Many of us integrate the Heart-Mind Well-Being framework’s areas of the heart seamlessly with the children in our lives. But as a kindergarten teacher at Spul'u'Kwuks Elementary School in Richmond discovered, there’s value in talking about the heart explicitly with children in this age group.
After participating in a Heart-Mind in Schools workshop delivered by the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, she created a lesson to help students better understand and regulate their feeling and actions. Her key objective for this lesson plan was for her kindergarten students to understand how their emotions and actions affect others.
Teaching young children to understand their emotions and needs might seem daunting—but it’s an important first step in helping them learn to moderate their behaviour. According to CASEL, self-awareness—the ability to recognize one’s emotions, thoughts and values—is a key social-emotional learning skill. Research shows teaching children to become aware of their feelings and how their actions affect others not only helps them regulate their emotions, but also improves their interpersonal relationships and ability to problem solve. As children get older, these skills can also improve their sense of agency and academic abilities. A limited emotional literacy, on the other hand, can cause children to misperceive their own and others’ feelings, and act as a barrier to developing academic and social skills.
As can be seen through this lesson, the Heart-Mind Well-Being framework can be easily adapted for kindergarten students to increase their understanding of these important positive human qualities.
Are you interested in using the What Colour is Your Heart activity with children in your life?
Here’s how it takes shape in the classroom:
1. Explore what Heart-Mind well-being means in our lives
This educator began with a circle time where she introduced the Heart-Mind Well-Being framework in child-friendly language to students. She discussed what each area of the heart means, what it looks like in ourselves and others, and how it feels when someone is acting that way towards us or we are showing that quality towards others. She labeled each area of the heart by its corresponding colour and used the following adapted descriptions:
Green Heart: Feeling safe to be ourselves inside and outside of school
Purple Heart: Playing with friends in a way that makes everyone feel happy
Red Heart: Controlling our emotions: if you feel a difficult emotion, how can you leave a situation or act in a way that makes you feel better?
Orange Heart: Being kind and sharing with our peers
Blue Heart: Thinking about how others may feel in a situation and how our own behaviour may make others feel
2. Putting it into practice
When her class went out for recess following their discussion about the the heart, the teacher gave them an interesting assignment. She instructed them to think about which areas of their heart they were using while they were outside playing with their friends, and report back to her what they learned.
Most of the students had quite a bit to report when they came back to class. One student told her she had used her purple heart when she played tag, while another told her he used his orange heart when he played with his friends. Another student reported “I had a red heart when no one played with me, I went and found someone to play with and felt a lot better.”
Students were also encouraged to pay attention to when their peers were using various parts of their hearts. Their teacher asked them to place a corresponding coloured heart by that student to let them know their action had been noticed and valued.
The educator also actively recognized students when they put a particular area of their heart into practice. For example, if she noticed a student using sharing skills with a peer, she placed an orange heart on the table—this acknowledged their positive behaviour and reinforced their effort to foster the Compassionate and Kind quality.
Watch the video above to see this activity in action and be inspired by how small acts on the part of children or their educator has the potential to shape the way they view themselves and positively impact others in the classroom and potentially for years to come.