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ELA and SEL: Partners in Learning

Like a bee and a daisy, ELA and SEL benefit from close interactions. Get the buzz about five ways ELA and SEL are stronger together.

ELA SEL Connection 1

SEL teaches students to recognize and control their emotions, make positive choices, connect with classmates, and prepare to learn. This process requires reading, writing, speaking, and listening—the core skills developed in ELA classrooms.

Without listening and reading, students cannot relate to and empathize with others. Without speaking and writing, students cannot connect with others or share their emotions.

Make the Connection: Invite students to journal about their experiences and emotions. Set aside 10–15 minutes daily or weekly for students to reflect on their lives and learning, explore cares or concerns, express emotions, ask questions, wonder, and more. Journaling builds self-awareness and writing fluency. Use this minilesson to help your students set up a journal.


ELA SEL Connection 2

Through SEL, students learn to recognize and manage their emotions. Speaking and writing provide students with healthy outlets for expressing, understanding, and controlling their emotions.

Make the Connection: Pause class for regular “systems checks” on emotions. Ask students to freewrite or journal about their current feelings. If students struggle to get started, share the following prompts:

  • What emotion are you feeling today? What does it make you want to do?
  • How do you feel about class today? Why do you feel that way?
  • Which emotion is most uncomfortable for you to feel? Write about a time when you felt that emotion.
  • What are some things that make you feel happy, sad, or fearful?


ELA SEL Connection 3

When students feel safe and belonging, they are more comfortable contributing to class discussions, taking creative risks, and interacting with their peers. As ELA teacher Allarie Coleman puts it, “Social-emotional learning helps my students and me create a classroom environment that promotes meaningful conversations.”

Make the Connection: Create a classroom community by showing students they belong. Use any of these 12 activities to make sure your students feel welcome and wanted. A sense of belonging is crucial during reading and writing workshops. (Find more about this connection below.)


ELA SEL Connection 4

Literature introduces students to different people, cultures, and perspectives, which are paths to empathy and understanding. Meanwhile, SEL teaches students how emotions influence actions, including the decisions characters make in literature. Such awareness can lead to richer literary analyses.

Make the Connection: Use freewriting prompts to build empathy and comprehension as students read literature:

  • How do you feel when you read this book, poem, or story? What makes you feel that way?
  • How is the character _________ feeling right now? How can you tell?
  • Can you relate to the way the character is feeling? How so?
  • How does emotion impact the actions the character takes?

Next, encourage students to analyze the role of emotions in literature by filling out and responding to a character emotion chart. Learn more about how to use the chart here.


ELA SEL Connection 5

Collaboration is a benchmark of writing workshops, where students must share, read, discuss, and evaluate each other's work.

Make the Connection: Sharing writing with peers can feel scary. Utilize SEL strategies to prepare students to collaborate during writing workshops. Try this script:

  • Take out your journals and write down any fears or concerns you have about sharing your writing with a peer. Spend five minutes writing as much as you can about these fears.
  • Now let’s share some of the fears you came up with and see how many we all share.
  • Great job! Let’s spend a few minutes looking at this list and talking about what we need to feel comfortable sharing our writing.
  • Thanks for sharing today. Let’s keep our needs and coping strategies in mind as we respond to each other’s writing. Remember, we’re all on the same team here. We share writing to help each other see what works well and where our writing can get even better.

Find out more!

Teacher Support:

Click to find out more about this resource.

Standards Correlations:

The State Standards provide a way to evaluate your students' performance.