When I asked school counselors and psychologists about what they include in their counseling sessions, a feelings check in was by far the most popular answer. This past year, a special education teacher posted a Mental Health Check In she did with her students and it went viral. We all know how important it is that students have ways to communicate. Checking in with students about how they are feeling is one of the very first places you can start whether you are in a counseling session or at Monday morning meeting.
Why Do Feelings Check Ins?
The first SEL competency is self-awareness and it starts with students being able to identify how they feel. A daily feelings check-in helps students learn to recognize different emotions and also the intensity of emotions. We can't manage a feeling if we can't recognize it.
It normalizes feelings. We aren't always supposed to be happy or calm. Sometimes we are sad or jealous or angry. When we do daily feelings check-ins we recognize that all feelings are okay. It then opens up the conversation that how we handle those feelings makes all the difference.
Feelings check ins communicates that how everyone feels is important. And that as part of a community, someone is going to care how you feel. It's such a simple daily task to do that shows someone wants to listen and help.
Words of Caution About Feelings Check Ins
I think daily feeling check-ins are great, but they can come with their complications. Think through your procedures and make sure you are prepared.
- What are you going to do when a students says they are not doing well?
- Is there a qualified person available to talk to a student that discloses they are in distress?
- Students may look for attention by expressing strong emotions that aren't 100% true. Stick to your systems and have a method to limit that. Be sure that you aren't treating the student like they cried wolf or responding to each one like it's automatically an emergency. Help them know how to name it and regulate it.
For example, one student would often state that she was depressed and needed to talk to someone. She had a limited number of passes to see the counselor. On the pass, she had to rate her level of stress/overwhelm. This let the counselor know how to serious this was, how soon she needed to see her, etc. She also had strategies she could use when the rating was lower.
Feelings Check-In Ideas
Feelings Check-ins are the perfect way to start off the day or counseling. You can use a feeling check-in card, chart or spinner.
Students can have their own check-in cards or you can create a larger poster where students can add a token showing how they feel. You can pair that with a strategy using an I Can Card if it is a feeling they want to change.
For groups, create a set of spinners so each student grabs one when they enter and rates how they are feeling. Do a quick round robin allowing each student to share.
Once students can recognize and label their feelings, work on teaching them strategies to regulate those feelings. You can introduce this by telling students that we can take a negative feeling and change it to a positive feeling using a strategy. Work with them on finding strategies that work well for them.
I liked to make this "change process" more concrete. If This, Then That cards help students identify an emotion and then choose a strategy that can help them. For example, if you feel sad, then you can try talking about it.
Some students need more than just a check-in with the whole class. For those individual students, try creating a feelings check-in box or logging their feelings check-ins using a tracker.
You can also take a simple feelings check-ins to change it to purposeful goals for the day or week. On Monday morning, have students answer 6 questions.
6 Questions: Reflect, Check, & Get Set
- 1Today I was to _______________.
- 2I want to do more of _______________.
- 3I want to do less of _______________.
- 4I want to feel _______________.
- 5To feel this way, I will _______________.
- 6If I get stuck, I'll remember _______________.
Download these questions as Reflect, Check and Get Set Cards from the Toolbox Resource Library.
Meaningful Feelings Check In
Feelings check-ins are a great way to survey how students are doing and be responsive. Take it a bit further to make it have meaning for them. Teach them how to recognize feelings, label them, and then regulate them.