Emotions in the Classroom: What You Should Know

28 August, 2020
Everyone has feelings and emotions, including children. It's important to consider how to deal with emotions in the classroom.

Lots of people have written about and discussed the need to deal with emotions in the classroom. In fact, it’s essential that emotions and feelings are part of the curriculum at all ages and educational levels. The goal is that students develop strong emotional intelligence.

What do we know about emotions and feelings?

Emotions are responses of psychophysiological reactions that the body generates as a response to situations, people, or objects in an environment. Therefore, emotions represent a method of adaptation that each person has. At a physiological level, people have different responses from biological systems, such as facial expressions, muscles, or endocrine systems.

On the other hand, feelings refer to both a state of mind and a conceptualized emotion. Feelings are the result of emotions and can be longer in time and verbalized. Therefore, the difference between emotions and feelings has to do with intensity and durations. Emotions are generally shorter and more intense.

Sadness, joy, anger, fear, or nostalgia are all reactions and, therefore, emotions that you might feel. They’re almost automatic responses to change, a situation, a person, or an object. In turn, if these emotions persist over time, they can turn into feelings.

Emotions in the Classroom: What You Should Know

Why work on emotions in the classroom?

Working on emotions in the classroom is essential for correct development and formation of the personality of children and adolescents. It’s important that children and young adults learn to recognize their emotions and those of others, as well as learn to talk about and manage their emotions.

Controlling anxiety, stress, depression, and frustration is possible if children learn to manage their emotions from an early age. In fact, improved self-esteem, better relationships with others, and achieving personal goals are all closely related with emotional management. Emotional management means that the person is able to regulate their emotions when necessary.

As a result, meeting the objectives of emotional education is a significant reason why students should work on emotions in the classroom. These are the goals of this type of work:

  • Know, recognize, understand, and describe their emotions and those of others.
  • Learn strategies and develop skills to control negative emotions, and generate positive ones.
  • Avoid and prevent negative or harmful consequences or negative emotions.
  • Develop a positive and optimistic attitude towards life.
  • Become aware of the benefits of positive emotions.

“When I say manage emotions, I only mean the really distressing, incapacitating emotions. Feeling emotions is what makes life rich.”

– Daniel Goleman –

How do you work on emotions in the classroom?

Educators need to plan educational activities that help work on emotions in the classroom. The objective of these is to generate strategies for managing emotions in children and adolescents. Therefore, to achieve progressive development of emotional intelligence in students, it’s important to work on empathy and the development of proactive attitudes and assertiveness.

In addition, it’s important that students work on emotions in the classroom as content in itself, but also as they come up. Because of their very characteristics, emotions represent adaptive processes to different environments and activities. As a result, emotions can come up during any teaching moment of any school subject.

Emotions in the Classroom: What You Should Know

Activities to work on emotions in the classroom and at home

Finally, we’ll give you some options for both educators and parents to work on emotions with their students and children:

  • School assemblies. Given the opportunity for sharing and dialogue, school assemblies are a great time for educators to work on emotions with children. For example, this can be as simple as asking what they did the day before at home. Talking with children about how they felt, how they currently feel, and why they feel this way is the first step for them to begin to understand their emotions.
  • Reading. Narration or reading of stories is an ideal strategy to work on emotions since children can relate to the experiences of the characters. Then, you can discuss what the characters feel and experience, which helps children to recognize and identify different emotions.
  • Problematic situations. This is a more suitable activity for teenagers. First, you start with a problematic situation and then discuss the emotions at stake, understanding why, and analyze the options and strategies to modify, accept, or manage emotions. For example, some situations could be fights with parents, the loss of a loved one, or not being able to achieve some personal goal.
  • Drawing. Drawing emotions is a good strategy for children to express, define, and externalize their emotions. In fact, drawings and paintings are an excellent strategy to consider and talk about what we feel and learn more about our emotions as we paint.