In the last post of this Communicating with Compassion series, I gave several easy, interactive activities to help older students build emotional vocabulary skills. To refresh your memory, we are focusing on three areas critical to helping students become more peaceful, compassionate communicators:
- Language that shares emotions
- Listening with compassion
- Assertive vs. aggressive communication
Here there are lots of fun activities to help younger students develop language to share emotions developed with my talented SLP colleague Danyela Williams.
Activity #1: Building blocks
Building an emotional vocabulary is crucial- because many of our students are either self described as “happy”, “sad”, or “mad” and miss all the subtle variances of the feelings in-between— probably because they do not have labels and definitions for those emotions. It is very possible however to use these basic terms as literal building blocks from which to expand their vocabulary repertoire.
Danyela uses legos in many different ways during sessions, and one of them is to use the larger blocks that make it easier to be written on. In the beginning of the year we start with one term and add to it frequently as additional terms are introduced through stories, pictures, or situations. The children get very excited to get a turn to go the building block bin in the corner!
Activity #2: Connecting straws
It has also been helpful to use children’s stories where the main character or characters encounter situations causing gradual escalation of emotions. For example, in the the classic Little Golden Book story by Jon Stone entitled, “The Monster at the End of this Book”, our beloved furry pal Grover is feeling initially worried and anxious and eventually terrified about the prospect of meeting the monster at the end of the book.
One way that has helped students understand the variations in emotions is by creating visual height to indicated stronger emotions. Here, the students first become familiar with the story and then used a physical manipulative (connector straws) to build a tower and then retell the story using targeted emotional vocabulary terms. You will note the transition from yellow to red straws, again reinforcing the Zones of Regulation Curriculum.
Activity #3: Graduated color sheet picture
One story we all enjoy using with elementary students is “Alexander and theTerrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” Judith Viorst. As we read Alexander’s encounters, it’s fun to introduce or reinforce the graduated terms and the students color a white sheet in varying color intensities to match accordingly. It serves as a conversation prompt because the students sheets tend to differ and it does inspire a bit of competition to learn and include terms that a peer may have used.
Activity #4: Get them moving!
Another option that allows for a great deal of physical movement is to use stairs to again give a broader representation of varying emotions and their level of intensity. You can give situations and the students stand on the step and verbalize that emotion at the single word level or in a phrase or sentence depending on their level. There is a wide range of possibilities here because you can address, “How would you feel if….?”, “How do you think your teacher would feel if”, etc. Another idea is to give situations that vary in quantity as it seems to be easier to gage their responses. (i.e., How would you feel if you went on vacation to the beach for 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, etc.? or How would you feel if you were given 1 bite of chocolate,2 bites, etc).
If you are interested, I have a resource targeting Emotional Vocabulary skills in younger student in my Teachers Pay Teachers store that has gotten great reviews! You can check it out here: Emotions Vocabulary.
And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to be notified of my next post in this series — Activities to Build Compassionate Listening Skills Part 4 #Communicating with Compassion. Please click here if you missed Part 2: Activities to Build Emotional Vocabulary Skills in Older Students.
How do you target emotional vocabulary skills in younger students? Please share your ideas!