Emotion Identification

Using the Scale as a Tool

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I love a good tool for students. I love it even more when the tool is able to provide students with a visual and tactile way to show how they are feeling. I know I have said it before, but I feel like it bears repeating – it is so important for us to teach our children how to recognize the emotional state they are experiencing AND how to accept that moment “as is”.

What the heck does that mean? It means that teaching children how to be calm isn’t everything. In fact, when we only focus on teaching calm (the Level 1-2’s for my scale users!), then we lose the most important message – that all feelings are OKAY!

Sure we need to teach calming strategies, but we also need to teach our students how to recognize ALL of our feelings. This means focusing on the feelings, behaviors, body cues and triggers at each level and knowing ourselves enough to recognize when we’re beginning to move up the scale to a level that may cause more upset. Doing this normalizes these experiences for our children, and it also allows them to learn how to accept themselves in each moment rather than feeling guilt or shame.

Here’s the most important part of this to remember – just because you validate the way your child/student feels at each level does not mean that you agree with the behavior! It means that you are willing to acknowledge the upset and coach the child through the uncomfortable feelings that arise in the moment. Co-regulate, connect and coach through levels 1-5 without vilifying any of them! Acknowledge that these feelings are normal, and that we all experience them. Doing so means that we are more likely to move through them without feeling guilty, which allows all involved to cope and move forward.

Scaling Feelings, Behaviors, Body Cues & Triggers

This tool was hinted at in the last video that was posted regarding the Size of our Feeling, and I’m ALMOST done with the activity guides; however, I wanted to post to talk about this tool before the debut of the activities (and maybe give a preview picture or two!).

I really like using a 5 point scale with my students. I feel like it gives them a way to easily identify how they are feeling, sometimes without even having to say a thing. I like it so much, in fact, that I have begun to not only teach this to my individual and small group kiddos, but also to entire classes – and here’s how it works!

Introduction. I have been starting these lessons by showing the Size of Feeling video. Afterwards, I do a quick and simple lesson to introduce the concept of there being different levels of intensity to our feelings. I use weather metaphors to help students understand. For example, a Level 1 is like when the sun is shining and a Level 5 is like a tornado. We talk about how the intensity builds – sometimes slowly and sometimes super fast, so it’s important for us to learn how to recognize what we think/feel/do at each level!

Size of Feeling. Once students have a basic understanding of the intensity of each level, we move on to leveling our feelings. We talk about the smaller feelings we can handle on our own (Happy, Calm, Focused, Tired) and the bigger feelings that we might need help with (Angry, Anxious, Scared). I also try to highlight how some feelings are SO big that their name changes based on their intensity. For instance, angry might start at a Level 3 Mad, then move to Level 4 Frustrated and finally Level 5 Furious. I have also used this lesson as a stand alone to discuss how each of us experiences different feelings at a different intensity when I have a student with strong feelings in the classroom.

Size of Behavior. This lesson focuses on how our feelings and behaviors are linked. I focus on the fact that our feelings do not happen alone. They are most often paired with what we DO when we’re at each level. I try to focus on the fact that what Billy might do at a Level 3 may be different than what Sally does at the same level and that’s okay! This pairs really nicely with the Size of Feeling lesson to discuss how we all experience feelings in different ways.

Size of Body Cues. I love teaching about body cues! Leveling our body cues helps students gain insight into their body’s reaction to big feelings. Our bodies are pretty amazing, and give us clues to how we are feeling – even when our brains can’t make sense of what’s happening!

Size of Trigger. This is my favorite way to use the scale, which is probably why I save it for last. I love the insight that I am able to gain into a student’s behavior by simply having them level their triggers with the tool. I also do this last (typically) because I want to ensure that they have a true understanding of the different intensities before they tell me what may cause them to “go to” each level.

How to use the Scale Once Finished

Remember, this scale is a tool. It is not something that should be used to punish or manage behavior. At its core, the scale is a way for children to identify and communicate how they are feeling for themselves and those around them. It also give us (the adults) great insight into the amount of self-awareness that our students possess!

Once my students have mastered this concept, I like to give them the option of creating their own personal scale. There are a few different ways I have done this (depending on the student). Sometimes I will simply have them draw a picture of themselves at each level. Other times I will actually take a picture of them in each level and put it on the scale. Either way, once their personal scales are complete, I laminate them and make them portable!

Once the personal scales are complete, teachers can then use them in a variety of ways. You can use them as a morning/afternoon/dismissal check in. You could use the scale to point out the feelings levels as they ebb and flow throughout the day. You could create a classroom feelings scale to provide common language for all of your students. You could even create your own and point out your levels as they change to help normalize the concept for your students! The options are endless – hence why it is one of my favorite tools to teach!

Keep a look out for the activities! They’ll be done soon (promise!).