This is one of my favorite lessons that I received from the school counselor I interned under. I couldn’t wait for the day that I could do this at my own school with my own students, and I hope that this might be a great lesson for you too as you begin the new school year! I do this lesson each year for the kindergarteners to explain my role and to begin talking about emotions and coping skills.
Lesson Title: First Day of School – Mixed Up Feelings
- PS:A1.5 Identify and express feelings
- PS:A1.6 Distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate behavior
- PS:B1.4 Develop effective coping skills for dealing with problems
- Students will be able to identify feelings that are associated with different experiences
- Students will be able to identify coping skills to help soothe their uncomfortable emotions
- Students know who the school counselor is, their role, and how they can be a resource to them
- 4 colors of food coloring
- 6 clear cups/jars
This lesson is best to use on your first class when going to a new school and with kindergarteners when they have their first guidance lesson. This lesson can illustrate the job of the school counselor, to explore how talking about your feelings can help you to feel better, and to explore how feelings are not bad, only what you do with them may be bad.
- Start with introducing yourself and explaining what school counselors do: SEL lessons teach students about important things they will need to know for forever, group counseling to help kids who may all be going through a similar event or share a similar problem, and individual counseling for kids who need to talk to the school counselor about a problem. Discuss confidentiality (Everything you say to me will stay between us, unless…). Also share how they can get a hold of you – “If you ever need to talk to me about a problem or you need some help or to keep someone safe, you can ask your teacher to email me (call if it’s an emergency) and I will find a time to meet with you. I can help with problems with friends, grades, your future career, and much more!”
- Before your class arrives, pour about a half inch of water in 4 of the clear cups. Put one drop of food coloring into each one. Pour one large clear cup full of bleach and leave the last cup empty.
- Start by explaining to the class that feelings are not bad. “It might not feel good to be angry, but it’s not bad to feel angry. You can’t get in trouble for feeling angry. However, you can get in trouble if you choose to hit someone because you’re angry. You have to choose to handle your emotions in a positive and safe way.“
- Next, hold up the cup with the red food coloring-water mixture and state that the red water represents anger. Share a few things that might make you angry or ask the class to share things that might make them angry (Brother punched me, I got a D on a test, it rained when I was supposed to have a soccer game, etc.). Put a tiny drop of food coloring until it is all in the empty glass.
- Do the same with the blue water that represents sadness (I wasn’t invited to a birthday party, my grandma passed away, my dog passed away, etc.), and the green that represents jealousy (my sister got to have a sleepover and I didn’t, my friend got a new bike, my brother went on a fun field trip, etc.), and the yellow that represents guilt (I tripped my friend, I stole money from my mom, I cheated on a test, etc.).
- The cup that was originally empty should now have all the colors mixed in and should look dark and murky. Explain that it is extra tough when having many feelings at the same time and can be overwhelming and hard to handle. Tell the class that “it’s ok to feel these feelings, but it’s important to find positive ways to handle these feelings. You might read a book or write in your journal or ride your bike, but one easy way to help with your overwhelming feelings is to talk about them”. Share what people you might talk to or ask the students to tell you who they talk to about their problems (school counselor, teacher, friend, mom, dad, sibling, uncle, etc.) and for each person you may pour one drop of bleach into the dark color mixture. The water should lighten up slowly to a yellow/clear color, just like the yellow color of Joy from the movie Inside Out and you now feel much better! Remind the students to talk about their feelings and that you’re there for them should them ever need you, in addition to the other people in their lives.