Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday SOL We have mixed emotions

This is a Tuesday "Slice of Life" for Two Writing Teachers. Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.


I am exploring emotions with the children, developing our "emotions continuum." For this, I highlight the different expressions from characters in our read-alouds and have the children consider what that character is feeling. I photocopy each of these pages and add the named emotion as a label. Each of these pages is posted in our comfort corner (so that emotions are in full view, as children work through their various tough moments). I am trying to cultivate their emotional intelligence, to help children "read" their classmates' faces, to see that we often feel differently about things. Slowly but surely, we are learning how to deal with our many emotions - what is appropriate in the classroom, what might not be.  Truly, it feels right now that there is no end to this curriculum topic…that I could spend the year on it! Here are some of the emotions we have identified to date:
from the book What A Wonderful World by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele,
illustrated by Ashley Bryan


from the book Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

from the book Dogger by Shirley Hughes

I know the children are working hard to understand these emotions (and feel quite proud to be naming them), because they are talking about emotions pretty much all the time. Our morning hello has become significantly longer, as each shares aloud what they are feeling! It feels to me that they are "ripe" for this learning, that it engages them and supports them, allowing them to see things in a new way.

The children loved the book Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin, and I decided that the main character Mr. Fookwire should be part of our emotions continuum. I showed them the picture:

and we debated what he was feeling. One student said "angry," and I said that we already had the word "ANGRY," from the book Anh's Anger - a picture of Anh's face when his block tower crumbles. (This particular book is a lesson in how to work with one's anger, and we have been practicing breathing deeply to this strong emotion.)

However, I continued with the children,
our picture of Mr. Fookwire was something more than anger, 
perhaps "annoyed" or "furious."
The children seemed unfamiliar with the word "furious," though they made me chuckle with their understanding of "annoyed" - "My dad gets annoyed when he is driving," said one boy. So, we teachers acted out the two words, trying to dramatize the distinction and then the children had quite a debate - was Mr. Fookwire furious or annoyed? We decided to 'vote with our bodies' - have children move to one corner with Mr. Rude (our paraprofessional), if they thought the photo showed "Annoyed," and towards Ms. Kim (our Teaching Resident), in another corner, if they thought it was a better image of "Furious." In the end, we had 14 votes for "Furious" and a mere 8 for "Annoyed," so "Furious" became the picture's label.

The next day, in our physical education special - led by other teachers - the children were in whole group doing some floor exercises, when one little girl hit the little boy next to her - and, by luck, I happened to see it.

He cried out, more in indignation than pain, and I swooped over to see what was going on.

(I frequently wonder how much I miss. Certainly, I can't be expected to see or know what is going on during specials. This makes me wonder, how are other teachers responding to these challenging behaviors? Are we approaching these the same way? Does it matter?)

To her, I said - "Wow, I just saw you hit [Jack]; what is the matter? What happened that made you hit him?" [I tried to speak calmly, objectively, respectfully.]
She replied, "I am feeling furious!"
Uh, oh. There's our new vocabulary out for a drive.
I continued, as gently as I could muster, while embracing the little boy and rubbing his shoulder, and saying to the girl who hit, "Oh my! You look furious. Did [Jack] make you feel furious in some way?"
"Oh, no. I just feel it."
"Oh, well, hmmm, when we feel furious, we need to work out this strong feeling without hurting classmates. We are all safe, in the Big Cats. This is a good time to go to the comfort corner, and breathe - like Anh did, with his anger. You might have to breathe a lot, since you are furious, and not just angry."
"Oh, okay. I'm not furious anymore."
"Oh, that's good. Would you check on [Jack's] body, please? Ask him if he is okay?"

Then, to Jack, I encouraged, "Tell [Annie] that your body is 'not for hurting.' Tell her in your strong voice."

Yes, they keep me on my toes, keep me guessing, keep me wondering.

Is it expecting too much, for preschoolers to explore these emotional words?
Should they be a little older, a little more experienced?
Or is the future brighter, since they are striving to understand these words now?

How much we have to learn!


  1. I laughed out loud at how your new vocabulary word popped up...so soon! I love how you use books to teach feelings. I was talking with my kids the other day about feelings and how sometimes you hold two feelings at the same time. We were reading Violet the Pilot, and Violet feels proud and happy that she has rescued the boys from the river but sad and disappointed to have missed the air show... I love books and how they help us teach!

  2. I love everything about this exploration of words and emotions. And "Dogger" is one of my all time favorite kiddie books - our family copy was worn out many years ago!

  3. What a great idea and important series of lessons. Some of the book titles are new to me. The art is just fantastic. I'm adding hem to my library list and sending your post to my friend who teaches in one of our preschool programs.