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Teaching About Feelings in the Classroom

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is now seen as a critical component for school success. It is not just one more add-on to your curriculum. It turns out to be an important foundation for students’ ability to learn and apply their learning to their lives. Emotional intelligence is strongly linked to staying in school, avoiding risky behaviors and improving health and happiness in life. Like all learning, growing emotional skills takes practice. Unlike other school curricula, much of this takes place outside the classroom. Yet it is still critical to build the skills and practice creating a community inside the classroom. Schools and educators can promote emotional intelligence by:

  • Help students build their emotional vocabulary. Have students generate lists of feelings words. Make a feelings word wall of their ideas.
  • Help students recognize feelings. Have them take pictures or draw faces of people experiencing different emotions. Make a feeling faces quilt.img_0638
  • Use your reading and writing to explore feelings. Engage students in naming the feelings characters might be experiencing. “How do you think the character is feeling?”
  • Invite reflection on learning. “What does this mean to you?” “How are you feeling about that?”
  • Help students make connections between emotions and actions, and then engage them in problem solving.
  • Teach self-regulation. Have a discussion with students about strong emotions like anger, disappointment or frustration, and generate a list of things they might do to calm down e.g. deep breaths, mindfulness, a cool-down space.
  • Teach repair. Model making mistakes and fixing them. Encourage students to repair their own mistakes.

There are many resources for teaching these lessons in Positive Discipline in the Classroom Teachers’ Guide: Activities for Students including lessons on teaching feeling words, making a feeling faces quilt, problem solving, self-regulation and repairing mistakes.