TOP 5 Fall Counseling and SEL ideas for Elementary Students


As the leaves change and the air turns cool, autumn brings the perfect opportunity to dive into 5 popular fall counseling and SEL topics in your classrooms! Explore feelings, friendship, safe choices, gratitude, and empathy using done-for-you resources and books with your elementary students. It will be easy for students to make connections with these social-emotional learning topics as they watch the outdoors transform right before their eyes.

Use Resources and Books to Teach 5 Key SEL Skills in Fall

These 5 topics are important to address fundamental development and social-emotional learning skills with your elementary students:

  1. Feelings
  2. Safe Choices
  3. Friendship
  4. Gratitude
  5. Empathy

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1. Teach Students about Feelings

With the changes of fall and the approaching holiday season, students are likely feeling lots of emotions! By explicitly teaching them how to identify their feelings and then how to express them in healthy ways, you’re going to be setting them up for success in the next few months— and for lifelong success too!



Coloring is just one of many ways to express and process emotions. Use this Color the Fall Feelings activity to teach SEL skills to even your youngest students. 

While completing this activity, students practice expressing their feelings through art. As they associate different colors with different feelings, they practice visually communicating their emotions.


The Very Last Leaf by Stef Wade 

The Very Last Leaf is about Lance Cottonwood. Lance is the greatest and smartest of the leaves at school, but even still, he worries. He makes high grades in all of his classes but is so nervous about his final exam of floating to the ground. Lance is afraid of falling off of the tree and makes excuse after excuse as to why he cannot do it. He even tries to look like an evergreen leaf and stay on his tree all winter long. 

A kind teacher helps Lance overcome his fear, and his classmates encourage him when it is time to let go. In the end, Lance lands safely on the ground and is extremely proud of himself for acknowledging his feelings and accepting his fears. 

This book includes themes of identifying emotions, perseverance, friendship, and the beauty of letting go.

Spookley and the Square Pumpkin by Joe Troiano

"Spookley the Square Pumpkin" revolves around Spookley, a little pumpkin who is different from all the other pumpkins in the pumpkin patch because he is square instead of round. Spookley's square shape makes him self-conscious and worried about not fitting in with the other pumpkins. However, as the story unfolds, Spookley learns that being different can be an advantage. When a fierce storm threatens the pumpkin patch, Spookley's unique shape allows him to save the day by blocking the wind and keeping the round pumpkins safe.

This book helps kids understand the importance of embracing others’ differences. It also conveys important messages about considering others’ feelings, acceptance, self-esteem, and the value of being unique.

2. Talk about Safe Choices

With Halloween festivities in full swing, your elementary students are going to be inundated with opportunities to make choices and decisions. Teaching safe choices during this season not only ensures your students can celebrate without danger but also empowers them to make responsible decisions in various situations in their daily lives. 

This empowerment fosters a sense of autonomy within them!



Teach your students to make healthy choices and consider trick or treat safety with this Halloween Safe Choices activity. They sort different choices into either the person or the trash can. 

This activity takes about 30 minutes to complete with a small or large group. The goal is for students to recognize good/safe and bad/unsafe choices. Both printable and digital versions are included with this resource!

3. Explore Positive Friendship Skills

Fall is often the time of year that the “new” has officially worn off and students begin having issues with their peers. Friendship skills are another great fall counseling and SEL idea to target. By focusing on friendship skills, you will be helping foster a more positive classroom and school environment.  



Students learn positive friendship qualities with this Build a Turkey Friend activity. As they work in small or large groups, they collaborate to create a turkey with friendship traits that they would like to have in a friend. 

This activity about making friends and keeping friends is perfect for Thanksgiving! It also includes a digital version for use with Google Slides.


Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

"Room on the Broom" is about a kind and friendly witch who goes on a journey on her broomstick. Along the way, she encounters various animals, including a dog, a bird, a frog, and a cat, who all ask to join her on the broom. The witch, being generous and understanding, makes room for each of them. 

However, as the broomstick becomes increasingly crowded, it eventually snaps in two when the witch and her companions are confronted by a fearsome dragon. By collaborating together, the new friends devise a clever plan to outsmart the dragon and find a way to rebuild the broomstick, ensuring that there is still "room on the broom" for everyone.

Children can clearly and easily see positive friendship skills on each page of this book!

4. Teach Students about Gratitude

​​Thanksgiving season provides a natural segway into gratitude discussions. Encourage students to be mindful by focusing on what they have to be grateful for instead of grumbling about what they don’t have or wish was different. Help them realize that there is always something to be grateful for!



With this FREE Gratitude Tree activity, students practice being grateful by writing what they are thankful for on different leaves and adding them to their tree. This activity is perfect for fall centers and or a Thanksgiving activity. 

Print in color or B&W— your students can color them in fall colors and demonstrate their unique art abilities!


Thankful by Eileen Spinelli

"Thankful" by Eileen Spinelli celebrates the beauty of gratitude in everyday life. The book follows a simple yet profound narrative that highlights the various things in life for which one can be thankful. From the small, ordinary moments like a sunny day or a warm hug to the more significant blessings such as friendship and family, Spinelli skillfully emphasizes the importance of appreciating the little joys that surround us. There’s power in being thankful! 

5. Educate about Empathy

Finally, with the cooler temperatures of fall, it’s natural to think about coziness and taking time to slow down and reflect. This introspective atmosphere goes perfectlyl with teaching empathy to your students!



The "Walk in my Fall Shoes" activity encourages children to understand and share the feelings of others, fostering empathy as they “step into” different perspectives. Students read different scenarios and answer questions, attempting to put themselves in someone else's shoes.

This social emotional learning activity includes a digital version for use with Google Slides and also makes for a great bulletin board! It takes about 30 minutes to complete with a small or large group. The goal is for students to practice having empathy and perspective-taking skills.


Leif and the Fall by Allison Sweet Grant and Adam Grant 

Leif is a leaf. He is worried because it is autumn, and he will need to fall soon. Leif’s friend Laurel demonstrates empathy as she helps him find a different way down from the tree. She helps him brainstorm different solutions to his problem and fears. They use items around them to create a net, a kite, and a parachute in an attempt to help soften Leif’s impending fall. 

Although none of their ideas work out, Leif doesn’t give up. In the end, all of Leif and Laurel’s ideas work together to be the solution. When Leif eventually falls from the tree, it turns out it wasn’t so bad after all. This book teaches children about change, acceptance, empathy, and being a good friend.

Using these 5 fall counseling and SEL ideas to teach your elementary students will definitely make a positive impact on this season and the rest of the year. From me to you, THANK YOU for all you do for your students! 

You might also be interested in reading:

Teaching Generosity in the Classroom

Children’s Books about Gratitude

Teaching Gratitude in the Classroom 

You might also be interested in these products:

Gratitude - Character Education & Social Emotional Learning

Generosity - Character Education & Social Emotional Learning 


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