Activities, Emotion Identification

Naming our Feelings

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We cannot expect our students to be able to regulate if they do not have the words to express how they are feeling. I absolutely love teaching feelings vocabulary to my students because I always find that it is so interesting to hear those that the students know. Sometimes, it’s even more interesting to hear the feelings that fill them with confusion or are left out completely!

Our next video about Size of Feeling will be coming out soon! In the meantime, I hope you find these few emotion identification strategies helpful!

Feelings Brainstorm and Sort

The Feelings Brainstorm is one of my favorite feelings activities to begin teaching this concept with. It shows me a few things: (1) How many feelings words do my students actually know? (2) What preconceived notions to they have about feelings in general? (3) What feelings do I need to focus on explaining in more detail? Plus it’s suuuuuper easy and generates a great conversation for all kids grades K-5!

Here’s what it looks like in action:

Because I am usually in a crunch for time, I typically just set a timer for 2-5 minutes and have students call out as many feelings as they possibly can – especially in a small group setting. I then write them down (with super speed!) list-style until the timer is up or they run out of ideas. Whichever comes first!

If I am teaching this in a class, I will usually have students spend those 2-5 minutes brainstorming on their own by writing down their ideas on a piece of scrap paper before asking one student at a time to share. Students will then cross off the feelings that are on their paper as we go until all feelings have been shared and there are no duplicates! I’ve also done this digitally where I type out of presentation mode while the students talk (the idea is still the same)! You can see examples of each below. A presentation slide is available with the lesson plans for this if you’re interested!

After we’re done, I count the number of feelings that the students were able to name and we celebrate how many feelings we already know. I think the record number for one of my groups is 50!

We then move in to categorizing the feelings we’ve listed into those that make us feel good on the inside vs. those that make us feel not good on the inside. This can be kind of tricky for students to understand, as they may naturally move into a discussion on those that make us feel good vs. bad. When this happens (because it probably will), I re-emphasize that ALL feelings are OKAY! There are no good or bad feelings. Some feelings just make us feel good while others leave us feeling pretty lousy. You can emphasize this even more by asking them, “Do you like feeling ___?” (happy, sad, mad, etc).

Some conversations get really interesting because students will start to recognize that some feelings can make us feel good or not good just based on the situation. You can see that this type of conversation happened with my small group in the picture above. Feelings with an asterisk next to them are those that students said, “…well it depends..” when asked to place them into our categories.

I actually love it when this happens because it allows me to do a quick check on my students that have a stronger connection to their emotions. What it means to me is that these students are recognizing that our emotions are in a constant state of flux depending on what is going on around us. This makes the next lessons in this series even more important because they focus on leveling our feelings and focusing our attention on what our bodies are trying to tell us when our feelings get too big!

Stay tuned!