Teachers value getting to know their students and building a caring community. Noticing, naming, understanding, and sharing emotions is a big part of creating positive learning conditions in a classroom. That’s why we worked together with Sanford fit to create these free emoji cards designed for helping kids manage their feelings and emotions. Here are seven SEL skills kids can learn with these emoji cards and how to get them there:

1. I can check in with myself and name my changing feelings throughout the day

During community circles, transitions, and any extra moments you have in your day, check in on your students and help them express their feelings and emotions. Remind students that they can feel more than one emotion at a time! Show them how to move their body to change their mood. Have your learners hold up their emoji cards to represent their feelings. Ask these questions a few times a day or week:

  • How are you feeling?
  • Are your emotions staying about the same? Why do you think this is the case?
  • In what ways are your emotions changing throughout the day or week? What do you think is causing changes in your emotions?

2. I notice that kids are both the same and different from me, and that’s OK

Planning opportunities for kids to talk about their similarities and differences in a respectful manner builds appreciation for the diversity of learners in the classroom and beyond. Students learn to be more comfortable and curious with each other. When students respond to the following prompts, make sure each partner takes turns explaining why they feel the way they do. Encourage students to be specific and give examples from their lives.

  • Ask your students: How have you been feeling lately?
    Tell them to choose two or more emoji cards to hold up.
  • Next, have students find a partner who is feeling similar emotions.
    Ask partners: What do you both have in common?
  • Then, have students find a partner who is feeling different emotions.
    Ask partners: What emotions are different for you?

3. I know how to read a person’s face to understand their emotion

Hold up different emoji cards and ask students to show facial expressions to match the emotions. Use the printable poster to help build precise student language around emotions, facial expressions, and non-verbal communication. Have students describe what they notice about the facial expressions and body language. For example, a frustrated student might furrow their eyebrows, pull at their hair, and have their lips closed tightly. Paying attention to emotional nuances will help your students tune in to each other better and build their compassion which is fundamental to a positive classroom culture.

4. I can share how I feel about the work I do

Often in life, we have responsibilities to complete. Sometimes we enjoy what we need to d,o while at other times, we don’t. Learning to manage emotions and being responsible is part of growing up. Have students think about their homework responsibilities.

Ask your students:

  • How do you feel about homework? Draw an emoji to represent how you feel about each assignment.
  • Is there some homework you enjoy more than other work? Describe your feelings.
  • What’s your least favorite type of homework you have? Why?
  • What are you learning about yourself?
  • What advice could you give to your teacher about homework?

5. I can use what I already know in order to identify other emotions

Display the emoji cards and find the feelings cards. Describe scenarios and have students hold up emotion cards that describe how they might feel in that situation. Find the Feeling Cards can also be used to play a matching game with younger students.

  • How might you feel when a friend forgets your birthday?
  • What emotion do you feel when you get to go on a field trip?
  • If you spill your lunch on your clothes, how do you feel?

Encourage students to explain their thinking and value multiple perspectives. Next, talk about other feelings that are not pictured. Finally, have students draw their own emojis and label the emotions. Provide your students with specific words to help them get to a deeper level of self-awareness and social awareness. Have partners share the new emoji drawings and discuss a time when they felt the same as the emoji they drew.

6. I know how to be a good listener when others speak or share

Hold up emoji cards or realistic emotion cards one at a time and model how to say the emotion names. Next, have students chorally repeat the emotion names as a group. Invite a partner to work with you to model how to listen well. Ask your partner: How do you feel right now and why? Repeat what your partner said. You feel __ because __. Take turns. Have students work with several different partners exchanging ideas and repeating what each partner said. After the partners talk, engage in a whole group discussion about how it felt to be listened to. This simple activity can make your students feel seen, heard, and felt.

7. I think about how things make me feel

Choose from these questions to get some quality discussions going in your classroom. When students learn about each other’s lives, they care about each other on a deeper level and build trust and respect. Refer to the emoji cards when prompting the students.

  • What made you laugh recently? Why?
  • When you are feeling lonely, scared, frustrated, or sad, what makes you feel better?
  • What is something kind you could tell yourself now?
  • How do you feel when you wake up in the morning?
  • How do you feel before you fall asleep?
  • If you could choose a color for the emotion ______________, what would it be? Why?

Consider trying out the lessons that go with the unit Helping Kids Manage Feelings and Emotions to build a solid foundation of social and emotional learning for your students this year.

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