Sunday, May 6, 2012

Emotional Muscles

Teachers are aware that as school comes to a close for the year, emotions run high.  The summer looms causing excitement, saying goodbye to classmates and teachers cause sadness, the adventures the next school year brings can cause trepidation and fear.  Change always stirs up emotions.

When your own children are going through this you know how exhausting it can be.  When you have a classroom full of students who are going through this it can be overwhelming.  So teachers pull every trick they have out of their arsenal to help students through this unsettling time. 

In our class we have a large chart that is divided into three sections.
The top section is in green for "go".  Listed in this section are positive emotions, the feelings that make us feel good and strong.  These are the emotional muscles we want to strengthen.  These are the words that represent our power to handle whatever comes our way.

The middle section is the yellow section (our chart is yellow so the words are written in blue).  The words in this section represent emotions that we all feel from time to time.  They are emotions to be aware of in ourselves and others.  When we feel them we should express them in an appropriate outlet, quiet time, talking, writing or drawing our feelings, taking a break, getting exercise and fresh air, listening to music, are all outlets for these feelings.

The third section is in red for STOP!  If you feel these negative emotions, find one from the green section to remind yourself that your power is in the positive section.  We do not want to give our power away to the negative side.  I tell the children that everytime we fight, whine, argue, complain, or hurt someone we are giving our power away.

Positive  - Power - Practice these to have strong emotional muscles
Happy     Strong    Smart    Helpful    Caring    Thoughtful    Friendly    Kind    Respectful    Honest
Careful    Confident     In Control    Calm    Quiet      Focused      Forgiveness 

Slow Down and Express these feelings appropriately 
Sad    Fearful    Angry    Lonely    Hurting     Silly    Loud     

Negative - Needs immediate attention
Out of control    Crazy    Distracted    Careless     Hurtful     Unkind     Disrespectful     Fighting     

Our class brainstormed many words to use and you can do the same.

The next step comes in conjunction with the restroom symbols at the top of the post.  Everyday we ask the students to pick a positive emotion to work on and write it inside their "mini me" (diagram).  We ask the students to record other positive emotions inside the diagram throughout the day.  If there are emotions from the Slow Down and Negative list, we ask them to record these outside of the diagram.

Throughout the day we try to catch student practicing their positive emotions.  If a child is helpful we'll notice that and comment on it.  If the word he chose to work on is "helpful" he feels proud that we noticed.  If that was not his word, he can add it inside his mini me.

If there is whining, arguing, tattling, we encourage the students to talk about it with the person who is involved in the issue or they can choose to forget about it because whatever the problem is, it is much smaller than their friendship and they should work on the positive strength of forgiveness.

This is working very well.  Next year I plan to begin the year using this strategy!

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