social emotional learnings! You have described very well these 5 components of social emotional learning… These are also useful for respected teachers and students.

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  5. I have always found these activities formative for the group and the individual. Treating emotions as a topic of study and sharing is also beautiful.

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      Thank you, Cristina! And you are right, they are good for groups, individuals, families, schools, literally anyone.

  6. I’ve never heard of this type of learning before, I don’t think they have it in England and if that’s the case, they should definitely try implementing it as it looks incredibly important for a child’s wellbeing

  7. Emotional health and well being is so important, more so now than I ever think it was when I was a kind. These exercises would have helped me so much as a child and teenager. I grew up being told that I’m over emotional which lead to the opposite effect in adulthood which we all know is a dangerous thing.

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  8. I love these writing prompts. It teaches the kids a lot. It helps learn how to deal with their emotions which is very important. I wish I had these in my growing years. We had to deal with all our emotions on our own.

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  9. These writing prompts are essential in improving writing skills and helps stimulate the mind of the students, get them excited about sharing their thoughts and ideas. Nice topics you shared here.

  10. These are really good writing prompts for those who have writer’s block especially. It is also a way to put your feelings down so that they do not eat you up inside.

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  11. Ooh!! I really like these prompts. I refer to these as prompts for deep meaningful conversations aka DMCs. It is the one thing I do enjoy doing rather than spending time talking about random stuff. By the way, these are also great questions for couples.😜

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  12. I don’t teach adults or kids who can write these (I teach preschool) but these make absolutely great journal prompts! I am going to use them for my daily journal!

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  13. Personal essays are such a great way to help children develop their emotional behaviors and understand more about themselves.

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      You are right, Laura. While I originally wrote it for middle school students, it didn’t take too long to realize how good they are for everyone. Thank you for your thoughts.

  14. I was answering each question in my head as I was reading. Really got me thinking, thanks for sharing!

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  15. YES!!! I have read this book. I like your writing prompts for SEL. I am a Responsive Classroom teacher so SEL is at the front and center. I have been doing SEL checks in my “virtual” morning messages too just to make sure I am checking in during this difficult time. I bookmarked this page to refer back to. Thanks so much!

  16. Wow! I feel like I could use ALL these writing prompts at 40. Which probably makes the case that I never had them as a student and probably should have. LOL. Great introspective thinking.

  17. I too believe that writing prompts reinforce social emotional skills. Writing prompts for relationship building and decision making would be very useful for children st an early age.

  18. Nice post and I do love your tips about doing a writing prompts. I will definitely share this with my nephew’s and nieces to help them making their own piece.

  19. I trully loved and enjoyed this post and it gave me an idea to get the teen involved in writing one for herself as i believe it could be hugely beneficial kind regards Pati Robins @ style squeeze blog

  20. Good ideas for writing prompts. Will suggest them to my son. Very helpful article. It will be helpful for the young people to rack their brains and bring about innovativeness in their writing spree.

  21. I love your idea of the emotional prompts. You should start a blog for emotionally prompting adults not just junior high kids.lol! These emotional problems are perfect for kids and adults.

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  22. Great tips! Writing is a very powerful source of understanding of yourself and deepening you grounding

  23. I love the way your present the writing prompts here. But what I love more is the concept of “Self Awareness”. On this note, I can fully surrender my writing skills when I understand and get myself aware on capability. Thanks for sharing your post.

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  24. That was an amazing prompts. Kids will love this especially this days. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  25. Social and emotional skills are foundational for kids to be successful in and out of the classroom. They involve everything: having a firm grasp of our values, recognizing our strengths and challenges, understanding social situations, developing strong relationships with others, managing our emotions, making responsible decisions, and so much more.

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  26. I loved this and bookmarked it so that I can use it when I need! Social emotional skills aree indeed the fundamental for kids,

  27. Wow! I think that social learning is one of the most important types of learning there can be. These prompts are great!

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  28. These are some great writing prompts to reinforce social emotional learning. This is perfect for kids for the to keep for entertained and busy during this pandemic.

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