Anne de A’Echevarria looks at more practical activities that can be used to help young people explore the idea of ’emotional resourcefulness’ in the context of young learners’ self-management, using Emotion Concept Line; Recipes; Emotional Swappdf-8834699

Courage Concept Line Activity.pdf

This issue, we will continue to look at practical activities that can be used to help young people explore the idea of ’emotional resourcefulness’, that is, the capacity for self-knowledge and understanding – and the ability to make the best use of that understanding.

The activities shared below focus on three key elements of emotional resourcefulness: identifying emotions, noticing your own emotional responses, and learning to respond more flexibly to circumstances, incidents and situations.

Activity – Exploring Emotions, Feelings, Moods
Firstly, here are some introductory activities for:

  • developing awareness of the range of emotions
  • exploring and developing a language for describing emotions
  • developing ease in talking about emotions

The activities will require you to draw up an Emotions Checklist – or even better, to produce a set of cards. A Google search will reveal many examples; one particularly interesting taxonomy is Plutchik’s Wheel.

You might use your list, or items from it, in the following ways:

  • Arrange emotions in terms of how positive/negative or common/rare they are.
  • Make up ‘chains’ of feelings through discussion of incidents or experiences that can cause one mood or emotion to become another. For instance, waiting on a broken-down train on the way to an interview might turn feelings of irritation into concern into frustration into panic and then into anger.
  • Put emotions into ‘families’: draw overlapping circles and fill them with related emotions. You could give students the emotions from Plutchik’s Wheel and ask them to arrange these in any way that makes sense to them. After explaining their ideas, they can compare their arrangement with Plutchik’s model.
  • Discuss the differences between emotions, feelings and moods.
  • Collect together a set of Emotion Symbols – stock images, designs and/or objects. Useful categories are: animals; machines; weather; natural objects (plants, rocks, other substances); occasions and seasons; and household items. Challenge students to think metaphorically by selecting an emotion from the checklist and picking an image or object that represents it in some way, explaining their thinking. By comparing feelings with objects or designs and by being encouraged to speak openly about emotions, students develop an ease of expression which helps them to make distinctions between similar emotions, and to judge the intensity and appropriateness of emotional responses.

Activity – Emotion Concept Line
One useful strategy for exploring a particular emotion (or indeed any concept) in depth is to have students explore the emotion in small group using a Concept Line activity.

  • Imagine that you wanted to explore the idea of ‘feeling courageous’. Working in small groups, ask students to draw a line (or use the template provided) labelling one end ‘courageous’ and the other end ‘not courageous’.
  • Next give each group of students a set of cards – each one giving a possible example of ‘courage’ in action. They must position each example along the line to show how strongly they see it to be an example of the concept in question.
  • When debriefing the activity, begin by asking each group to reveal the examples that they have put at the two extreme ends of the line and explain their thinking. In the process, you will be able to draw out of the students the criteria they have used and, therefore, their current understanding of the concept.
  • When creating a set of examples for a Concept Line activity, you must deliberately include one or two non-examples and – especially important – examples where students will be less certain, where they will tend to disagree with each other, where they will have to consider what others say and may have second thoughts and change their minds as the discussion proceeds. In the process, they will uncover similar, related concepts (courage, recklessness, heroism, impulsivity) and will have to make clear distinctions on the road to a deeper understanding of what a particular concept or emotion is all about.

For a Concept Line Template and a set of Example Cards, follow this link.

Activity – Recipes
As well as helping students to develop their awareness of a range of emotions, this activity explores the emotional elements of social situations.

  • Begin by looking at the language of recipes (and/or – with caution! – celebrity chefs). Note that in cookbooks, or when summarising their creations, we are usually given a list of ingredients and their quantities, then the method of preparation, and then the method of cooking.
  • Now take a situation (begin with positive or light-hearted ones) such as a shopping trip. Ask the group what happens on a shopping trip and what feelings you’d find there. (Refer to your Emotions Checklist.) Write down the ’emotional ingredients’ of the typical shopping trip and gather up words that refer to quantities of things: a pinch, spoonful, dollop, a handful, a trace, plenty of, just a dash of, and so on.
  • Now model the recipe-writing process for your students – incorporating their ideas along the way. Here is an example:

‘Take a kilo of anticipation, plenty of excitement, and a large dollop of camaraderie. Mix these thoroughly and flavour with giddiness. Add two young shoppers and allow to stew for approximately three hours in hot department stores and sweaty changing rooms until they are perspiring and red. Remove from the heat. If you notice a little irritation and envy floating on the surface – remove carefully and set aside to cool. Some people like to add a little coffee at this stage. Return the whole pot to a gentle simmer for a final half-hour. You may find that a dash of perseverance and/or recklessness will improve the taste of this dish…’ and so on!

  • Challenge students to select a new situation and construct a recipe of their own – either individually or in groups. You could set them the challenge of using at least five new ’emotions’ that they have not come across before, or to use five related emotions from the same family, that show increasing intensity, for example contentment, happiness, joy, euphoria, ecstasy!

Activity – Emotion Swap
The following activity is a speculation game designed to show young people that there are many possible emotional responses to situations. It also demonstrates that you needn’t be locked into the same habitual response. As the familiar saying goes, ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got!’

  • Begin the discussion by focusing on an emotion, say, ‘disappointment’. Discuss situations, either imaginary scenarios or from the group’s own experiences, that evoked a response of strong disappointment.
  • Work with one situation at a time. If the situation is imaginary, encourage ideas from the whole group about people’s facial expressions; body postures; things they might say or do; what the consequences might be when someone suffers disappointment. If the situation is real, collect details from the student concerned.
  • When the situation has been explored, ask the group: ‘What if you’d felt [for example] courage rather than disappointment. How would things have been different?’
  • Ideas usually come thick and fast, but if not, spend some time ‘teasing out’ the components of courage:

How do you know when you are feeling courageous?Can you tell when someone else is feeling courageous?What examples of courage can you suggest?What would the opposite emotion be?When are people normally courageous?When is it most useful?

Are there times when it’s inappropriate?

Another option would be to use the Concept Line activity above to explore the notion of ‘Courage’.

  • Now go back to the scenario in which courage replaces disappointment: ‘What if you’d felt courage rather than disappointment. How would things have been different?’ and see what comes out of it. Explore differences in body language, facial expression, actions, words, other people’s reactions and potentially different outcomes.
  • You may subsequently use the same scenario and talk through other emotions that might replace disappointment, or you might pick a different scenario each time. The aim is for your students to explore the idea that emotional responses are not set in stone, and that it is possible to have increasing flexibility over the way we react.

Next issue
Next time we will look at strategies to help students explore two further elements of ’emotional resourcefulness’ namely:

  • recognising your abilities and potential
  • becoming aware of the blocks and limiting beliefs that get in the way of that potential.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2009

About the author: Anne de A’Echevarria is the author of the award winning ‘Thinking Through School’. Previously a teacher, PGCE tutor and head of ‘Thinking for Learning’, a research and development team partnered with Newcastle University, she now works as a freelance education consultant and writer.

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