Background & Learning Outcomes:
For children to strengthen their ability to manage their behaviour when they are experiencing strong emotions, an essential skill is to identify their feelings. It is never too early to talk to children about emotions, build their feeling vocabulary and to help them see the link between feelings and behaviour. Linking these together demonstrates how our emotions can affect the choices we make. It can also improve children’s emotional-management.
- mirrors (optional)
- digital camera
Teaching and Learning Activities:
1. ACTIVATE THINKING: Introduce a single emotion to the class. Use either basic emotions such as mad, sad, scared, joyful, peaceful or more specific feeling words such as optimistic, lonely, embarrassed, surprised. Your choice of word will depend on the class' developmental level or connection to other teaching material. Be inspired by doing an internet search for "lists of feeling words".
Tell students that they will be exporing what this feeling means and how we can get clues from the way our body behaves. These messages tell us how we feel about experiences.
2. ACTIVATE THINKING: Brainstorm a list of things or situations students identify as making them feel the chosen emotion.
- Emphasize that feelings are normal: some feel pleasant and some feel unpleasant.
- Remind children not to judge our own feelings or other people's feelings because they aren't right or wrong.
3. Invite students to practice making faces and using body movement to display what the chosen emotion "looks like." Use mirrors to practice.
4. Take a photo of each child showing this emotion.
5. Ask each child to write a sentence that describes when they feel this emotion. For younger students, transcribe the sentence for them. Construct the sentence in an "I statement format" and ensure that it is appropriate to share with others. For example, "I feel sad when my dad leaves for a trip" or "I feel peaceful when my brother reads to me."
6. Compile the photos and sentences in a booklet, matching the students' photos and sentences.
- Display on a bulletin board
- Print for a classroom book.
- Photocopy for students to take home.
- Create a personalized book per student that covers a range of feelings. In this way, students can take home a book with their own picture for each emotion. This may stimulate dialogue with their caregivers about recognizing and expressing feelings.
- For intermediate students, increase the challenge of this lesson by choosing complex emotions and/or words that are new to them (like insignificant, sarcastic or confident).
- Have students do a thesaurus search to find other words that have similar or related definitions. Include these words in the book or display.
Adaptations for home:
- This activity can easily be adapted for use by parents with one or more child in a family.
Follow up with books about feelings:
If I Were a Lion (2004) by Sarah Weeks. When a little girl winds up in trouble, she begs her parents for forgiveness by comparing her actions to wild, ferocious animals. Ages 0-6.
How do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad (2013) by Jane Yolen. Do you know what dinosaurs do when they’re mad? In this title from Jane Yolen’s extremely popular picture book series, children can see how dinosaurs act when they’re angry and what they should do to control their tempers. Ages 0-6.
Alvin Ho Series (2011-2014) by Lenore Look. Alvin Ho is afraid of almost everything. He’s scared of girls, tunnels, the dark, and he’s especially afraid of school. However when Alvin is at home, he is transformed into the amazing Firecracker Man who can do almost anything. Ages 6-12.
The Village of Many Hats (2000) by Caroline Woodward. Young Gina struggles with her sister's illness and a tragedy within her village that ultimately brings her community together. Ages 6-12.