3 SEL Strategies to Transform Home Learning


Help home learners thrive with CASEL’s[1] 3 signature practices for social and emotional learning: Start with a welcoming practice, include engaging activities, and wrap-up with an optimistic closing.

Why focus on social and emotional learning[2]? SEL is a powerful tool to reduce emotional stress in young people. During this time of global crisis, children and youth need the adults in their lives to make well-being[3] a priority. Teaching SEL isn’t just one more thing to tick off your to-do list: it is a transformational practice that can help both children and adults feel calmer, learn better, and get along.

CASEL’s 3 signature practices[4] make it easy to incorporate SEL into home learning.Their natural rhythm can be used to structure a learning activity, lesson, or “school day”. They don’t require a lot of time: 1-5 minutes is often enough (although more is sometimes better!). And they can even transform our brains: repeatedly engaging in SEL practices can re-wire our brains[5], making it easier to be calm, kind, patient, responsible, and aware[6] throughout our lives.

Try these Heart-Mind inspired SEL strategies to transform home learning:

1. Welcoming Practice

2. Engaging Activities

  • Dance/freeze party: put on an upbeat song and dance together to the beat (this can work well over video chat!). When the music stops, everyone freezes and takes deep breaths until the music starts again.
  • Get cooking: take a brain break from formal learning activities by preparing a meal or baking a sweet treat [10]with your learner. 
  • Play a movement game[11] together. Use one word to describe how you feel afterwards.

3. Optimistic Closure

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL):

“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”


Our brains change by means of neuroplasticity - the strengthening of neural connections that we use more often, and the weakening (or pruning) of connections we use less often. When we teach and practice SEL in a consistent way, we affect the circuitry of our brains by strengthening the neural connections that help us embody SEL competencies, which have many similarities to the 5 Heart-Mind qualities and support Heart-Mind well-being. 

By this, we mean well-being for all! Since stress is contagious, well-being matters for adults just as much as it does for kids. 

SEL is built on 5 competencies: Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making 

Encourage reflection, gratitude, and connection by asking learners to share one thing they are grateful for right now, and one thing that they miss (and will appreciate even more in the future). 

  • What: An activity, ritual, or routine that creates connection and invites learners to be present with their whole selves. Important elements include greeting, interaction, reflection, and purpose.
  • When: At the beginning of a lesson, learning activity, or to begin the “school day” (best if used consistently)
  • Why: Builds safety in the learning environment, appreciation for others, and a sense of community and inclusion
  • Switch roles: the learner becomes the teacher, and vice versa, for 5 minutes!
  • During this time, the learner can teach the parent something that is important to them (eg. a favourite poem), that they themselves have recently learned (eg. life cycle of a butterfly), or that is silly and fun (eg. dance moves to a popular song).
  • Enthusiastic and curious parental participation is a must!
  • End the activity with a debrief: learner and parent take 30 seconds each to share what they enjoyed the most. 
  • Sing "Happy and You Know It" together. Take turns choosing an emotion and action for each verse. 
  1. Invite your learner to think about what Heart-Mind qualities they have used today.
  2. Parents do the same.
  3. Write or draw how you used the Heart-Mind quality on a paper heart of the same colour.
  4. Exchange paper hearts.
  5. Take 2 minutes to discuss how you noticed the quality in yourself or the other person. 

This activity is inspired by What Colour Is Your Heart, a popular resource from Heart-Mind Online. 

Make it mindful by noticing and talking about what sensations arise when working with the ingredients (eg. sound of pouring rice, smell of simmering onions, feeling of a cool, smooth apple) and get your hands in there whenever possible (eg. mash bananas with clean hands). 

Try one of the 3-minute movement games described in this Heart-Mind Online resource. 

Use the Future Me website to email your letter to your future self!

This activity is inspired by "Future Me" on p 17 of  CASEL's SEL 3 Signature Practices Playbook 2019.

CASEL's 3 signature practices are a tool for nurturing SEL skills. They make it easy to bring SEL into the classroom or home, foster a supportive learning environment, and boost SEL competencies in children and adults alike.