At the elementary level, many students need a springboard for discussion. This can help make students more open about their feelings.
I begin my lesson by discussing basic feelings. With a partner, students brainstorm words that express feelings—for example, mad, sad, happy, scared or surprised. We also discuss how these words can be grouped into categories. Then I give each student a stuffed animal and writing paper. Students look at their “animals” and decide how they are feeling and why. I write these ideas down on the board to aid students in their smaller group conversations.
Once students complete this task, they form small groups and introduce their animals to each other. Everyone in the group is responsible for figuring out how to be responsive to the animals’ feelings. For example, if one animal is sad, what can the other animals do to help? If another animal is happy, how can it use that positive feeling to benefit others?
After this small-group work, we re-form as a class. I help the students reflect on what our “animals” accomplished and how we can follow their lead. I hang four chart paper sheets on the wall with an outline of a person on each piece of paper. Above each person is a feeling word, such as mad, sad, happy, scared or surprised. The class then brainstorms ways to help others with these feelings. I ask some questions: How can we identify our own feelings? How can we express them in positive, healthy ways? How can we help those around us with their feelings? Each idea appears on the chart paper.
This list of ideas remains in the hallway or classroom after the lesson. It reminds students how to identify and express feelings in a helpful manner. In fact, students are encouraged to add other ideas as they think of them.
Students love this lesson, especially when they have their own stuffed animals. There is a sense of ownership in this activity. It gets students excited about participating and makes the group discussion stand out in their minds.
Marissa Rex, M.Ed.
This activity addresses the following standards using the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.