School Health and Wellness//
May 21, 2023
Classrooms are places for social education as much as they are for academic education. By building classrooms centered on emotional literacy, teachers show students how to establish meaningful relationships with others and, ultimately, how to feel more in control of their lives.
That might sound like complex pedagogy for the lower school, but it doesn’t have to be. The lower school provides the ideal time to instill literacy around mental health. Luckily, one cornerstone of lower school education, storytime, is the perfect venue for teaching these skills.
What is emotional literacy?
Emotional literacy is a person’s ability to identify, name, express, and manage feelings. This includes the ability to identify others’ emotions, whether they’re displayed through spoken language, body language, or facial expressions.
Someone who is emotionally literate demonstrates:
- Self-management: Showing control over feelings and emotions and refusing to act on impulse. Self-management includes staying calm, regulating emotions, and reacting to situations only after they’ve adequately processed them.
- Self-awareness: Recognizing emotional strengths and weaknesses and articulating feelings before reacting.
- Social awareness: Understanding social etiquette and norms, and acting with the feelings and needs of others in mind.
Emotionally literate students learn to self-regulate, and calmly express their feelings. In the process, they develop positive relationships with their classmates and teachers, build social skills (such as empathy, sharing, and resiliency.)
Modeling Emotional Literacy Through Storytelling
For students to become emotionally literate, teachers need to illustrate what emotional literacy looks like. While educators strive to model this kind of behavior from the front of the classroom, simply embodying the characteristics of emotional literacy is not enough.
Students need to be exposed to emotional literacy in class lessons and activities. It’s no secret reading stories leads to increased empathy. And many books have become mainstays of lower school classrooms aimed to teach students moral lessons. Teachers can facilitate emotional literacy in their classrooms through storytime.
D&G Wellness, an ISM guest collaborator, reports that they frequently use books to connect with students. Here are some of their favorites.
- The Color Monster by Anna Llenas
- It’s Okay to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr
- A Flicker of Hope by Julia Cook
- The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside
- Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival
And as you incorporate these stories, D&G Wellness offers some ideas for how to support deeper emotional literacy.
- Build empathy—ask your students to talk about how the story made them feel.
- Use the story as an example—ask them how they would react if they experienced similar problems.
- Understand different perspectives—ask them to talk about how they would respond to the character if they found themselves in the story.
Create deeper meaning—ask them to draw how the story made them feel or to write their own version of the story. Younger students can learn to identify their emotions, and, in doing so, they’ll learn how to manage them. By teaching emotional literacy in the lower school, educators can create a more empathetic and resilient classroom and, hopefully, a more empathetic and resilient world.
*Content courtesy of D&G Wellness.
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