Add “Harry Styles magic” to Your Students’ SEL

By Patty McGee

Harry Styles, the crooner with irresistible charm and a voice that can defrost the coldest heart, might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about building emotional intelligence in the classroom.

But hold on to your heart glasses and feather boas because we’re about to embark on a journey to infuse some “Harry Styles magic” into our social-emotional learning!

In countless ways, Harry Styles’ lyrics can be surprisingly fun and effective to build emotional IQ. Harry’s songs act as springboards for exploring and learning about our emotional landscape.

“Treat People with Kindness” – The Golden Rule with a Pop Twist

Maybe we can (all together now!)
(One more time!)
Find a place to feel good (oh yeah!)
And we can treat people with kindness (just a little bit of kindness)
Find a place to feel good (ow!)

What better way to dig into emotional learning, specifically social awareness (CASEL), than with Harry’s catchy mantra, “Treat People with Kindness”? It’s the classroom version of “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” Ask students to discuss what kindness means to them, share stories about acts of kindness they’ve experienced, and maybe even plan a random act of kindness to spread the “Harry-style” love.

“Watermelon Sugar” – A Splash of Joyful Memories

Tastes like strawberries
On a summer evenin’
And it sounds just like a song

Now, let’s dive into the juicy flavor of “Watermelon Sugar.” This song is like a sip of sunshine and a spoonful of treasured memories. It is also a beautiful entry point into exploring self-awareness (CASEL), particularly what brings us joy. Ask students to reminisce about their happiest moments and explore how those memories make them feel. You can even create “watermelon moments” as a focus for the year to celebrate joyous junctures of learning together!

“Sign of the Times” – Facing Life’s Curveballs

​​Just stop your crying
Have the time of your life
Breaking through the atmosphere
And things are pretty good from here
Remember everything will be alright

“Sign of the Times” takes us on an emotional rollercoaster ride, and it’s the perfect tune to discuss heavy emotions like fear and despair, which is an exquisite exploration of self-management (CASEL). We have all dealt with deep emotions, and we all know what just the right song can do for us emotionally. Analyze the lyrics just as you would analyze a poem, and consider ways the song’s protagonist could handle their problems in a healthier manner. This is a fantastic way to teach problem-solving and resilience with a Harry Styles twist!

“Adore You” – Love Yourself First

Walk in your rainbow paradise (paradise)
Strawberry lipstick state of mind (state of mind)
I get so lost inside your eyes
Would you believe it?

In “Adore You,” Harry sings about love and acceptance. Use this song to spark discussions on self-acceptance (self-awareness & self-management, CASEL). Encourage students to share their experiences of feeling adored for who they are and how that made them feel. It’s a fantastic way to help them embrace their uniqueness. The video for the song is a bonus to hit this out of the park! In fact, I just shared the video with my college freshman as a little love note

“Golden” – Embracing Change with Confidence

You’re so golden
I don’t wanna be alone
You’re so golden
You’re so golden
I’m out of my head
And I know that you’re scared
Because hearts get broken

“Golden” is all about the excitement and concern of new beginnings. Challenge students to connect the lyrics to their own experiences of change and growth. Ask them to share how they felt when they embarked on a new adventure, especially if it was something that seemed frightening at the moment but turned out… well…golden. It’s an opportunity to discuss the emotions that come with change and how to navigate them gracefully (self-awareness, CASEL).

Endearing and Relatable

Harry Styles, 2018

So there you have it – a “stylish” guide to social-emotional learning in the classroom using Harry Styles lyrics. By infusing a pinch of pop culture and a dash of playfulness, we can create engaging and memorable experiences that resonate with students and grow their emotional IQ.

From kindness to joy, from complex emotions to self-acceptance, and from change to growth, Harry Styles’ lyrics offer an endearing and relatable way to explore the intricate world of emotions. His “Love on Tour” may be behind us, but we can keep Harry’s House front and center. So go ahead, hit play on some Harry Styles tunes, and let the magic of his music inspire a new level of emotional intelligence in your classroom! 🎵✨

Also be sure to check out Patty’s MiddleWeb article:
Using Taylor Swift Lyrics to Engage Kids with Text

Patty McGee is a veteran teacher and literacy educator. She is the author of Feedback that Moves Writers Forward (Corwin 2017), Grammar Units of Study and Writer’s Workshop Made Simple: 7 Essentials for Every Classroom & Every Writer (both Benchmark 2021). She regularly consults with teachers and principals in Grades K-12 on literacy instruction.

Patty’s favorite moments are in the classroom with both educators and students. A former classroom teacher, media specialist, and staff developer, she is the 2002 recipient of the prestigious Milken Award for Excellence in Education. Read her other MiddleWeb articles,follow her @pmgmcgee and visit her website at

Harry Styles image above: Lovclyhes, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Feature image: erintheredmc, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


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