Lesson Plan: Extend Emotional Literacy


Lesson Plan 

Background & Purpose:

This lesson plan is an adaptation from the Yale University's RULER feeling words curriculum[1] co-created by Dr. Marc Brackett. Preliminary research indicates that when lessons that focus on emotional awareness is integrated with academic curriculum, both academic and emotional competence improves. The lesson connects the exploration of emotions with personal experience, current or historical events, family/community associations and language arts.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will be able to connect emotions with personal experience, current or historical events, family/community associations and language arts.

Teaching and Learning Activities:

  1. ACTIVATE THINKING: Describe a scenario that elicits an emotional response. For example read a passage from a novel or a short newspaper article or show a video clip of a popular movie scene.
  2. Ask students to brainstorm a list of feeling words that they associate with the situation.
  3. Acknowledge that there are no right or wrong feelings because they are informed by individual perception. 
  4. Choose ONE feeling word to focus on and explore more deeply as a class. This may be influenced by how common it is felt by students or alternatively it might be an expression that is less common that can add to the student's emotional vocabulary.
  5. Have students draw this emotion using abstract shapes. This will allow a visual interpretation of the word in a creative way fostering divergent thinking about the emotion. In pairs, have students describe their image to a partner.
  6. Connect the emotion with social issues. Ask students to name global events that can be associated with the emotion. For example students may connect the 2004 New Year's Tsunami or 2014 E.Boli Outbreak with fear-related emotions or the end of apartheid with feelings related to joy.  
  7. In a take-home assignment, ask students to interview a family or community member about their experiences related to the chosen feeling word. Prompt questions could include:
    • Describe a time in your life that you felt _________.
    • How do you know when you feel this way?
    • How do you know when other people feel this way?
    • What else makes you feel _________?
  8. Faciliate a class discussion to share highlights from the interviews.
  9. Complete the exploration of this feeling word with a creative writing assignment inspired by the deeper understanding of the emotion.


  • Break the class into small groups. Each group focuses on a different feeling that was generated from the initial scenario. Each group is required to create a presentation about their particular feeling words based on the group members exploration of current events, individual interviews and small group dialogue.
  • Use Marc Brackett's Mood Meter[2] to discuss the connection between energy and feeling.

Enhancing academic performance and social and emotional competence with the RULER feeling words curriculum.

In this study, the feeling words curriculum was implemented over 30 weeks currriculum with 5th and 6th grade students in 15 classrooms. Both academic performance and emotional competence were assessed before and after the implementation of the program. Results showed a higher rating in emotional competence, work habits, leadership, social skills and study skills as compared to a comparison group.

The Mood Meter is one tool in the RULER Approach to influencing the emotional climates of schools and enhancing social and emotional skills with students.

The program teachers children how to recognize emotions in oneself and in others, understand the causes and consequences of a wide range of emotions, label emotions using a sophisticated vocabulary, express emotions in socially approriate ways and regulate emotions effectively (using the acronym RULER).

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.