Emotional Literacy Activities & Games

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Emotional literacy is what allows children to describe and understand their own feelings and those of others. The activities in this lesson will help you enhance your students' emotional literacy while building a strong community.

Why Emotional Literacy Activities?

Are you concerned that your students do not understand their own emotions or do not seem to feel a sense of empathy toward others? If so, what you need to work on is their emotional literacy. Emotional literacy is what helps students regulate, describe and understand their own internal experience and empathize with others. Emotional literacy can go a long way toward helping build social skills and facilitating a strong sense of community in the classroom. Yet emotional literacy can be challenging to teach. It usually does not help to simply lecture your students about their feelings. One of the best ways to build emotional literacy in your classroom is by incorporating activities and games that let students practice and enhance their emotional literacy while enjoying their time together. The activities in this lesson are aimed at the early elementary grades but can be modified to meet the needs of students with different skill levels.

Building an Emotional Vocabulary

A major key in developing emotional literacy is building a vocabulary students can use to talk about emotions. This game makes vocabulary development artistic and fun, and you can play it once a week or every morning for a week. Display a photograph of a child's face that seems to be exhibiting a particular emotion. Ask your students to think of a word that describes how this child feels. Write a list of all of the different words students come up with. Then, ask them to turn and talk to their neighbor about a time they have felt that way. Challenge them to use a vocabulary word that they have not used before. For instance, a student might say, 'I felt excited when my mom told me we were going out for ice cream after school.' The next time you play, make sure the photograph represents a different sort of emotion. Over time, your students will develop an active vocabulary of words that describe their feelings.

When I Feel Sad...

One thing young children are starting to understand is that not everyone experiences emotions in the same way. This activity helps your students think about empathy and different perspectives. Start by asking your students to think about a time they have felt sad. A few students may want to share their stories. Next, ask your students to think about what they wanted from people around them when they felt sad. Have each student draw a picture that illustrates what they would want from others in a moment of sadness. Some students may draw a picture of getting hugged, while others may draw getting left alone. When your students are finished, have them share and explain their pictures to each other. Facilitate a discussion about why different people might want different things, and how they can support each other in a strong community.

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