In advance, visit the Resources tab to download one or more sample scripts to read to your group.
Gather your group to sit in a circle, at their desks or find a space on the floor.
Announce that you will soon lead them through a brief exercise to help them check in with how they are feeling.
Facilitate the exercise step by step as guided by the script.
Conclude by gently inviting your group back.
If desired, invite your group to reflect on their experience.
How To Play Narrative
Sometimes, it can be difficult to express our emotions or even to understand them ourselves. Emotional check-in activities that use metaphors can help start the conversation and let us know we are not alone in our feelings.
These metaphors can make communicating about our feelings fun and creative, rather than intimidating.
In advance, you will want to review and download one or more of the sample scripts located in the Resources tab. Start with the Generic script and adapt accordingly.
Begin by inviting your group to get comfortable in your space. Then it’s as simple as gently guiding your group through the easy step-by-step instructions that you read to them.
Often, some groups will benefit from having access to a list of emotions written on it. This is especially true of young people who are developing their emotional literacy. To make this super-easy, you can download a suggested list of 100 emotions from the Resources tab to get you started.
Rather than relying on each person to identify and name their emotions, it can be helpful for them to review this list – or better still, an array of EMOJI Cards – that they can look at to identify which emotion they may be feeling.
When ready, it’s a great idea to invite your group to reflect and share with each other – in small groups, or as a whole group – what they experienced and discovered.
Practical Leadership Tips
One of the most powerful tools I use to help people identify their feelings are our EMOJI Cards. You can learn more about the dozens of ways you can use these cards here.
Note, the task of identifying emotions will be easy for some and difficult for others. Remind your group that this is not a test they have to get right. To this end, let your group know that this is a safe space. All their feelings, experiences, and thoughts can be freely shared and will not leave this space. There is no judgment here.
Allow everyone the chance to be heard. Let them know their feelings are valid. If they choose not to share, that is perfectly fine, but you still invite them to speak and say, “I don’t wish to share today” this approach will show that every person is valued and we want to listen to them.
Before and after the activity, check in with your group outside of the emotional check-in. Ask them how they feel about the exercise— are they comfortable, or do they have some worries about it? Help clear anything up if they have questions.
There is no shortage of props or resources you could use to tangibly reflect feelings and emotions. For example, take a look at Climer Cards, EMOJI Cards (click here to see a sample online you can use,) UBUNTU Cards, stuffed animals, etc.
You could integrate an Emotional Check-In as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group understand their emotions, thoughts and values and how these influence their behaviour in different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
This activity is ideal for building the emotional literacy of your group, especially younger people. When you involve the use of imagery, guided meditations and simple props (such as EMOJI Cards) groups are more willing to engage in what can be a difficult task to identify and understand what they are feeling. Take a look at the questions described in the Reflection Tips tab for some conversation starters to help your group reflect on what they are feeling.
Also, note that you can download a list of 100 words that reflect the wide range of emotions an individual can and may experience in their lives in the Resources tab. Lists like this can assist some people to build their emotional literacy.
A powerful strategy towards developing resilient practices is to first acknowledge the feelings and emotions one is feeling. When a person is able to identify how they are feeling, they can start to understand the source of these emotions and then adjust their thoughts and behaviours before their emotions start to control them.
Larger Than Life: Invite each person to choose the metaphor that most closely represents how they are feeling, and draw it on a piece of paper to bring it to life. When ready, invite one or more volunteers to share their artwork.
Daily Check-Ins: Get into the habit of reviewing an established check-in at the beginning of every day/class/program. As more data is compiled, take a moment to review and track the history and progression of these feelings.
Ready to Learn: Go to the Resources tab to download a Print+Play continuum of EMOJI Cards you can use to assess your group’s readiness to engage or learn in your next session (in-person or virtual.)
Welcome Mats: On a large sheet of paper or card, draw three or more large emoji faces which express the continuum of happy to sad emotions (similar to Ready to Learn option above.) Place it at the threshold of your door and add a sign that asks each person to step on one of the emojis that represents how they are feeling as they enter the room. Without even having to say a word, it should be possible for you to gauge the well-being of your group by inspecting the number of footprints or marks on the sheet.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
This activity and each of its scripts can be presented virtually. To help you squeeze the most out of this exercise online, here are some things to consider:
– Let your group know that they can switch off their cameras if they feel more comfortable sharing this way.
– Ask everyone to turn off their phones or put them on silent.
– Permit the use of the chatroom to describe their emotions instead of speaking into the microphone.
– You can use the Virtual Climer Cards or any other set of images you can produce online for checking in with your virtual participants. Check the Resources tab to download a simple Emoji Card (Ready to Learn) check-in we have created for you that is intended to assess a group’s readiness to learn or engage.
Powerful & simple relaxation exercise for all groups.
Powerful tool to inspire self-expression & reflection.
Purposefully reflective experience for individuals.
Useful Framing Ideas
Emotional check-in activities can remind us that we are not alone in our feelings, and they can encourage us to talk more openly about them, just as this next activity will guide us through…
Speaking openly about how you feel can be very vulnerable, so I want to remind you that no matter what is happening for you right now, it’s okay and we’re here to help. I have an activity that uses metaphors to express your emotions in a fun and casual way. Each metaphor is up to your interpretation, so get creative…
Reflecting on your emotions, even if you don’t share them, can help you better understand and appreciate yourself. We are often too hard on ourselves, and we need to be more kind to our minds. The first step to this is understanding our emotions and what caused us to feel that way. Our next exercise will help you do this…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after leading this check-in exercise:
What stuck out to you the most about this activity?
What was most surprising?
What was the most challenging part of the activity for you?
How did you feel about sharing your emotions with the rest of the group? Do you feel more connected with everyone?
Did this activity help you communicate your emotions? Which metaphor was the most helpful?
Could you see yourself implementing this activity into your daily life?
What did you enjoy the most about this activity? What did you enjoy the least?
What were some of your thoughts before, during, and after the activity?
Where do you think this activity would be really useful in your life?
The inspiration for Emotional Check-In was sourced by Lisa Hughes and the Daily Feelings Check-in activities by Social Emotional Workshop.