Best Free Social-Emotional Learning Sites and Apps

Social emotional learning lesson with kids and teacher and tablet computers
(Image credit: Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill)

 Social-emotional learning (SEL) has become an important tool for helping students with the so-called “soft skills” of life -- emotional regulation, social interactions, empathy, decision making. 

We may term them “soft,” but these skills are in fact essential for every child to master as part of maturing into a mentally healthy adult who can successfully navigate the world beyond the schoolyard. 

The following free SEL resources will provide a solid foundation for educators to understand and implement SEL in their classrooms and schools. 

Social and Emotional Learning Activities and Lesson Plans
10 easy-to-implement lesson plans for elementary, middle, and high school students include SEL activities for remote learning, classroom community building, current events, and more. 

Powerful SEL Activities
A profile of Summit Preparatory Charter High School in Redwood City, California, highlighting 13 simple, yet powerful, classroom activities to support social-emotional learning skills.  

SEL in Digital Life Resource Center
From Common Sense Education, this excellent selection of lessons and activities is a guide for putting SEL into action in your classroom. Lessons and activities incorporate self-awareness, social awareness, decision-making, and other key SEL principles. Create a free account to access lessons. 

What is SEL?  Still not sure what SEL is all about? Long-time educator Erik Ofgang goes beyond the acronym, exploring the concepts, history, research, and resources for understanding and effecting social-emotional learning.

5 Incredibly Fun GAMES to Teach Self-Regulation  Kids love games, and teachers love well-behaved kids. So a video demonstrating how games can help kids regulate their emotions is a win-win for all concerned! This annotated video provides five simple games, explains why these help kids, and the research basis for the games.

Explaining SEL to Parents  
This Tech & Learning article tackles the social media controversy of social-emotional learning, and explains how to talk with parents so they understand the benefits for their kids. 

What Is the CASEL Framework?
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is a pioneering nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting SEL research and implementation. The CASEL Framework is designed to help educators use evidence-based SEL strategies according to their unique needs and priorities. 

Improving social emotional learning with Classcraft  
In this useful and informative article, educator Meaghan Walsh describes how she practices SEL in her classroom with Classcraft.  

5 Keys to Social and Emotional Learning Success
This video from Edutopia features educators discussing the elements of social-emotional learning as well as real-life examples of SEL activities in the classroom. 

Harmony Game Room
A free app ( Android) from National University, Harmony Game Room is a stellar collection of social-emotional learning tools for PreK-6 students. Included are: Battle the Bully Bot Game (learn to handle bullies); The Commonalities Game (find out more about your friends); Relaxation Stations (focus and breathing exercises); and many more. After trying the app, head over to the Harmony SEL website to access a free SEL curriculum and educator training.  

Social-Emotional Learning: The Magic of Circle Talk
How do talk circles help kids relax and open up to their peers and teachers? “The Magic of Circle Talk” answers this question and describes three types of circles to implement in your classroom.   

CloseGap is a free, flexible check-in tool that asks kids developmentally appropriate questions to determine whether they’re quietly struggling to maintain good mental health. Then students have the option to complete quick, self-guided SEL activities, such as Box Breathing, Gratitude List, and Power Pose. Hmm, maybe not just for kids!

How would you handle the marauding Yashors on Braxos? A challenging fantasy game designed to build a student's ethical and critical thinking skills, Quandary includes a robust guide for educators. Teachers can track and monitor student progress and decide which ethical challenge to present. 

Enter the magical world of Peekaville and interact with its residents, animals and problems through a series of quests and activities. The research-based app contains a daily emotions check-in tool, and is CASEL-aligned and COPPA compliant.  

Diana Restifo

Diana has been Tech & Learning's web editor and contributor since 2010, dedicated to ferreting out the best free tech tools for teachers.