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    Friday, February 16, 2024

    Teaching About Feelings in the Special Education Classroom

    After all the talk about what students love during Valentine's Day activities, I always found a natural next step in my thematic units was to focus on feelings and emotions. 

    Check out some of my favorite Emotions activities:

    ELA Ideas

    • I first introduce feelings vocabulary. We use a variety of visuals including photos, icons, and even emojis. 
    • Next, we practice sorting emotions based on the vocabulary we've learned. These cut and paste worksheets are also included in my Feelings Thematic Unit

    • Then, we read stories to discuss each emotion in context. I love The Way I Feel by Janan Cain because it covers so many robust feeling words. I use the communication board from my Feelings Thematic Unit for students to participate.

    • Another favorite feelings story is When Sophie Gets Angry-- Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang. I love this story for introducing the concept of coping strategies to my students. 

    I love this story so much that I created an entire Picture Book Communication and Comprehension Supports resource which you can check out in my TPT store. It includes vocabulary, sentence building boards, AAC, comprehension questions, sequencing, and fill-in-the blank activities. Plus IEP goal ideas and progress monitoring sheets!


    Social Group Ideas

    • We practice our feelings vocabulary words by playing a game of charades where each student makes a silly emoji face and sees if their friends can guess them ๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿคจ๐Ÿ˜ฑ



    • We also practice our vocabulary with a variety of games including BINGO and this great board game board. 

    I use this universal game board from my Feeling Thematic Unit to practice a variety of skills depending on the needs of my students including: number, letter, or sound ID, reading sight words, answering math facts, or practicing other IEP goal skills in addition to our emotions vocabulary!


    • We also follow up our unit on When Sophie Gets Angry by talking about our own emotions, what causes them, and coping strategies for what we call BIG emotions. I created a book template for my students to use as a resource when they are having big feelings. It aligns loosely with The Zones of Regulation. This template is included as one of the 12 cross-curricular activities in my Feelings Thematic Unit.

    • This is also a good time to introduce our classroom Big Feelings Tools. I use the A Little Peaceful Spot book from the A Little Spot of Emotion by Diane Alber. After reading the story, I use a slide deck to introduce our Big Feeling Tools and model each tool and we discuss the expectations. 

    Our big feelings tools for moving our bodies include a Color Match Station which is a velcro board poster where students get vestibular input from bending down to get an Ellison cutout and then match it to the poster and a Heavy Work Station in which students match covered textbooks to corresponding colored Xs in the hallway.

    Our big feelings tools for resting our bodies include a Picture Reading Poster from S'cool Moves, a Calming Kit with small fidgets, and my Special Interest Deep Breathing Posters.

    Math Ideas

    • With so many different emotion icons, it can be a great opportunity to practice graphing. I have done this in a variety of ways. When we have more time, I have students sort and graph emoji erasers like these from Amazon:


    One year, my OT pushed in for a group and we actually had students make a collage with emoji stickers and then count and graph each emoji they used. These stickers were another great Amazon find. 

    For both the erasers and stickers, Amazon has a TON of options so you can certainly choose what variety works best for your students. 

    Admittedly, there have been years where I have needed to simplify the assignment so I pre-made a worksheet with various emotions for students to create. Of course you can find this in my Feelings Thematic Unit ๐Ÿ˜‰!

    • These erasers and stickers are also a great way to practice basic counting for students who aren't quite ready for graphing yet. I also made a fun emoji counting worksheet.

    Cooking Ideas

    • During our cooking time, my students loved making cooking activities with different faces such as waffles, rice cakes, or english muffin pizzas. 

    Interested in these activities and more? Why not bundle and save! 

    What is your favorite activity to teach feelings in your classroom? Which of these activities are you excited to try? 

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