There has been a lot of interest and attention paid to emotional intelligence in recent years and authorities in Early Childhood Education are in agreement that a child’s ability to recognize their emotions, name them, and express them is directly related to not only their success in school, but in life situations. Learning how to identify and express emotions and needs effectively is a learned process that, when supported and modeled from a very young age, will provide a child with skills to last (and use) for a lifetime. Communication about feelings cannot happen if children don’t know about their own feelings, and eventually, the feelings of others. Emotional illiteracy keeps children imprisoned in their frustration, anger, and confusion. Emotional LITERACY provides children with the tools they need to get what they need.
Lisa Murphy, Ooey Gooey Incorporated, uses the example of helping children “get their shovels back” on the playground, pointing out the essential piece: communication:
‘If children do not learn how to get their shovels back when they are little they will grow into adults who don’t know how to get them back either; playground antics, stolen shovels and grabbed away trucks turn into stolen staplers, borrowed scissors, lost computer discs and missed parking lot spaces.’ Lisa Murphy, Lisa’s journal
How do we go about fostering Emotional Literacy in the classroom? The same way we approach any priority goal: we notice, we practice, we model, and we repeat the process as many times as needed.
Strain and Ostrosky (featured on the website for the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning) offer three basic strategies for teachers to incorporate into their daily classroom practices.
- Express your own feelings.
- Label children’s feelings.
- Play games, sing songs, and read stories with new feeling words.
For a full description of each, and for examples and suggestions for working with children, click on the title to link to their article Fostering Emotional Literacy in Young Children.
In addition to giving children vocabulary in the form of feelings words, it is also important to provide them with other ways to express themselves. Many children find pictorial cues to be helpful, such as the Mood Meter sign. The Mood Meter is tool children can use to identify how they are feeling by pointing to a facial expression depicted on a wall chart or poster. Mood Meters are available for purchase but can also be made by you and, depending on their ages, the children. For directions on how to make your own Mood Meter, click here. To see an example of a manufactured Mood Meter and book about feelings, click here. If your program includes older children, it may be a very instructive and helpful to the school age children to ask them to collaboratively create a Mood Meter chart for the preschool classroom in your centers. With your guidance in this project the older children will have many opportunities to talk about emotions, identify them, and share feelings with you and each other.
For instructions on how to make “How are you FEELING masks”, click here.
For some suggested picture books on feelings, click here.
Looking ahead, Emotional Literacy 101 on aerochug.com will incorporate ideas on using journals with young children, as well as art, music, and movement to enhance children’s emotional literacy development.
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