Identifying and understanding feelings is an essential social-emotional skill. It is always where I would start in counseling and where most social-emotional curriculums begin. If a student can't identify how they feel, it's tough to manage those feelings.
While we don't have a shortage of activities or books on feelings, In My Heart by Jo Witek should be on bookshelves in every elementary school.
In My Heart Summary & Review
In My Heart is a beautifully illustrated book on feelings. It explores ten different emotions, creatively describing each. Happy is a big yellow star, shiny and bright. Sadness is as heavy as an elephant.
Emotions that are positive, neutral, and negative are included. Throughout the book, the author shows that we all experience different emotions, and all those emotions are okay.
This book is the perfect starting point for rich student discussions about feelings. It can easily be used in school counseling or the classroom using student-friendly activities.
It is a short picture book that can be expanded using an interactive read aloud lesson and student-friendly companion activities. These feelings activities focus on three social-emotional learning standards.
- Recognizes and accurately names feelings.
- Identifies and communicates a feeling.
- Identifies feelings related to situations/events.
Interactive Read Aloud
Interactive read alouds let you go deeper with simple picture books like In My Heart. An interactive read aloud gets the students thinking about books using strategic questions.
Before you read a book with students in counseling, read through it a few times and then start coming up with questions. Try using the following strategies, as appropriate:
- Story Introduction: Tell the students what the book is about, even tell them the ending.
- Think Aloud: Model for students what you are thinking while reading.
- Stop and Jot: Have students stop and write (or draw) down their thoughts about an event in the book.
- Summarize - Use a summary sheet where students quickly tell what happened in the book.
- Integrate Vocabulary Definitions - As you read, provide a synonym or definition for unfamiliar vocabulary.
- Make Connections - Help students make connections between the text and themselves and the world they know.
- Ask Why Question at the End - Ask a question that requires students to make an inference that connects several story events.
For In My Heart, focus on questions that help students connect their feelings to something they have experienced or seen.
Identify Common Feelings
On the first page of the story, the main character talks about her heart as a house for her feelings. I love this concept as a way to describe all the feelings we have inside us.
In this activity, students decide what feelings they feel often and place those in their feelings house.
You can also discuss:
- Feelings that didn't go in their house.
- Situations that cause those feelings.
- What do those feelings feel like, literally or creatively?
Creatively Describe Feelings
In the book, the author describes feelings in wonderfully creative ways that you can close your eyes and picture.
For this activity, students choose four emotions (or fewer) and brainstorm creative ways to describe their feelings.
- Silly feels like a group of gobbling turkeys.
- Calm feels a tree swaying in the breeze.
- Mad feels like booming thunder.
You can abbreviate this to 1 or 2 feelings.
If your students struggle with metaphors for their feelings, they can come up with synonyms for feelings or identify when they feel that way.
Try having students answer simple reflection questions that show their understanding of the concepts in the book.
- When do I feel this feeling? - Have students consider moments that trigger this feeling.
- How does it feel? - They can be creative and describe the feeling or focus on physical sensations of feelings. For example, shy might feel like hot cheeks and a nauseous stomach.
- What does it look like? - Students can tell how someone else could tell how they feel.
In My Heart definitely makes my top 10 social emotional learning books. I'd love to hear how you use this book or other feelings books favorites you have!
In My Heart Activities
This low prep book companion includes a lesson plan, discussion questions, 2 student activities and journal.
The Color Monster Activities
This low prep book companion includes a lesson plan, discussion questions, 2 student activities.