Social Emotional Learning: Social 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 third 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 continues things off this week by teaching us more about social awareness, what this means to our students, and how we can nurture this skill.


Social awareness is the ability to understand perspectives other than our own. It involves empathizing with others, including those who have different backgrounds and ways of being. When we have high social awareness, we can use our understanding of others to ease communication and create positive interactions. A socially aware person can help everyone present feel as if they belong.

So What

Students who practice social awareness are on their way to increased personal and professional success. That’s because, at the core, social awareness is about connecting with other people, even those who may seem to have little in common with you.

Rather than allowing differences to be a source of frustration or disconnection, socially aware people are social detectives, gathering clues that help them understand and appreciate varied points of view. As a result, they can confront conflict with a more open mind, and better collaborate to get meaningful work done.

Students with high social awareness are more equipped to be their authentic selves and make room for others to do the same.

Now What

 Sample Themes or Topics about Social Awareness


Family & Community


Empathy & Compassion


Diversity & Culture


First, discuss what it means to walk a mile in my shoes. Help students understand that we often make assumptions about others without knowing all the facts, or without having compassion for what they might be going through. When we walk a mile in someone’s shoes, we can gain a new appreciation for their knowledge and experiences.

Next, have students to draw, decorate or cut out a picture of a shoe they feel represents them. Invite them to share what it means to walk a mile in their shoes. Students can share verbally or in writing. You may want to offer a few prompts they can choose from such as:

  • How does your shoe represent you?
  • What is something special most people don’t know about you?
  • Where is your favorite place to spend time? What do you like best about it
  • If you could have any superpower, what would it be? What’s most important about it?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • When did you feel misunderstood? What do you wish would’ve happened instead?
  • What advice do you have for someone who is putting on your shoes for the first time?
  • What’s the best part about walking in your shoes?

This can be an ongoing activity, where one student shares each day. Additionally, the shoes may be displayed in the room to support ongoing awareness and empathy.


  • Create a podcast with short episodes featuring one or a small group of students each time.
  • Create a class blog with entries from each student.

Quick Start Questions (Choose one):

  • What is the most important quality in a good friend?
    • What makes that important to you?
    • How often do you demonstrate this quality yourself?
  • How might your best friend know you’re not in a great mood?
    • What about someone who doesn’t know you very well?
  • Tell about a time you disagreed with something someone did (a story character, a sibling, a friend).
    • What did they do wrong from your perspective?
    • What are two reasons their decision was right (from their perspective)?

Books to Nurture Social Awareness

Early Readers

Perfect for celebrating a child’s next step in their social development, this picture book from Jean Reidy and Joey Chou is all about the joy of stepping out into the world and discovering all the wonder, excitement, and magic that comes from collaboration and being a part of something bigger.

For weeks, Snake has looked forward to sculpting the most spectacular clay pot in art class. But when his pot breaks and his teacher confuses Snake’s pot with Turtle’s, Snake takes home Turtle’s masterpiece to show his family and pretends that he made it. Now, Snake will have to craft a way to repair a broken pot and a broken friendship.

Middle Grade

When precocious eleven-year-old Sophie sets out to save her elderly neighbor (who is also her dearest friend), her journey will take her through their familiar suburban landscape and then, steadily yet unexpectedly, deeper into a landscape of history and shared stories.

Maya is the pragmatic twin, but her secret anxiety threatens to overwhelm her.

Chaya is the outgoing twin. When she sees her beloved sister suffering, she wants to tell their parents—which makes Maya feel completely betrayed. With Maya shutting her out, Chaya makes a dramatic change to give her twin the space she seems to need. But that’s the last thing Maya wants, and the girls just drift further apart.


Icarus Gallagher is a thief. He steals priceless art and replaces it with his father’s impeccable forgeries. For years, one man—the wealthy Mr. Black—has been their target in revenge for his role in the death of Icarus’s mother. To keep their secret, Icarus adheres to his own strict rules to keep people, and feelings, at bay: Don’t let anyone close. Don’t let anyone touch you. And, above all, don’t get caught.

Until one night, he does. Not by Mr. Black but by his mysterious son, Helios, now living under house arrest in the Black mansion. Instead of turning Icarus in, Helios bargains for something even more dangerous—a friendship that breaks every single one of Icarus’s rules.

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.