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Social and Emotional Learning Toolkit

ACT for Youth Highlight
Preparing Youth for Adulthood provides additional curricula and activities related to social and emotional learning:


Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) enhances our ability to manage our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors in a variety of contexts. In this part of the SEL Toolkit, we link to resources that help youth work professionals:
  • Promote a growth mindset
  • Promote perseverance
  • Nurture motivation to learn
  • Facilitate goal setting
  • Facilitate emotion regulation
  • Integrate mindfulness practices
Following these topics you will find resources designed especially for young people.

Promote a Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck and other researchers have observed that rewarding effort, grit, and perseverance helps children and adolescents develop a growth mindset -- the belief that you can learn and achieve by making persistent efforts. By contrast, those who have a "fixed" mindset believe that innate ability, rather than effort, determines success. A growth mindset increases learning and exploration as well as the ability to handle frustration and failure, while a fixed mindset can lead to a sense of inadequacy as well as failure to keep trying if success isn't achieved right away.

Strategies to promote a growth mindset include:

  • Educate youth about growth and fixed mindsets
  • Discourage labels -- such as "smart" or "dumb" -- that convey fixed ability
  • Praise effort, strategies, and progress, not intelligence or abilities
  • Provide challenging activities with the understanding that challenges are fun and mistakes help people learn and improve


Carol Dweck's website describes her research and findings. It also provides an online self-assessment and strategies to develop a growth mindset.


Carol Dweck - A Study on Praise and Mindsets

This video describes Carol Dweck's research on the effects of praise on students. The study involved over 400 fifth-graders from all over the United States.

Video (5 minutes)

Mindset and Motivation in Adolescence

"Growth" and "fixed" mindsets have an impact on our levels of achievement and how we feel about failure and learning. In this article, Kristen Elmore introduces the research on mindsets.


Encouraging Growth Mindsets

Growth mindsets support learning, while fixed mindsets can make us reluctant to challenge ourselves. How can people who work with adolescents encourage them to adopt growth mindsets?


Mindset Kit

The Mindset Kit is a free set of online lessons and practices designed to help you teach and foster adaptive beliefs about learning. Resources for mentors, educators, and parents are included. Created by the Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS).

Web Pages

Growth Mindset for 9th Graders

On this site, PERTS provides an evidence-based program designed to increase students' engagement, motivation, and success by laying the foundation for a growth mindset. Free to high schools.


Mindset Works

These web pages contain videos about Carol Dweck's work and research, as well as interviews with teachers and students.

Web Pages

Step it Up 2 Thrive: Growth Mindset

These web pages from the Thrive Foundation for Youth include reading material, youth activities, lesson plans, and tips on how to develop growth mindsets.

Web Pages

Promote Perseverance and Resilience

Angela Lee Duckworth: The Key to Success? Grit

This TED Talk by psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth highlights her research on grit and perseverance as key factors for success.

TED Talk (6 minutes)

Character Lab Playbook: Grit

Character Lab playbooks offer research-based tips, guidance, and activities for helping children develop specific character strengths.

Grit/Perseverance Playbook

Activities Guide: Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills

This guide describes a variety of activities and games that represent age-appropriate ways for adults to support and strengthen various components of executive function and self-regulation in children and adolescents.

Activities Guide


SenseAbility is a strengths-based resilience program designed for educators working with youth aged 12-18 years. It consists of a suite of modules developed to enhance and maintain emotional and psychological resilience. Created for classroom delivery in Australian schools, the modules can easily be adapted to benefit young people in other structured environments.


inspirED: Self-Management

Designed by teens, educators, and SEL experts, inspirED activities empower students to work together to create more positive school climates and foster greater well-being in their schools and communities. Many of the activities can also be adapted for use outside of schools.


Insight Center: Perseverance

This site offers examples of programs that intentionally cultivate perseverance, as well as program strategies and relevant research. Resources are compiled by Boston After School & Beyond and their partners.


Edutopia: Teaching Grit Cultivates Resilience and Perseverance

In rural New Hampshire, fifth-grade teacher Amy Lyon has created a curriculum based on researcher Angela Lee Duckworth's ideas about grit. Students set and work toward their own long-term goals, learning valuable lessons about dealing with frustration and distractions along the way.

Video (6 minutes)

Nurture Motivation to Learn

How Youth Learn: a Portfolio to Inform and Inspire Educators, Students, Parents & More

Part of the WKCD "How Youth Learn" Portfolio, The Motivation Equation is a free e-manual on inspiring young people to learn. The portfolio includes additional resources such as research highlights and student voices, as well as multimedia education tools such as the video Ned's Gr8 8: An Insider's Guide to the Teenage Brain.


Character Lab Playbook: Curiosity

Character Lab playbooks offer research-based tips, guidance, and activities for helping children develop specific character strengths.

Curiosity Playbook

Facilitate Goal Setting

To facilitate goal setting, invite reflection about life purpose and the future. Ask questions like:
  • What are your hopes and dreams?
  • Which one is most important to you just now?
  • What can you do now to bring that dream a little closer?
  • What do you love doing most?
  • What do you do that makes you feel really good about yourself?
  • Who do you really admire and why?

Edutopia: Setting S.M.A.R.T Goals

This page provides a video and lesson plan to help young people set goals using the SMART framework.

Web Page

Character Lab Playbook: Purpose

Character Lab playbooks offer research-based tips, guidance, and activities for helping children develop specific character strengths.

Purpose Playbook

Facilitate Emotion Regulation

General strategies for helping youth learn to manage their emotions include:
  • Encourage youth to name and express their emotions
  • Acknowledge their emotions (empathic listening)
  • Model emotion self-regulation and positive self-talk:
    • I am not going to let it get to me
    • I can handle this
    • I can calm down
    • I have other friends who like me
    • With more practice, I'll get it
    • Everyone makes mistakes. I'll do better next time
  • Role play situations using a problem-solving approach:
    • Define: What is the problem and how am I feeling about it?
    • Brainstorm: What can I do about it?
    • Evaluate possible solutions: What would happen if I did this?
    • Implement: Am I doing what I decided to do?
    • Evaluate: How did it turn out?

Strengthening Self-Regulation

In this webinar, Jutta Dotterweich discusses the importance of self-regulation and provides practical resources.

Webinar Recording (57 minutes)

Insight Center: Self-Regulation

This site offers examples of programs that intentionally cultivate self-regulation, as well as program strategies and relevant research. Resources are compiled by Boston After School & Beyond and their partners.


Executive Function and Self-Regulation

The Center on the Developing Child provides this useful collection of brief articles and videos explaining executive function and describing how to build executive function skills in children and adolescents. Harvard University.


Character Lab Playbook: Self-Control

Character Lab playbooks offer research-based tips, guidance, and activities for helping children develop specific character strengths.

Self-Control Playbook

PBIS World: Teach Coping Skills

This web page offers general strategies and tips on how to teach coping skills. In addition, it addresses specific stressors, linking to techniques and resources.

Web Page

Emotional Intelligence Curriculum

University of Illinois Extension provides activities to develop emotional intelligence for three different age groups.

Ages 8-10

Ages 11-12

Ages 13-18

Assessing Stress in Children and Youth: A Guide for Out-of-School Time Program Practitioners

This Child Trends research brief is designed to help out-of-school program practitioners recognize and reduce the consequences of stress.

Research Brief

Integrate Mindfulness Practices

Helpguide's Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment -- and accepting it without judgment. This web page provides guidance and simple mindfulness practices, with links to resources.

Web Page

Mindfulness Activities for Children and Teens

This Positive Psychology Program article includes activities as well as tips for teaching mindfulness to children and teenagers.


Greater Good: Mindfulness

Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, University of California, provides mindfulness guidance and resources, including a series of videos.

Web Page

Edutopia: How to Start a Meditation Program in Your School

This page provides guidance and successful strategies on establishing meditation practices in classroom settings.

Web Page

Edutopia: Quiet Time Primer

This brief primer gives concrete instruction and process descriptions on how to set up meditation and quiet practices with youth.


Mindfulness Exercises

These activities from the National Youth Council of Ireland are designed to give children time to slow down, pay attention to what is around them, and focus on the present.


Resources for Young People

ACT Youth Network: Lead the Way!

This section of ACT for Youth's website for young people helps youth identify their leadership style and set goals.

Youth Web Pages

ACT Youth Network: Got Stress?

This section of ACT for Youth's website for young people helps youth explore the purpose of stress, stress signals, coping strategies, and ways to reduce stress.

Youth Web Pages

TeensHealth: Stress and Coping Center

This youth site from Nemours Foundation includes articles on stress, mental health conditions, and getting and giving help.

Youth Web Pages

Center for Young Women's Health: Emotional Health

Developed by Boston Children's Hospital, this Center offers young women many resources on emotional health, stress management, and coping.

Youth Web Pages

Young Men's Health: Emotional Health

Boston Children's Hospital offers young men resources for dealing with stress, depression, and anger, as well as friendships, among other topics.

Youth Web Pages

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