Ideas to expand ‘feelings’ or ’emotions’ vocabulary in the classroom

ᐈ Cartoon sad man , Royalty Free sad man vectors | download on  Depositphotos®

‘Feelings’ or ‘emotion’ vocabulary is important for pupils to develop. They can use the vocabulary to express themselves and gain confidence speaking in front of an audience. Developing this vocabulary or doing the following activities can tie into other subject areas such as Social Personal Health Education or Drama.

‘Feelings’ activities:

The initial activities will help the pupils expand their vocabulary

Have fun with a ‘feelings ball’ (see post on Tips for Teaching Vocabulary)

You could use a ‘feelings ball’ to have fun with the new vocabulary. Use a simple beach ball with different coloured segments as in photo. Write an emotion word in each segment. As the pupils toss the ball to each other and catch it. They have to think of another suitable emotion word to match the emotion written on the segment on the ball in front of them. It’s a fun way for pupils to reinforce and practice their vocabulary!

  • Dictionary work: Some words might be new to pupils. Encourage them to use the dictionary to check the word.
  • Feeling’ stories: Sample ‘Feeling’ stories are available at the end of this post. As a whole class with the teacher reading the stories or using the interactive whiteboard, invite pupils to read/ listen to the feelings story (e.g. you may be doing happy feelings so read the story about the happy puppy). With group/ paired discussion elicit from the pupils what feelings they see in the story and what do they mean. Pupils can express these feelings through dramatizing the ‘feeling’ story.
  • Story telling: Pupils can work in groups. Give each group a selection of ‘feelings’ which they must incorporate into a short story. This activity is useful to ensure all pupils understand the different feelings.
  • Discuss synonyms for different ‘feeling’ vocabulary. E.g. happy…cheerful, delighted, jolly, chirpy, elated, euphoric, ecstatic etc. Similarly, discuss antonyms. For e.g. antonyms for happy are ‘sad’ words…doleful, forlorn, upset, down etc.
  • Discuss idioms for feelings: feeling blue, head over heels, on cloud nine, shaken up, under the weather.
  • Creating ‘feeling’ stories: Give a selection of happy feelings to one group, sad feelings to the second group etc. Ask pupils to work together and create their feeling story. (A ‘happy’ story, a ‘sad’ story). These can also be dramatized. Alternatively give feelings recorded on cards to each pupil and they sort themselves into happy/ sad/ angry groups etc. prior to creating their ‘feeling’ story as a group.

Once the children understand the new vocabulary, feeling cards can be used for the following activities:

  • Sort the feelings: Divide the class into two/ three groups asking them to sort the feelings cards/ feelings they have learned into the following groups: happy, sad, excited, angry, upset, scared, surprised, worried, confused, and other. They could make up a bar chart of this for display.  
  • Expressing feelings: The pupils select a card each. They can return the first card they choose if they don’t wish to express a feeling but must accept their second choice of card. E.g. I feel joyful when…The pupils can initially talk/dramatise in pairs about their feelings, progress to group work and finally whole class if wished.
  • Different tenses: ‘Feeling’ vocabulary can be used for pupils to express themselves in different tenses. E.g. I once felt angry when…, I would feel angry if…
  • Others feelings: The pupils can use the ‘feeling’ vocabulary to express when they might have encountered another person feeling a certain way. This is useful as sometimes pupils don’t wish to talk about themselves. E.g. once my brother was very worried because ….etc
  • Mini drama: Each pupil receives a feeling written on a card. Pupils in groups create a mini dramatic scene expressing each of the feelings they received. Perhaps can create a small scene that highlights their emotion.
  • ‘Tip of the Tongue’ meeting/ Morning meeting: This can be an opportunity for pupils to practice and use their new ‘feeling’ vocabulary. (See post on Morning Meeting/ Language Discussion)

Language for Living; Vocabulary at the Tip of your Tongue, contains a hundred ‘feeling’ words in box 2 (for middle classes) and box 3 (for senior classes). There is a mixture of words covering happy, sad, angry, annoyed, confused, surprised, scared etc. all ready to use with the pupils.

Sample ‘Feeling’ stories you can use with your pupils.

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