Using the Emotion Thermometer in Class

The emotion thermometer is an ideal educational resource to help teach children to express and understand their emotions. We'll explain how to carry out this activity.
Using the Emotion Thermometer in Class
Ana Couñago

Written and verified by the psychologist Ana Couñago.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Working on emotional intelligence right from the first years of life is fundamental for a child’s proper development. Both at home and at school, parents and teachers must teach their children to identify, express, and understand their emotions and feelings. Fortunately, these days, there are many useful educational resources to achieve this objective, such as the emotion thermometer.

Would you like to know what this activity consists of and how to put it into practice correctly in the classroom? In the next few paragraphs, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about this subject.

“At least 80% of success in adulthood comes from emotional intelligence.”

– Daniel Goleman –

The emotion thermometer: an ideal resource for teaching emotional intelligence

The emotion thermometer is a very simple and visual educational resource. Children, even the youngest ones, can understand the simile between the temperature marked by a thermometer and the intensity of the emotions they themselves are feeling.

Using the Emotion Thermometer in Class

By using the thermometer, which is divided into different colored sectors, children can then identify and place on a simple scale their own state of mind. They can indicate whether they’re feeling very happy, happy, calm, nervous, upset, sad or even angry.

Because of this, it’s an ideal educational, fun resource to work on basic emotions in the classroom, especially with the following students:

  • From Infant Education
  • From the first years of Primary Education
  • Children who have difficulties in communicating verbally and in expressing and recognizing their own and other people’s emotions; such children could be those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Steps to practice this activity in the classroom

The first thing you need to do to carry out the emotion thermometer activity correctly is to place a drawing of a thermometer, either on paper or on cardboard, in a visible place in the classroom. Then, next to it, you need to place a series of images or photographs with different faces – faces that clearly represent the different emotional states that the child could be experiencing.

The teacher should then explain to the students that this is a special type of thermometer. They should clarify that it’s different from a normal thermometer which is used to measure temperature. They can then proceed to show that this one can measure the emotions that they may feel at any given point throughout the school day. How? Very simply. Have a look at these steps:

Steps to take

  • At any point during the class, children can ask the teacher for permission to get up from their seat and go to the corner of the classroom where the thermometer of emotions is, in order to express how they’re feeling at that time.
  • The child in question must then select the photograph of the face that represents the emotion he or she is experiencing at that moment. In this sense, they can choose between very happy, happy, calm, nervous, upset, sad or angry.
  • The student then has to place this face on the thermometer of emotions. The highest temperatures represent the most negative emotions.
  • The teacher, if he or she considers it appropriate, should encourage the student to explain to the rest of the class why they’re feeling this way.

Likewise, the teacher can also participate in the activity. They can lead the way and share their own feelings and emotional states with their students.

“There is no separation of mind and emotions; emotions, thoughts and learning are related.”

– Eric Jensen –

Using the Emotion Thermometer in Class

Benefits of using the emotion thermometer in the class

Placing an emotion thermometer in the classroom has many benefits, as it allows children to:

  • Identify and recognize their own emotional state
  • Reflect on the origin of that emotional state
  • Regulate and control their emotions
  • Understand the emotions and feelings of others
  • Actively listen to the experiences of others
  • Develop empathy
  • Understand that their emotional state is variable and will change throughout the day
  • Widen their emotional vocabulary

In short, with this simple exercise, we can enhance a child’s interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. In this way, they can grow up being aware of the importance of expressing and understanding their own, and other people’s, emotions. We consider this a fundamental factor in helping children to achieve a correct integral development.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.