Social Emotional Learning: Self-Awareness

Social-Emotional Learning may just seem like the latest educational buzz phrase, but it's an essential component of any curriculum. Teachers tasked with incorporating more SEL into their day often feel frustrated by the lack of time and support. This is the first in a comprehensive blog series with practical ideas on how to easily build your students' skills without finding an extra hour in your school day.

Author, educator, and whole-life coach Nicole D. Collier kicks things off this week by teaching us more about Self-Awarness, what this means to our students, and how we can nurture this skill.


Self-awareness is an understanding of our emotions and thoughts and how they influence our actions. When we’re self-aware, we have a good sense of who we are and we’re able to recognize our habits and tendencies. We notice the connection between what we’re thinking and feeling and what we’re doing.

So What

Self-awareness is foundational to success. It’s important for students to become self-aware as a strong first step toward achieving goals and accomplishing their dreams. Imagine a tennis coach, watching a tennis player who wishes to improve their game. The coach observes the player in action. Then the coach helps the player understand which behaviors are working well and which ones are holding them back. The player thinks about it and pays more attention. As a result of this feedback and reflection, the player is more aware and can make different choices. Choices that can lead to more enjoyment of tennis and better outcomes while playing.

For students, being self-aware is a lot like being their own coach. They can learn to observe their own emotions, thoughts and actions, and over time, better understand how their feelings influence their behaviors. They begin to see how what’s going on inside impacts what happens on the outside. The better students are at noticing their thoughts and feelings, the better choices they can make in daily life. In short, being self-aware helps them close the gap between where they are now and where they’d like to be.

Now What

Self-Awareness Topics and Themes

  • Coming of Age
  • Identity & Belonging
  • Curiosity
  • Mind-Body Connection
  • Feelings & Emotions
  • Self-Love

Emotional Forecast

Create an emotional weather chart to help students identify and articulate how they’re feeling. This can be a reflection as students enter the classroom, it could be noted on their work or perhaps written on an exit ticket. When kids feel safe to share with each other, the forecast can serve as a brief discussion prompt. The goal isn’t to move from one weather outlook to another – it’s simply to become more aware of their feelings.

Quick Start Questions (Choose one):

  • How are you feeling right now? What clues do you have about your mood
  • What’s on your mind? How is your mood related to your thinking?
  • If you could change one action you’ve taken today, what would it be, and why?
  • Tell about a time your mood (good or bad) changed the way you did something.
  • Tell about a time you were successful … How did your thoughts or mood impact your success? What about a time you were unsuccessful?

Books to Nurture Self-Awareness

Early Readers

It's the last day at the construction site and Cranky the crane truck is feeling, well, cranky. And he doesn't want to talk about it. His friends Zippy, Wheezy, and Dump Chuck try to cheer him up. But you know what doesn't help when you're feeling cranky? A lot of talking.

But what will help?

In Mara’s very tidy town, there’s a perfect place for everything.

There’s a rose garden for roses. A rack in Mara’s hallway for her muddy-day shoes. There’s even a jar for cinnamon-swirl-rainbow-sprinkle cookies.

But when Mara’s feelings are too wild, too messy, too much, where will they fit?

Middle Grade

Penny Rooney has cystic fibrosis, which means she has to do breathing treatments to help her lungs work. Some days, it seems like her CF is the only thing Penny knows about herself for sure.

From her point of view, everyone around her can make sense of their place in the world. So why can’t Penny even begin to write a poem about herself for school?

Piper Franklin has big plans. First, she’ll win the Academic Decathlon with her best friend, Tallulah. Then, she’ll finish her life’s work: Metaphorical Math. And in the meantime, she and Tallulah will maintain their secret, El Jardin Muerto. Nothing can stop Piper . . . except for puberty.

Piper sees the issues that her older sister and her mom struggle with and gets a very clear picture of her own future—one that she’s not sure she likes. Will a changing body change all of Piper’s plans? And why does she have to grow up in the first place? Or does she?


Atlas has lost her way.

In a last-ditch effort to pull her life together, she’s working on a community service program rehabbing trails in the Western Sierras. The only plus is that the days are so exhausting that Atlas might just be tired enough to forget that this was one of her dad’s favorite places in the world. Before cancer stole him from her life, that is.

Atlasheads into the wilderness. As she sheds the lies she’s built up as walls to protect herself, she realizes that four strangers might know her better than anyone has before.

About the Author

Nicole D. Collier is a former elementary teacher turned whole-life coach and author who writes about learning to be true to yourself. She is the author of Just Right Jillian and The Many Fortunes of Maya.