SEL Inspired Activities and Compassionate Discipline

Personal Affirmation Practices

In addition to making students more mindful and sensitive towards others, we also want to give those students who are targets of unkindness tools to help them nourish their sense of self.

Instruct each student to make a list of what they like most about themselves, to be as specific as possible, and to keep the list with them wherever they go. Encourage them to keep on adding to the list and when they run out of space on the paper, to start a new one. Tell them to save these lists in a special place, and whenever they feel bad, to pull them out and read them. You might want to have students turn in their lists and offer positive feedback in the margins.

Rumor/Social Media Post Litmus Test

Students can either write this in their notebooks, or it can even be incorporated as an addendum into a Code of Mindfulness. This is also adaptable for parents, as a tool to help them avoid creating drama on social media.

Am I 100% certain what I am about to share is the truth? What are the facts? Am I positive none of it is untrue? Why or why not? Is what I am about to share compassionate? Why or why not? Is it what I am about to share necessary? Why or why not? What is my exact purpose for sharing it? Am I proud or ashamed of my last answer? (If you circled ashamed, your share has failed the litmus test).

How to Respond Instead of React

There’s a difference between reacting and responding. Reacting is when you say or do something in the moment out of anger or fear without thinking it through. Responding is when you stop, process, and then act with intention. When you react, you give away your power. When you respond, you own your power.

Have the students write the following on an index card, note function on their device or

in a notebook—the key is that wherever they write it, it’s easily and readily accessible.

Step One:

  • Stop
  • Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
  • Remain silent and calm. Say or do nothing for 24 hours.

Step Two:

  • Process
  • Ask yourself, why am I upset? Is that the REAL reason I’m upset?

Step Three:

  • Act with Intention
  • Ask yourself what outcome do I want in this situation and why?
  • What words/actions are most likely to achieve that outcome? Am I being truthful and compassionate? (Carefully consider all your answers and then act with clarity and intention.)

“Something Doesn’t Have To Be On Purpose in Order For It To Be Mean But Kindness Is A Choice”—How To Stop from Getting Caught Up in the Moment

Tell students that if they’re in a situation in which everyone is “joking around” and they want to join in, before saying or doing anything, they should ask themselves the following three questions.

Is what I’m about to say or do going to make ME feel bad? Is what I’m about to say or do going to make someone else feel bad? If I’ve answered yes to either of those questions, what can I say or do instead that will lift that person up rather than knock them down?

App Show and Tell Day

One of the challenges expressed to me by students is that teachers and parents don’t really understand how most of the social networking apps work, and they jump to inaccurate conclusions.

Ask each student to do a presentation on their favorite app, how it works and the technical ins and outs. At the conclusion of the presentation, each student must share one specific idea on how they’re going to use the app to bring joy, express gratitude or make a difference in someone’s life.

Thank You Posters

Have students make thank you posters acknowledging the maintenance staff, cafeteria workers, office secretaries, and other employees who aren’t often honored and display the posters proudly throughout the school. Gratitude is a quality that must be cultivated. Lead the charge and you’ll see it spread throughout the community.

Forgiveness Practices

For a homework assignment, have students do a video or write an essay on what the power of forgiveness means to them based on an experience from their own lives. Encourage students to share their stories in class and then introduce the extra credit challenge: forgive someone whom you haven’t been able to and give that person another chance. Each student who participates in the challenge must submit a short report describing how the person reacted to being forgiven and how it made the student feel. Another idea to challenge students, same concept, but in reverse: Tell someone whom you’ve wanted to apologize to but haven’t yet, that you’re sorry.


  • Have students write about an act of kindness they received, its impact, and a way in which they can pass it on by doing something kind for someone else.
  • Ask students to do gratitude videos in which they express something they’re grateful for, and then post the most inspiring ones on the school website
  • Have each student write on an index card one thing about themselves they like, one thing they feel needs improving, and one thing they’re going to do to work on that. Update the cards weekly and celebrate everyone’s progress.

Alternatives to Sending a Child to the Principal’s Office When They’re Being Disruptive in Class:

  • Ask the student to retrieve something for you from the office. It will eliminate the disruption in the moment, and often, that short walk will refocus the student.
  • Implement a “task” system, in which in lieu of sending a disruptive student to the office, have them do a task for you. The task is usually delivering a note to another teacher at the other end of the school, who’ll be in on the strategy (usually the “note” will be a symbol that both teachers know means, “this is a kid doing a “task.”).
  • When one student begins disrupting the class and others “follow the leader,” that’s usually a sign that everyone needs a “re-set.” Instead of sending the student who’s instigating the disruption to the office, have the entire class jump up and wiggle or dance! Anything fun, funny or whimsical that allows them to laugh, blow off steam, and re-align.

Hope the above has been helpful for you! For information on my in-school anti-bullying program INJJA (It’s NOT Just Joking Around!©) or to bring me in as a speaker or consultant, visit, email me at or call 312-961-3430.

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