The children coming into their second grade classroom that morning arranged their chairs in a circle for a daily ritual: Their teacher asked every child to tell the class how they felt (unless they didn’t want to share this), and why they felt that way.
This simple exercise in a New Haven, CT elementary school was the first time I saw a lesson in emotional literacy.
Naming emotions accurately helps children be clearer about what is going on inside—essential both to making clearheaded decisions and to managing emotions throughout life.
Self-awareness—turning our attention to our inner world of thoughts and feelings—allows us to manage ourselves well. An inner focus lets us understand and handle our inner world, even when rocked by disturbing feelings. This is a life skill that keeps us on track throughout the years, and helps children become better learners.
For instance, when children tune in to what engages them, they connect with the intrinsic motivation that drives them. If a child is just following the teacher’s goals for what she should learn and not thinking much about her own goals, she can develop an attitude that school is all…