Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

Emotional Intelligence: What Teachers Can Do

Activities and resources to help students develop their emotional intelligence.

February 22, 2001

Even if your school has not instituted a formal program in support of social and emotional learning, there are plenty of activities you can initiate right in your own classroom. To begin, recognize that an emotionally intelligent teacher is the first step to an emotionally intelligent classroom. Consider how your own communication with and treatment of students models emotional intelligence.

Here are some student-centered activities and resources you can use in support of your classroom efforts:

  • Institute morning meetings. Starting your day with a morning class meeting provides numerous opportunities to support social and emotional learning: It helps build a sense of community, creates a climate of trust, encourages respectful communication, and much, much more. You'll find information about morning meetings, as well as other strategies for fostering emotional intelligence, at the Web site Responsive Classroom. (See more information about this resource below.)
  • Introduce journal writing. This familiar educational tool can be an effective way to help students develop self-awareness. For an introduction to several journal-based activities in support of social and emotional learning, read, "Emotional Intelligence Toolbox: Expression Journals," one of many useful articles in EQ Today.
  • Emphasize responsibility. Formalize tasks in your classroom, such as maintaining chalkboards or whiteboards, bringing papers to the school office, or handing out playground equipment at recess. Such duties help encouraging a sense of responsibility among your students and provides everyone with the opportunity to contribute to daily classroom management.
  • Encourage creativity. Joshua Freedman, director of programs for Six Seconds, a nonprofit organization supporting emotional intelligence in families, schools, corporations, and communities, suggests that creativity is most necessary in times of emotional hardship, such as when we're frustrated or angry. By providing your students with ongoing opportunities to express their creativity, you'll also be helping them handle the inevitable curve balls that life throws at them. You'll find a helpful article on ideas and activities for using creativity to foster emotional intelligence in the KidSource Online article "Encouraging Creativity in Early Childhood Classrooms."


Check out these organizations, programs, and publications for further assistance in fostering emotional intelligence in children:

  • The Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance program lists The Best of the 2006-2007 School Year," a directory of the favorite resources of visitors to the Teaching Tolerance Web site.
  • Educating Minds and Hearts: Social Emotional Learning and the Passage into Adolescence, edited by Jonathan Cohen and published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, features articles by many experts in social and emotional learning and includes useful strategies for all stakeholders interested in promoting emotional intelligence in our schools.
  • Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators, written by Maurice Elias and others and published by the ASCD, is a comprehensive resource for teachers, administrators, and school board members.
  • The Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character offers many resources, including a series of K-4 lesson plans for teaching character education in your classroom.
  • The Child Development Project, a well-respected program created by the Developmental Studies Center, has developed a comprehensive approach for K-6 schools in support of social and emotional learning that focuses on literature-based reading and language arts, collaborative classroom learning, a problem-solving approach (rather than rewards and punishments) to classroom management and discipline, parent and family involvement, and noncompetitive, community-building activities for children and adults.
  • The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning was founded in 1994 by Daniel Goleman and Eileen Rockefeller Growald to establish social and emotional learning as an integral part of education from preschool through high school. Visit the CASEL Web site for informative articles, as well as extensive links to other online SEL resources.
  • The Resolving Conflict Creatively Program, an initiative of Educators for Social Responsibility, is the nation's largest and longest-running school program focusing on conflict resolution and intergroup relations. The RCCP model (cofounded by Linda Lantieri, director of the Inner Resilience Program, part of New York City's Tides Center), supports school staff, parents, families, and the community in teaching young people conflict-resolution skills, promoting intercultural understanding, and providing models for positive ways of dealing with conflict and differences.
  • Responsive Classroom, a project of the Northeast Foundation for Children, is based on the concept that the social curriculum in schools is as important as the academic curriculum. The Responsive Classroom model is based on developing in children a set of core social skills: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control. Visit the organization's Web site for information about professional-development opportunities, articles, and other resources.

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