Six Ways to Foster a Positive School Culture

At Walkabouts, we know social and emotional learning is key to students’ development. We understand that students need opportunities at school to develop the five areas of social and emotional competency identified by CASEL: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Here are 6 activities to help foster social and emotional learning and promote SEL Day at your school!

SEL Display

Create an SEL-themed display near the front entrance of the school or in a central location such as the cafeteria. This will generate anticipation for SEL Day. You can also decorate an SEL-themed bulletin board in a hallway.

The best displays feature student work, so have students help. When students contribute to a school-wide event, they have greater buy-in.  

Brainstorm and ask students about one of the five areas of social and emotional competence Then, ask students to write a word or phrase or draw a picture to show self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, or responsible decision-making. 

Examples may include the following:

  • I can tell about my feelings.
  • I like my friends.
  • I like being me.
  • I am unique.
  • I respect others.
  • I take care of my body.
  • I move my body to help me feel happy.
  • I take a break when I get upset.

Students can write words and phrases, and draw pictures on large chart paper or construction paper. Use the students’ work as a backdrop for the display.

If desired, cut out puzzle pieces and have students write or draw on the pieces. This shows that each student is an individual but also a part of the school community.

SEL Assembly

Celebrate SEL Day with a school-wide assembly. Use the assembly to promote unity and positive school culture. During the gathering, help students feel connected through social and emotional activities and presentations.

Consider the following:

  • Kick off your assembly with SEL role-playing. Ask older students to write short skits to show examples for addressing scenarios relevant to your student population.
  • Build a sense of community with short team-building activities and games.
  • Play some popular music and allow students to move, sing along, and express themselves.
  • Distribute awards to students who have demonstrated exemplary behaviors and serve as role models for others. Consider awards in the five areas identified by CASEL.
  • Deliver your SEL takeaway to the school through a story that exhibits how you practice self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, or responsible decision-making.

SEL Morning Announcements

Build awareness of social and emotional learning the week of SEL Day with morning announcements. Invite teachers, mystery readers, and students to contribute or deliver an SEL-related message to start the school day.

Share an inspirational quote about SEL, talk about an impactful leader, or read a poem with an SEL theme.

Some of our favorite SEL Leaders are:

SEL Leader Contribution   Quote(s)
Albert Einstein Einstein was a scientist who developed our understanding of the world, including space, time, gravity, and the universe.  

"A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new."

"A true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination."

Mae Jemison Jemison was a famous engineer, physician, and astronaut for NASA. She was the first Black woman to travel to space.  

“What we find is that if you have a goal that is very, very far out, and you approach it in little steps, you start to get there faster. Your mind opens up to the possibilities.”

Amelia Earhart Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She also helped advance women’s rights.  

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”

Malala Yousafzai

Yousafzai is an activist for girls’ rights to education.  When she was 11 years old, Malala wasn’t allowed to attend school anymore. She spoke out against this and fought for girls’ education everywhere.

  “One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.”
Nelson Mandela Mandela was famous for his fight against prejudice and unjust government. He became the first Black president of South Africa.   “It is in your hands, to make a better world for all who live in it.”


Other morning announcement topics can include CASEL 5 Topics, such as:

Self-Awareness   Self-Management   Social Awareness   Relationship Skills   Responsible Decision-Making
Showcase personal examples of a growth mindset.   Discuss examples of making mistakes or trying new things and the lessons learned.  

Recognize strengths in others by giving non-physical compliments.

For example: “You have the greatest laugh.”  “You are so determined and never quit.”


Allow students who celebrate to teach about non-religious holidays they celebrate.   Reflect on talents and how you promoted them for personal, family, and community well-being.


SEL Reading Activities with Walkabouts

Walkabouts support students' social and emotional learning. Teachers report that Walkabouts help build students' confidence, improve self-awareness, and improve self-control. In addition, Walkabouts foster collaborative learning, allow for interaction with peers, and provide opportunities for cooperation and teamwork.

Walkabouts’ library has a list of fiction titles that complement CASEL 5 themes for rich classroom discussion. To access the stories, search for the following Walkabouts in the Find Lesson field. Play the Walkabout, and forward to the storybook section.

Grades K and 1: Questions About Key Details

Grade 2: Describing How Characters Respond to Major Challenges and Events

Title Grade SEL Themes
The Little Red Hen K Self-awareness; Self-management
The Little Gingerbread Man 1 Self-awareness; Relationship skills
Goldilocks And The Three Bears 2 Social awareness; Responsible decision-making


Walksheet sets are also aligned to the CASEL areas of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Teachers can find the following sample Jigsaw activities for grade 2 by typing “2 - SEL” in the Find Lesson field to locate this Walksheet set.

Title of Walksheet SEL Themes
Ups and Downs Self-awareness
Flip Your Feelings: Sad to Glad Social awareness
Stretch Yourself Self-management
Drawing On Courage Responsible decision-making; relationship skills
Classmate Connections Responsible decision-making; relationship skills


Separate the Walksheets into different SEL-related categories. For example, place 4-5 students in one group with the relationship-skills theme. Create another group for  the social awareness activity. Continue this method until each group has a different SEL topic. Each group will complete one Walksheet that relates to an SEL theme. Then, they’ll complete a jigsaw activity.

During the jigsaw activity, students circulate to a different group. There, students learn from each other about the different CASEL 5 themes. They return to their original group to report on what they learned and any connections they made.

SEL Literature-Based Craft

Social and emotional learning activities blend nicely with art. Art helps young learners visualize and understand abstract SEL concepts more concretely.

Read The Dot by Peter Reynolds, a story about helping students find their voice and identity and leaving a mark on the world. Read the book to the class. After reading, discuss with students ways they can positively impact themselves, their families, their communities, and the world.

To create the “leave your mark” artwork to support The Dot, you need:

  • White coffee filters
  • Water-based colored markers and one permanent marker
  • Spray bottle filled with water

Provide a coffee filter and markers for each student. If you want to return the coffee filters to the artist, write each student’s name or initials on their coffee filters in black permanent marker. Instruct students to color in their coffee filter with at least three different colors, leaving no white space. 

After students finish coloring, collect the coffee filters. Cover a surface with a trash bag. Spray the coffee filter with water. The colors will start to blend and make a pattern.

Display the finished products on a bulletin board, and tell students they have made their mark. 

SEL-Themed Spirit Week

Have students dress up each day for different themes. Spirit week dress-up days are an easy, fun way to foster a sense of school community while teaching important SEL concepts.

Students get so excited to take part, which helps build their participation. Here's a sample of what one week might look like:

Day of Week   SEL Theme   Students Celebrate By...
Monday   Let’s sweat it out to keep our bodies healthy!  

Wear a sweatshirt and/or sweatpants.

Tuesday   Put a lid on bullying!  

Wear a hat.

Wednesday   Show your school spirit!  

Wear school colors. If desired, assign each grade level a different color!

Thursday   Team up to build us up!   

Wear your favorite team shirt or jersey (including high school, college, and professional sports shirts in addition to jerseys from teams students are on).

Friday   H.E.R.O.: Helping Everyone Respect Others  

Dress as your favorite community helper or a historical or modern-day person who respects and helps others.