Noticing our Feelings
Being able to tell the difference in the intensity of our feelings is one of the first ways we can learn to cope. It’s not only important for students to be able to name their feelings, but also notice how their bodies change and react based on the intensity of the emotion.
I like to tell my students that our feelings are a lot like the wind. The wind might always be blowing, but you may not notice that it’s there until you focus your attention on how it rustles the leaves on a tree, how it feels against your skin, how it’s blowing your hair – or until it completely blows you over.
Who doesn’t love a craftivity?! I love using crafts to help my students explore and express their feelings. The Feelings Wind Spinner craftivity is meant to help students focus their attention on their feelings – from the small “breezy” feelings (calm, focused, happy) to the bigger “gusts” that blow us over (anxious, furious, terrified).
Feelings Wind Spinner
This is the activity I use to give a tangible example of this concept to my students. It’s so much fun, and you really can make SO many connections to feelings with this lesson. It is a longer lesson, so I typically have to break it down into two parts. Part 1 focuses on decoration, and Part 2 focuses on connecting metaphor to our own emotions.
I use this activity following my Feelings Brainstorm because that activity gives my students a clear list of feelings to choose from. You can always just create a list of feelings without doing the actual brainstorm lesson, but it is a fun way to start the conversation.
Students choose 1-3 feelings that they feel the “most often”, then they assign a color to each feeling (red = mad; blue = sad, etc.). Then the fun begins! I give my students as much creative freedom as we have time for to decorate their spinner. They can use crayons, stickers, glitter glue, paint – if you have it, let ’em use it! As a side note, try to print these out on card stock if you can! It makes them much sturdier!
My 5 year old son had the cutest reaction to this activity that I HAVE to share because it made my social work heart so happy. He said, “I’m going to make a rainbow because I feel ALL feelings.” I mean… COME ON! Heart. Melted.
After the kids are done decorating, the spinners usually require some drying time (either from glue or paint – anyone else notice that a kid’s idea with either is, “MUST have MORE!”?). The end of decorating ends Part 1.
Part 2 is where the spinners are cut out and finished and the discussion happens! Finishing the spinners is really simple.
First, cut out around the circle. Then, follow the arrow and gray spiral with your scissors to make the spinner. If I am doing this activity with a small group, then I might take the time to cut these out for the kids before we meet. This saves a TON of precious time and allows for a longer conversation. Make sure to stop at the black line on the center circle! If you keep going, then the spinner will not work as it will not remain connected.
Once the spinner is cut out, take a pencil (or in my case a screwdriver – ha!) and poke a hole through the center circle. The whole needs to be big enough to allow a piece of string through, but not big enough to allow a bead to pass.
Grab a piece of string and cut out an appropriate amount of length for the spinner to be able to hang from (I think mine was about 18 inches). Tie a bead onto the end of the string. This will keep the string from pulling through the hole you created. Then, thread the string through the back of the spinner towards the front (the bead should touch the blank side).
There’s two ways you can hang the spinner. Either tie a paper clip on to the end OR simply end the string with a loop knot. I like to attach a paperclip if I know that I am going to be hanging the spinners in my classroom for a bit. Otherwise, just go with the knot!
At this point the spinner is done! Let your students take a minute to enjoy their beautiful creation!
The discussion happens once the spinners are complete. Depending on the weather, I will either take my students outside to actually feel the wind or I bring in a small desk fan. If you use a fan, make sure it’s one with different settings so they can feel the differences in power. We take a moment to be mindful about how the wind feels against our skin/bodies, then we hold up the spinner and notice how even the slightest breeze makes our creation move! The Feelings Wind Spinner lesson plan goes into more detail on what this part looks like, so click the link if you’re interested!
After this activity, I like to hang the spinners in my room for a bit as a gentle reminder to pay focus to what they are feeling throughout the day. I tell students that if they find their attention wandering to the spinner and they see it moving, then they should ask themselves, “What am I feeling right now?“. Notice the feeling, then refocus their attention to the task at hand!