9 Texts to Help Teens Develop Social-Emotional Skills

A teacher and student work on CommonLit.org.

These articles dig into important topics like happiness, stress, failure, and resilience.

Some of the most important learning that happens in middle and high school goes beyond reading, writing, and math. As our students get older, they also need to develop key social-emotional skills like self-regulation and resilience.

These nine informational texts explore different ideas and strategies to help middle and high school students be successful in school and in life!

For Teens, A Good Mood Depends on Sleep” by Meenaskshi Prabhune (6th Grade)

It can be easy for middle schoolers to get caught up in their increasing workloads and responsibilities. Still, it’s critical that they take care of their basic needs – like sleep! In this article, the author discusses how many hours of sleep teenagers should get each night. This text is super useful for showing your young adolescents that even as their internal clocks shift, it’s important for them to get plenty of rest to feel their best!

Lessons from Failure: Why We Try, Try Again” by Bethany Brookshire (7th Grade)

Everyone experiences failure, and it’s helpful to show students the importance of brushing themselves off and jumping back in. In this article, the author discusses a study that explores how people respond to failure and what makes them try again. Students will relate to the analysis of how people persevere when under pressure!

CommonLit's text "Lessons from Failure: Why We Try, Try Again"
Reading about how everyone experiences failure can show students the importance of trying again.

Can We Cultivate Our Own Happiness?” by ABC News (8th Grade)

Martin Seligman coined the term “positive psychology” to describe his exploration of how people can improve their own happiness. In this report, the author digs into Seligman’s research about the three roads to happiness. After reading, your students can consider what happiness category they fall into and how they can use that information to cultivate their own contentment.

Stress for Success” by Alison Pearce Stevens (8th Grade)

Everyone experiences stress at some point, but it isn’t always something that has to weigh us down. In this text, the author explores the ways that stress can be both harmful and helpful in our daily lives. This article gives students a great opportunity to think about what coping skills work for them and how they can shift into a “stress-is-enhancing” mindset.

CommonLit's text "Stress for Success"
Stress can be frustrating, but it can also be helpful in our daily lives.

The Value of Being Confused” by Barrett Smith (8th Grade)

It can be uncomfortable or embarrassing for teens to feel confused. In this informational text, the author describes why feeling confused is actually a good thing. Instead of fighting or ignoring your lack of understanding, accepting and analyzing it can lead to new insights! After reading, have students consider how they can apply what they learned to a school subject they find challenging.

Want to Get Into College? Learn to Fail” by Angel B. Pérez (9th Grade)

Many students experience intense pressure to be perfect in school, especially to ensure that they are accepted to a top university. But how important is a perfect college application? In this article, a dean of admissions discusses what colleges are really looking for and offers his surprising take on the importance of failure. This is a great text to share with your high schoolers as they start thinking about life after graduation!

The Bright Side of Sadness” by Bruce Bower (10th Grade)

If given a choice, most people would say they prefer to feel happy rather than sad. In this article, the author explores the results of several studies that show bad moods can actually have mental upsides. This text provides students with a great opportunity to discuss how they can leverage sadness to improve their decision-making and overall success.

Why It’s Time to Lay the Stereotype of the ‘Teen Brain’ to Rest” by Dan Romer (10th Grade)

Teenagers are often categorized as reckless and impulsive, but those stereotypes aren’t necessarily true. In this text, the author pushes us to reframe our thinking about what motivates adolescent behavior. Your students will appreciate the discussion about teens’ brain development and their predilection for exploration and novelty-seeking.

How Resilience Works” by Diane Coutu (11th Grade)

We know that supporting our students in developing resilience is key for their success in school and beyond. In this informational text, the author discusses how the ability to see reality, make meaning of terrible times, and make do with what you have helps people persevere. After reading, consider having students make connections between what they learned and their own personal experiences.

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