Learning Tips

Games that Build Community and Social Emotional Learning

September / 2023

Explore options to build your community and engage your students in better social emotional learning through unique games and activities.

At the start of the year, welcoming students into your classroom is about so much more than showing them their seats and going over daily schedules. You’re creating a true community of learning, comfort, and encouragement. One of the ways you can achieve these goals to build community and create a positive space for Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is through collaborative classroom games.

Friendly competition, group collaboration, and getting-to-know-you activities offer opportunities for students to step out of their shell and practice skills they’ll use all year round. Learning takes place where students feel a sense of inclusion and belonging. Spend these first few weeks of your school year focusing on community-building and see how your students blossom throughout the year

Keep reading for games and activities that can help you build community in your classroom.

The Importance of Social Emotional Learning

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a term you’ve probably heard thrown around a lot over the past few years. This simply means taking care of your student’s emotional needs as well as teaching the curriculum. In order to retain learning in a meaningful way, students need an emotional investment in what they’re exploring. Feelings of competency and inclusion also encourage educational growth and motivation.

A focus on community-building and an invitation of emotional care into the classroom can help lead to more engaged and overall successful young people. Plus, you can merge SEL with content-based games to teach emotional literacy while still exploring topics in STEM, language arts, or while taking brain breaks. By implementing some of these games and activities, you’ll be on your way to bringing practical and encouraging SEL and community building in your classroom.

Games that Support Social Emotional Learning

Blocks Rock!

Encourage a level of friendly competition or a fun opportunity to build together with Blocks Rock! Our game offers opportunities for STEM learning and positive feelings of achievement and pride.

Students can work opposite each other in fast-paced competition or teams can work together using our 3-D Companion App to build structures together. This is a perfect opportunity to encourage togetherness rather than solo play for soft starts, calm-down corners, or unstructured exploration time.

Purchase Blocks Rock here!

Human Knot

Explore opportunities for physically engaged learning and problem solving as a group when you create and untie a human knot. Ask students to stand in a circle, then reach across the circle and grab hands with different classmates (you can also have students hold scarves or something similar as a modification for students who prefer not to use touch). Then have everyone work together to untangle themselves into one big circle.

This is a great way to teach collaboration and problem solving while also providing some laughs and silliness.

Collective Drawing

For students that enjoy a level of artistic challenge, try out a collective drawing activity.

Start off with a prompt for your students to begin a drawing—this can tie in to your curriculum or just be a fun activity that relates to current season or trend your students love. Give a time frame for the first student to finish their drawing then ask everyone to pass their drawing along to the next student. Keep following this pattern until the whole paper is covered in artwork!

Expressing themselves in a unique way encourages SEL and allows each student to build on and support what their classmate gives them. At the end of the activity, you’ll have a ton of artwork that was created collaboratively that your students will love!

Dance Party / Freeze Dance

Sometimes the best community-building activities are the ones that are just plain FUN! Set up some time during your day for a dance party. Or play a few rounds of freeze dance where you pause the music and ask everyone to freeze in a funny position to add an element of competition or motivation. Offer different students the opportunity to pick out the music so they can share pieces of their identity and culture through art and media.

By giving students a few minutes to move everyday, you’re allowing them to come out of their shell and express themselves outside of the traditional school curriculum. Plus, classmates are having the chance to dance and have fun together in a communal way.

Additional Resources for SEL & Classroom Learning

As you can see, there are games and activities that encourage multiple modalities of learning by encouraging skills in communication, problem solving, art, and movement. This is just a small portion of games and activities that can be great ways to foster community in the classroom. The possibilities are endless to find activities that genuinely engage students in ways where they are emotionally invested and excited about learning.

While some games are collaborative, others encourage friendly competition. Learn more about Healthy Competition for Kids in this past blog article.