Everyday SEL Courageous Conversations

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Relationship Skills
Responsible Decision-Making
Social Awareness
Social-Emotional Learning
Courageous Conversations about social justice are an Everyday SEL practice. These prompts can be used to facilitate conversations that aim to build empathy and connection to others by inviting participants to speak and listen from the heart. Courageous Conversations take place after a stimulus, such as a video or image, is introduced. A stimulus is used to build background and stimulate thinking and discussion.

SEL Connection: 

  • Self-Awareness: examine prejudices and biases
  • Self-Management: be careful with respectful language and actions
  • Social Awareness: show concern for the feelings of others
  • Responsible Decision-Making: communicate effectively; choose language with empathy 
  • Relationship Skills: make new friends and be open to unfamiliar people and experiences


Sometimes a concept comes up that we don't quite understand but we are afraid to admit we don't know. Sometimes we may be timid about opening up a conversation that introduces conflict or different opinions. We can build a sense of safety and resilience to talk about important things through brief conversations. The tools below give you some guidance in facilitating courage and respect in conversations.

  • Label a chart "Parking Lot" and display it in the room where anyone can add questions or ideas they want the group to come back to later. We can park ideas temporarily if they don't fit the current conversation. 
  • Collect poetry, images, video, and music that can serve as stimuli for conversation about important issues. 
  • Invite young people to write down their questions and thoughts in a journal. 

Activity Instructions

  1. Use the resources below whenever the terms and ideas come up natually in conversation or introduce these one concept a day over many days.
  2. Each stimuli below begins with a word to define and is followed by discussion prompts. 

Whole Group Discussion Vocabulary and Questions

  1. Identity
    definition of identity - who or what a person is and how they think and act

  • What are the ingredients that make up the masterpiece that is you?
  • What identity traits do you see in others that are different than you?
  • What can you do as a team to make the world better because your identities are stronger together than alone?
  1. Racism
    definition of racism - an incorrect and damaging belief that our race - based on appearance and where we come from - determines our abilities; the underlying belief that some races are better than others

  • Why do people have different skin colors? What are some ways to describe our race or culture?
  • What are some good things that can happen when people who are different stand together?
  • What is racism? What are some ways people are hurtful to people of a different race?
  • What can you do if you notice racism or realize you are acting like some people are not as good because of their skin color or culture?
  1. Prejudice
    definition of prejudice - an unfair opinion or feeling, formed without enough information

  • How does prejudice hurt people? It isn’t easy to spot our own prejudices. What are some things we can look for to become aware of prejudice?
  1. Bias
    definition of bias - being in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair

  • Biases, or the way we lean toward something, can be good or bad. Why do we have to be aware of our biases? 
  1. Discrimination
    definition of discrimination - the unjust treatment of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or gender

  • What is something everyone has in common? What is something most people would agree needs to change? For example, everyone knows that being mean is wrong. Most people agree there shouldn’t be hungry people in the world.
  • What can you do if you see someone being discriminated against because of the color of their skin?
  1. Diversity
    definition of diversity - variety, and also the practice of celebrating the beauty and strength that differences bring to our communities.

  • People are different in many ways - size, color, beliefs, age, how they work and play, how they dress, where they live, what they like to eat, and more. Why does having all this diversity make us stronger and more beautiful?  
  • Negative ideas about different people are learned from history and unfairness, so what can we do to unlearn those negative ideas and learn (or teach) new truths about diversity?
  1. Stereotype
    definition of stereotype - a widely held but oversimplified and usually unfair idea of a particular type of person or thing

  • What are you missing when you decide what someone is all about when you first look at them? 
  • Curiosity can help you learn more. What question can you ask anyone to help you learn more about them?
  1. Social Justice
    definition of social justice - a view that everyone deserves a fair chance to opportunities and rights

  • When the corn moved in, it hurt the small garden and the future looked hopeless. Why was the solution good for everyone?
  • Notice that justice includes compromise, and making changes helped the little garden without hurting the corn growers. What changes did they make?
  • Justice means finding solutions that make things more fair for all. You may have felt anger at first and a desire to cut down all the corn. How can the anger we feel be used as energy to find fair solutions? 
  1. Activism
    definition of activism - work that seeks to bring about change

  • In what ways do adults underestimate kids?
  • Kids need to be kids, but they are also brilliant and have many ideas and tools to make change. What do you think kids can and should do when they see things broken in the world?

Self Reflection Writing Prompts

What are some conditions that help you feel safe or brave talking about important topics?

Wrap Up

Invite participants to look for poetry, images, video, and music that can serve as stimuli for conversation about important issues.


  • Introduce the tools of courageous conversations with this Learning to Give resource: Critical Conversations
  • As a staff, read the book Courageous Conversations about Race by Glenn E. Singleton.
  • The book The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander is a great read aloud for any age. It shares the stories and strengths of African Americans. Here is the author reading it aloud