How to Teach SEL Skills in Health and Physical Education — Even Through Distance Learning

This summer, thousands of health and physical educators read SHAPE America’s 2020-2021 School Reentry Considerations: K-12 Physical Education, Health Education and Physical Activity to prepare for a new school year that would include in-school instruction with physical distancing, distance learning, or a hybrid approach.

In addition to showcasing specifics for HPE instruction, the document featured school-wide strategies for addressing equity, inclusion and accessibility; social and emotional learning (SEL); and trauma-sensitive instruction.

Most educators know that students and staff have been affected mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally due to COVID-19. Many are managing complex emotions such as anxiety, fear, loneliness, and grief.

Teach SEL Skills in HPE

The pandemic has illuminated the need for schools to consider students’ physical, mental, and social-emotional health above all else — and SHAPE America’s health. moves. minds.® program can help. The focus of the program is teaching social and emotional learning through a health and physical education lens.

Health and physical education teachers can use the lessons and activities to give students tools and strategies for managing complex emotions and taking ownership of their own health and wellness.

Teaching students these real-life skills now will not only help them cope with the effects and potential trauma of this pandemic but also have a positive impact on their physical and mental health for years to come.

The health. moves. minds. resources are a great tool for health and physical education teachers when applying and thinking through the School Reentry Considerations — specifically regarding the school-wide strategies mentioned above.

H M M @ Home Virtual and Distance Learning Resource Guide cover image

Adapt for Distance Learning

For health and physical education teachers who are still teaching virtually, the Virtual and Distance Learning Resource Guide helps teachers adapt the health. moves. minds. lessons and activities to meet the needs of distance learning.

The guide includes units, lessons and activities for three grade bands: K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, including:

K-5 Unit: Being Mindful, Being Kind

  • Lesson 1 — A Mindful Minute and Our Feelings
  • Lesson 2 — R-E-S-P-E-C-T
  • Lesson 3 — We Are a Team
  • Lesson 4 — Being Mindful, Being Kind

6-8 Health Education Unit: Power Through Empowerment

  • Lesson 1 — Analyzing Influences and You
  • Lesson 2 — Analyzing Influences and the Power of Words
  • Lesson 3 — My Values and Beliefs
  • Lesson 4 — Deal Breakers and Past Decisions

6-8 Physical Education Unit: Empowered Mind & Body

  • Lesson 1 — Mindfulness and Myself
  • Lesson 2 — Diversity for All
  • Lesson 3 — The Power of Calm
  • Lesson 4 — Empowered Mind & Body

9-12 Health and Physical Education Unit: Mindfulness

  • Mini-Lesson 1 — Mindfulness and a Mindful Minute
  • Mini-Lesson 2 — Analyzing Cell Phone Usage
  • Mini-Lesson 3 — H-A-L-T-E-D: What’s Bothering Me?
  • Mini-Lesson 4 — The Mindfulness Pop-Up Shop

Incorporate Service-Learning

The health. moves. minds. program has an optional service-learning component which gives students the opportunity to raise money for their school and/or a local charity while supporting school-wide wellness.

Integrating this service-learning component reinforces to students the importance of community, working together to achieve a goal, and the benefits of giving back — all of which can have a positive impact on emotional and mental wellness.

Health and physical education teachers are encouraged to register for full access to all of the free educational materials. Once you have introduced the health. moves. minds. concepts to your students — and the rest of your school — you can make the most of the program by hosting a school-wide fundraising event in the spring.

This is a great way to foster fellowship and give students, the school community, and families the chance to come together and celebrate.

Student in turkey feather headdress smiling for camera amidst 'Turkey Trot' fundraiser
Owatin Creek Elementary School in Reading, PA, held a “Turkey Trot” fundraiser to benefit a local charity.

Owatin Creek Elementary School in Reading, PA, held a “Turkey Trot” fundraiser to benefit a local charity.

If you have any questions about how to use the health. moves. minds. program in your school, email

Additional Resources

Michelle Carter

Michelle Carter is director of educational content and programs at SHAPE America. She is a former health and physical educator for District of Columbia Public Schools. Follow her on Twitter @HPEmichelle or email her at