ASTEP Abby Gerdts_ Social and Emotional Learning through the Arts
Social and Emotional Learning through the Arts
Lesson Objective: Walk through artistic exercises that will help develop the following skills in your students: Collaboration,
Open Communication, Trustworthiness, and Adaptability
Class Length: 75 min.
how to give
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and Class Goal/
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Activity name: Interactive Story-Telling
Group Size: 4+
Length: 20 minutes +
An open space
Color construction paper or “story cards”
Purpose: To collaborate in sharing personal stories.
Preparation: The facilitator will want to begin by role modeling his/her own story-telling.
Choose five pieces of colored construction paper. Each piece of paper will include a prompt on
one side and a cue on the other. Here are the five prompts:
I remember laughing with…
When I was little…
I’m afraid of…
In the near future, I hope to..
I often walk…
Answer each prompt concisely (no longer than 3-5 sentences). After you’ve completed the
prompts, think of a physical cue that enacts the prompt. For example, if the prompt were: “I
often walk through the city gazing upwards, looking for angels,” the cue might be: “Look up
and gasp!” Once you’ve decided on the physical cue, write it on the other side of the
construction paper of its corroborating prompt. Take time to apply color and maybe even draw
a design that would help others understand the cue.
How To: Begin by telling the participants that you want to invite them to walk in your shoes.
In order to do so, they will enact a story you will narrate with the help of some physical cues.
Show them the cues one by one and have them practice enacting the cues accordingly.
Remember to explain how the cue will be introduced, when you will read the story that goes
with the cue, and how/when the action will come to a close before the following cue. Do not
read the prompts until you have fully rehearsed all of the cues! Once you’ve rehearsed all of
the cues in order, explain that the story telling will close with a joined inhalation and
Then perform your story. Begin by making eye contact with all of the participants. Guide the
participants through the cues and read the related prompts. Close the story with the joined
inhalation and exhalation. Please remember that the magic in this activity is keeping the storytelling (the prompts) until the actual performance so do not share the stories during the
Afterwards, explain that they will now create their own interactive story-telling. Ask them to
choose 5 pieces of construction paper and a handful of coloring utensils to their liking. Then
tell them that they have 1 minute to answer one of the prompts on one side of a paper (you are
giving them one minute so that they focus on answering the prompt as they understand it in
this moment instead of sifting through their entire history’s to find the “right” answer.) After
the minute, ask them to flip the paper over and give them two minutes to think of a physical
cue that best enacts their answer and to draw it with flourish.
After those two minutes, repeat this process with each of the prompts.
If time allows, have each student rehearse and tell his/her story. Or break them up into small
groups and have them chose one person’s story to rehearse and tell for the other group. Or
break them up and have them each choose a card to share and create a group story-telling for
the other group.
Wrap up: Reflect on the impact of physicalizing the story and rehearsing before telling. Reflect
on the impact of only having 1 minute to answer the prompts.
Activity Name: The Store of Anything
SEL: Open Communication
Group size: 2 players at a time. Good for a group around 10 – 15, taking turns
Length: 5 minutes for each round. Minimum of 25 minutes to let everyone play
Requirements: Basic furnishings are nice but not required (table, chairs, etc.)
Purpose: Students will attempt to interpret an idea without using words
There are two characters in each round: A store owner and a customer. Throughout the exercise, the customer may only speak in
gibberish, a made up language made up of unintelligible sounds.
At the beginning of each round, the person playing the store owner steps outside the room where he cannot listen to the discussion. While
that person is outside, the “customer” tells the rest of the group what they would like to “buy” at the store. It is best if the customer is
shopping for something intangible (e.g. Love, Dreams, Intelligence), but it is also fine to shop for items like Dragons, Mars, The White
House. Try to steer your students away from wanting to shop for video games or Nike’s and towards more interesting choices – it is the
Store of Anything, after all.
After an item has been decided upon, the customer and owner switch places. The store owner spends a few minutes setting up their shop,
getting ready for the day, when the customer comes in, speaking only in gibberish. The customer then begins to explain with voice and
body, the item that they want to buy. When the owner guesses correctly (there are no limits to how many guesses they can make), the
audience applauds, signaling that he got it right.
At this point, the owner should find it in his store, and bring it to the customer. It is up to the owner how he wants to interpret the way
Love or Dreams or Intelligence is packaged. There is usually an exchange of money (owners come up with the price for each item) and
then the customer takes their item and leaves the store.
Activity Name: Creation vs Destruction
Group Size: 4-15
Length: 2-4 class sessions
Requirements: visual art material
Purpose: To explore what it feels like to have a creation of ours destroyed.
*Note: This activity will require sensitive facilitation as the students will have mixed emotional responses. This activity was
first presented in light of a shooting in one of our communities. The purpose of the activity was to bring to light the process we
go through and consider a healthy approach to dealing with destruction.
How To: Decide on a visual art activity that will take a couple of days to complete. The activity wants to engender care and
detail from the participants. At the completion of the project, the participants want to feel connected to and proud of what they
Here are some examples:
Participants had their photo taken and printed in black and white. They then used mixed media to add color and dimension to
their photos. The students sat in a circle and had 5 minutes to work on the photo. After that time, the photo was past on to the
person on the right who then added on to the photo. The facilitator asked that the artists work towards making the photos as
beautiful and engaging as possible.
Participants covered a large wall with kraft paper. They used the paper to brainstorm a group project. They added photos,
stories, and drawings. They color coded sections to distinguish when the section was originally created. At the end of each
session they took time to look at the wall and reflect on how it had developed over the course of the session. They took time to
carefully take the kraft paper down between sessions.
After the project is completed, the facilitator will ask the students to formally reflect on the project. The facilitator can choose
to exhibit the project in a special manner to heighten the situation. Then the facilitator will lead a theoretical discussion on the
value of creating and the value of their project.
After the discussion, the facilitator will destroy the project without warning. Depending on the setting, the facilitator can either
burn the work or rip it apart. Please note that the facilitator must treat this moment sensitively, mindful of their non-verbals.
After the destruction, the facilitator reflects on the following:
How did it feel to see your work destroyed?
What were you feeling while I was destroying it?
What do you want to do right now?
What do you consider would be the “appropriate way” of responding in this situation?
If you could rewind time, what would you do while I was destroying the work?
Is there a right or wrong way to respond to destruction?
How is this similar to every day life?
Would you create again?
Wrap up: The facilitator will also want to reflect on how it felt for them to destroy the work. Be mindful that the this activity
will generate many responses and isn’t about drawing down to a single right or wrong way to respond – it is about shedding
light on how we process destruction. Before concluding, apologize for having destroyed their work and give them the
opportunity of process privately for a couple of minutes or finding time to talk with you or someone else about it afterwards if
needed. Take time to check in with each of the students after class and see how they took the activity. Know that it is okay if
some of the students were offended by the process.
Activity Name: Me Fall
Group Size: 3 +
Length: 5-10 minutes
An open space
Purpose: To practice trust.
How To: Before beginning, explain that this will be a physical activity that will require the group to move quickly and use
upper body strength. Ask if anyone is unable to do those things and recommend that they sit out if they can’t.
Ask the group to walk around the room, moving towards empty spaces or negative space. Soon after and while walking,
explain that when you call out “Me” you would like for the entire group to approach you and put there hands safely on your
person. Explain that you will cross your arms over your chest so that you feel safe and comfortable. Once everyone has there
hands on you, take a collective breath and continue walking. Explain that anyone is invited to call out “Me” at any moment.
Continuing doing so until 3-4 people have called out “Me.”
The second phase is to have the individual calling “Me” open their arms in t-shape and fall backwards. The arms are in a tshape so to create space for other’s to catch the person. Ask the group to consider how the walk changes given the new
Teaching point: You will notice that when individuals call out “Me” the group will either move towards the person or freeze
up. Either way, they stop paying attention to the rest of the group. You can set up a teaching moment by calling out “Me”
toward the outside of the circle at the same time as another person is calling out “Me.” Reflect on why you fell – ask the group
to consider how this might be an appropriate metaphor for everyday life.
Wrap Up: What does it take to call out Me? How do we change our relationship to everyone else in the second round?