Feelings & Wellbeing at School: Identifying and Talking about Emotions 2021

How do you teach students about their feelings, you ask? Try out some of Guide to Life’s activities and tips in your classroom.

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Table of Contents

Identifying and Talking about Feelings

The aim of teaching pupils about physical and mental wellbeing is to give them the information that they need to make good decisions about their own health and wellbeing. It should enable pupils to recognise what is “normal” and what is an issue in themselves and others and when issues do arise pupils know how to seek support as early as possible from appropriate sources.  

Physical and Mental Health are interlinked, and it is important that pupils understand that good physical health contributes to good mental wellbeing, and vice versa. 


Effective teaching should aim to reduce the stigma attached to health issues, in particular, those to do with mental wellbeing. Schools should engender an atmosphere that encourages openness. This will mean that pupils feel they can check their understanding and seek any necessary help and advice as they gain knowledge about how to promote good health and wellbeing 

By the end of Primary School pupils should know: 

  • That mental wellbeing is a normal part of daily life, in the same way as physical health. 
  • That there is a normal range of emotions (for example- happiness, sadness, anger fear, surprise and nervousness) and scale of emotions that all humans experience in relation to different experiences and situations.  
  • How to recognise and talk about their emotions/feelings, including having a varied vocabulary of words to use when talking about their own and others’ feelings. 
  • How to judge whether what a pupil is feeling and how they are behaving is appropriate and proportionate. 
  • The benefits of physical exercise, time outdoors, community participation, voluntary and service-based activity on mental wellbeing and happiness.  
  • Simple self-care techniques, including the importance of rest, time spent with friends and family and the benefits of hobbies and interests.  
  • Isolation and loneliness can affect pupils and that it is very important for pupils to discuss their feelings with a trusted adult or seek support. 
  • That bullying (including cyberbullying) has a negative and often lasting impact on mental wellbeing. 
  • Where and how to seek support (including recognising the triggers for seeking support). Including whom in school pupils should speak to if they are worried about their own or someone else’s mental wellbeing or ability to control their emotions. (Including issues arising online). 
  • It is common for people to experience mental ill health. For many people who do, the problems can be resolved if the right support is made available, especially is accessed early enough.  

Identifying Emotions/Feelings

Pupils should be taught the language necessary to label and identify the different emotions they may experience. The reason for this is, we need to let pupils know that feeling a different emotion is normal part of life.  By giving your pupils the vocabulary needed to describe how they are feeling, you can encourage them to express themselves freely and productively. 

Facial Expressions and Body Language 

Pupils need to learn how to identify their own feelings, as well as others. One way to do this is by learning to pay attention to their own body signals, such as a frown and queasy stomach when nervous, or clenched fists and tight shoulders when angry. Once your pupils recognise it in themselves, they can pick up on the facial expressions and body language of others and learn to react accordingly.  

In the morning form/meetings or at circle time, perhaps spend five minutes modelling and discussing different feelings and emotional states. To make this easier to visualise the traits of emotions use the characters from Pixar’s Inside Out as examples.  

Emotions Clip Chart

One way to encourage recognition of feelings is to provide a visual reference for pupils to use. A clip chart helps pupils to recognise and identify how they are feeling. They simply place a clip on the chart in the space that shows how they are feeling.  

BONUS: You can make this a part of your classroom display and take notice of how each other is feeling every day as part of an emotions check-in. 

Teaching Healthy Expressions of Emotion

We all feel the full range of emotions.

Wherever we are on the happy, sad engaged, bored, proud or embarrassed ends of the spectrum. Helping expresses these emotions in a safe and healthy way in the classroom is a great way to learn and practice. 

“I feel…” Statements 

To learn how to express their feelings appropriately, pupils need to be taught how to use “I feel…” statements. 

For example: Instead of screaming insults at another child who broke their crayon, A pupil can say “I feel sad that you broke my crayon”, opening up the communication between the two students. This allows for healthy conflict resolution. 

“I-feel…” statements help prevent miscommunication that can happen when another takes an accusatory tone of voice.

Coping with Extreme Emotions 

Sometimes we must step in and help pupils deal with the emotional roller coaster they sometimes find themselves on. Their extreme emotions get out of control, and they need help finding their way back to calmness. As teachers, we must realise that addressing the whole brain is key to understanding how to help them best.  

Teaching Emotional Rights 

It is important for pupils to understand and assert their rights when it comes to emotions. This helps pupils maintain healthy boundaries with their friends and peers, and be respectful of teachers and adults.  

Connecting Pupils to Experiences with Emotions

Children learn to embrace their emotional state by realising that it is normal and okay to feel the way they do. It is our job as teachers to give them opportunities to label their feelings correctly. Emotional memory is strong! We can harness that power by helping students connect their experiences in the classroom with their emotions. By recognising and acknowledging their feelings during a learning activity or classroom event, we can increase the chances of it sticking in your pupil’s long-term memory. 


Encouraging your pupils to journal about their feelings is helpful. They express their feelings by writing about learning tasks, field trips or school events. Explain that this is a place where they can document how they are feeling and write down worries when they come into their head or happy thoughts that have occurred.  

Writing out these anxious and excited thoughts can help your pupils from becoming overwhelmed with all of their emotions all at once. Tracking thoughts and feelings in this way can help pinpoint what triggers certain students and therefore becomes a starting point in addressing those areas and working on them together.  

BONUS: This can also, improve your pupils handwriting, spelling, vocabulary and of course writing skills. 

Emotional Sort 

This activity can be quite fun! The aim is to identify and sort pictures or clips of people experiencing different emotions/feelings. By doing so they will gain practice recognising facial expressions and body language and therefore, feel more confident understanding their own and others feelings. 

Teaching Pupils about Brain Biology & Emotions

The human brain is fascinating subject, even for the youngest learners. Teach your pupils about the parts of the brain and what they are called, and how the different parts control their emotions and feelings.  

Brain Craftivity 

Try this fun craft activity in your classroom that teachers your pupils about the parts of the brain that control emotions. 

Encouraging Pupils to have a Positive Mindset

Add in Self-Talk and Self-Motivations skills. Positive and encouraging self-talk will help your pupils succeed and create a more positive classroom environment overall. For example, you can your pupils’ ways to feel good and focus on positivity. Here are ways to influence your pupils to have a good attitude at school and teach emotions to your class.  

Create a Vision Board 

Vision boards are used in all types of professions, from business to graphic design…they can also be used in the classroom too! Help your class visualise what they desire and what makes them happy. Precisely, when they have an image in their mind of what makes them thrive, pupils are more likely to reach their own goals and ultimately succeed in the classroom.

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