SEL & Beyond: Social Awareness “Perspective Detective” Strategy

SEL & Beyond: Social Awareness “Perspective Detective” Strategy


Grades K–12
Competencies addressed: Self-Awareness – Self-Management – Social Awareness – Relationship Skills – Decision Making

High school students having a discussion in a circle with laptops and tablets


Supporting students in seeing things from another person’s perspective. By explicitly teaching students to be more conscious of other people’s feelings and experiences, we can create a more accepting and respectful space. 


Define empathy and perspective taking. 

Choose an individual (living person, historical figure, character from book) and ask students questions that help them to examine that individual’s thoughts, feelings, and needs.  Then, discuss with students how those experiences would influence that person’s behavior. 

Student Reflection 

What did you learn about this person that you didn’t know before?

How does this change how you think about them?

Now that we’ve taken the perspective of someone else, what’s something you would like others to know about your experiences? 

Opportunities for Differentiation

Empower students by allowing them to choose or vote on the person for the activity.

Support English Learners (ELs) by having students do this activity on a famous English Learner.

Expand the lesson by writing a letter from the perspective of the person being studied. Get creative by having students create a fictional Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram post based on their character’s perspective. 

Integrate the arts by having students draw the emotions/thoughts of the person.  For older students, they can create a comic and use thought bubbles to demonstrate the thoughts and feelings of the person.

Adapt to online format by walking students through the activity and having them debrief in breakout rooms.  

Teachers’ Lounge

  • The focus is on being interested in the other person’s perspective or point of view. 
  • Remember, it’s not about projecting your feelings about the situation onto the person.
  • Be mindful of having students take on perspectives that might be upsetting. 
  • Remember to validate and affirm students’ home language and culture.

As always, we encourage you to modify activities to meet the needs of your students. 

See also:

SEL & Beyond: Social Awareness, for more on the SEL core competency Social Awareness

Other SEL strategies, including:

The first three chapters of this series:

The next chapter in this series:

SEL & Beyond: A Dynamic Introduction to Social and Emotional Learning and Its Core Competencies
Join SEL experts Trisha DiFazio and Allison Roeser for a free, 6-part SEL workshop! Session 4 (Social Awareness) begins 9/17 at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Infobase’s SEL Packages for All Levels: Instant Trial Access
Access content supporting the five competencies of social and emotional learning.

About the Authors

Trisha DiFazio

Trisha DiFazio is an author, education consultant, and former adjunct professor in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California (USC). She is passionate about empowering teachers and students around Social and Emotional Learning, Cultural Responsiveness, and Mindfulness.




Allison Roeser

Allison Roeser, Master of Health Science (MHS) and Professional Certified Coach (PCC), has almost two decades of experience working with leaders in education, child welfare, and social change. As an avid learner of mindfulness practices, Allison has seen firsthand the value of integrating self-awareness into professional and personal development.