Free Lesson 15: Identifying & Regulating Emotions

Reflection Prompts

  • I recognize when I am having an emotional response.
  • I acknowledge my feelings, both positive and negative.
  • I understand the connection between my emotions, thoughts, and actions.
  • I have a set of strategies to regulate my reactions and control impulsive behaviors.
  • I respect the feelings of others.

Parent Guide
Learning Objectives

Teachers will recognize the need to identify and regulate their own emotions. Teachers will also recognize the need to create a series of strategies and responses for difficult situations.

Lesson Content

IDENTIFYING EMOTIONS. Identifying emotions involves paying attention to what you are feeling and labeling it. Giving yourself permission to experience an emotion, by labeling it, is the first step to understanding, processing, and regulating your emotions. Once you identify what you are feeling, you can make a plan to manage what you are feeling appropriately.

The basic emotions include happiness, sadness, anger, anticipation, fear, loneliness, jealousy, and disgust.

COMMUNICATING EMOTIONS. Once we know how we are feeling and we communicate those emotions, it is easier for others to support us.

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE. Emotional Intelligence is being able to observe and identify emotions in others and then label it. We can observe the emotions of others by paying attention to facial expressions, non-verbal clues, body language, the words they use, and their actions. Sometimes it is helpful to simply ask people what they are feeling.

SELF-REGULATING EMOTIONS. We regulate our emotions when we identify, label, and then behave appropriately. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to different scenarios. One of the first steps of self-regulation is accepting our emotions and acknowledging that they are real and must be dealt with.

Essential Terms
emotions, regulating
Lesson Plan


Read this quote as a group:

“Self-regulation is the ability to manage your emotions and behavior in accordance with the demands of the situation. It includes being able to resist highly emotional reactions to upsetting stimuli, to calm yourself down when you get upset, to adjust to a change in expectations, and to handle frustration without an outburst. It is a set of skills that enables children, as they mature, to direct their own behavior towards a goal, despite the unpredictability of the world and our own feelings.” (Marc Brackett, Permission to Feel)

Have a discussion:

  • Do you agree with this quote?
  • How does this quote apply to us as adults?
  • How does this quote apply to our students?
  • What are the implications for a school setting?

Next, pass out the article, “Emotional Development in Childhood,” by Carolyn Saarni, PhD, from the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development to each teacher. Have teachers read through the information, paying special attention to the age group that they teach. Invite them to make notes about real situations that they have witnessed that align with the descriptions (e.g., My 7-year-old nephew gets easily embarrassed when he makes a mistake). Once they have read through the article, have teachers share examples that they noted with people that they are sitting next to.

Activity 2: (15 Minutes) EMOTIONAL RESPONSES

Invite educators to reflect for 3 seconds and silently name an emotion that they are feeling.

Read and discuss the quotes and ideas:

  • “Care for your psyche… Know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves.” (Socrates)
  • Identifying emotions involves paying attention to what you are feeling and giving what you feel a name. Giving yourself permission to experience an emotion, by labeling it, is the first step to understanding, processing, and regulating your emotions. Once you identify what you are feeling, you can make a plan to manage what you are feeling appropriately.
  • “Name it to tame it.” (Dr. Dan Siegel)

Have a discussion:

  • Do you ever find it difficult to name your emotions?
  • How does naming/identifying emotions affect you at work?
  • How does naming/identifying emotions affect your students?
  • What is a common emotion that your students feel?

Pass out the Feelings Wheel handout, from Dr. Gloria Willcox. Ask teachers to scan it carefully and find a synonym or two for the emotion that they identified at the beginning of the activity.

Have a discussion:

  • What are some negative consequences that can result from incorrectly naming our emotions?
  • How could you use this Feelings Wheel?

Divide into 5 groups and assign each group an emotion to discuss. Then pass out the Emotional Responses handout and invite each group to answer the questions together. Once complete, have each group present their answers to the whole group.

Read and discuss the ideas:

  • Communicating your emotions to others can help you process how you are feeling and can help others understand how you are feeling, leading to greater kindness and empathy. It also can help you better navigate situations in your relationships.
  • Recognizing emotions in others is similar to identifying emotions in yourself. One way to develop the skill of recognizing emotions in others is to pay attention to people around you. Watch facial expressions, non-verbal communication, listen to tone of voice and words. Observe others, infer feelings, and then ask questions.

Have a discussion:

  • What roles can you play in influencing other people’s emotions?
  • How can you help others emotionally while maintaining healthy boundaries?

Activity 3: (20 Minutes) VIDEO AND DISCUSSION

Watch the video “Permission to Feel” by Marc Brakett, founder and director of Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

As a group, review and discuss some key ideas from the video:

  • “It is a human right to feel all emotions and to express emotions.” (Marc Brackett)
  • Exploring the strategies that work best for you.
    • Giving ourselves and the people we love the permission to express a full range of emotions.
    • Be an emotion scientist rather than an emotional judge (growth mindset).
    • Emotional intelligence requires hard skills.
    • We have to move away from piecemeal and think systemically. It is rarely about the person but often about the system.
    • Emotions have the power to enhance or hinder our lives.

Have a discussion:

  • Why is it important to give ourselves permission to feel?
  • Why is it important to accurately identify the emotions we are feeling?
  • How can we give others the permission to feel their emotions?
  • Is our workplace a safe environment to express and address emotions?

Read the quote and discuss:

“Self-regulation is the ability to manage your emotions and  behavior in accordance with the demands of the situation. It includes being able to resist highly emotional reactions to upsetting stimuli, to  calm yourself down when you get upset, to adjust to a change in expectations, and to handle frustration without an outburst.” (Child Mind Institute)

Activity 4: (10 Minutes) MEDITATION MOMENT

Read some short quotes about meditation and/or stillness:

  • “The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.” (Thích Nhất Hạnh)
  • “When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another—and ourselves.” (Jack Kornfield)
  • “Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.” (Pema Chödrön)

Pass out the Meditation Moment Ideas handout to each teacher. Give educators 10 minutes to practice strategies from the handout.

Have a discussion:

  • What did you experience during that meditation?
  • Did anything surprising occur?
  • How do you think this could be a valuable tool for emotional regulation?
  • How could you see yourself using this meditation?

Activity 5: (10 Minutes) EMOTIONS AT WORK

As a group, brainstorm emotionally charged situations that occur frequently in schools. List them on a whiteboard.

Then break into smaller groups, circle up chairs, and have groups discuss how to respond well within these situations. Have educators share tips and tricks that they have used or personal examples.

Extension: Watch the video, “How to Embrace Emotions At Work” by

Liz Fosslien at TED and discuss how to appropriately share emotions in a

healthy work environment.

Activity 6: (10 Minutes) EMOTIONAL REMINDERS

Create a meditation vision board, PPT, playlist, etc.

  • Identify images, find photos on your phone or on the internet that bring you happiness, joy, and help you feel calm.
  • Identify music that makes you feel calm.
  • Identify music that makes you feel happy.
  • Identify music that makes you feel motivated.
  • What words would you use to describe a peaceful place?
  • What words would you use to describe a peaceful time, a happy time?
  • Think of a time when you were genuinely happy teaching. Describe it.
  • Think of a time when you felt completely peaceful. Describe it.

Educators can share with a neighbor, if desired.

Activity 7: (10 Minutes) STOP TECHNIQUE

When something upsetting occurs, it may be tempting to react quickly in an emotional outburst. Quick reactions can result in regrettable choices. Instead of being reactive, be proactive by using a technique called “S.T.O.P.” (developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a prominent mindfulness researcher).

S = Stop. Stop what you’re doing and put things down for a moment.

T = Take. Take 2–3 nice, deep breaths. 

O = Observe. Observe how you are feeling. Note what thoughts, feelings, or emotions are running through your mind. Realize that thoughts are not permanent—they come and they go. Research shows that the simple act of naming your emotions can turn the volume down on the fear circuits in the brain, resulting in a feeling of calm. Notice your body and how you are standing or sitting. Notice your posture or if you have any aches and pains.

P = Pull back, get perspective, proceed with what works. Proceed with something that can support you in the moment. Call a friend, take a walk, etc. Try this the next time you feel anxious. Notice how stopping and tuning into how you are feeling can change your perspective.

Have a discussion:

  • What would it be like in the days, weeks, and months ahead if you started stopping more often? In what situations could you see yourself using STOP?
  • Who are people at the school who you have seen respond well to emotionally-charged situations?

Activity 8: (10 Minutes) LETTING GO OF YOUR STORY

The stories that we continually tell ourselves about our lives can be very limiting and inaccurate. Reflecting on our thoughts and self-talk can be illuminating.

Read the quote:

“Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward. If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down.” (Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart)

This activity works best in a quiet place without disturbance so participants can work independently and privately. Pass out the Letting Go of My Story handout to each teacher. After having some time to reflect on the questions on the handout, post the next instructions for participants to complete alone.

Next Instructions:

  • Once you have identified your story (or one of them), notice how your body feels when you believe this story.
  • Pay attention to what thoughts arise when you believe this story.
  • Next, ask yourself who created this story and if it is even accurate.
  • Begin to imagine what it would feel like if you didn’t actually believe this story, and see how it feels to let go of it, for even a moment.
  • Observe how you feel as you let this story go.
  • Ask yourself what you would do differently if you didn’t believe this story.
  • As you go throughout the day, ask yourself what story you are holding onto that might still be holding you back.
  • And remember to be patient when letting go of your story. Practice self-compassion. You don’t have to let your entire story go all at once.

Post the following resources for teachers to note for their personal use:

The video, “Breathing Meditation” from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center gently guides you through a simple breathing practice to help you focus your awareness.

Discussion/Journal Prompts
  • How do I regulate my emotions while considering what emotions those around me are exhibiting?
  • How do my emotions affect others?
  • How do the emotions of others affect me?
  • What can I do to balance my emotions and still be myself?
  • Identify and name the emotion you are feeling.
  • Practice being mindful and being in the moment.
  • Notice your thought patterns, emotions, and reactions.
  • Breathe deeply, meditate, go for a walk, change your physical space.
  • Shift your attention and focus on something else.
  • Have a plan for difficult emotions or situations.
  • Practice positive self-talk. Reframe the story you are telling yourself.
  • Practice self-care.
Application & Extension
  • Marc Bracket teaches about becoming an Emotional Scientist instead of being an Emotional Judge. Emotional scientists seek to observe and understand emotions in others; emotional judges use emotions in others to form judgements about people. Have a conversation about the difference between an emotional scientist and an emotional judge.
  • Use an emotional prompt or template to help you communicate what you are feeling. The following example is often helpful:
    • I (exhibited behavior) because I feel (emotional vocabulary word).
    • I (felt emotion) because I (experienced event).
    • When you (exhibit behavior) I feel (emotional vocabulary word).
    • Example: I cried because I was feeling sad. I felt sad because I fell and I didn’t get the promotion I was hoping for.
  • Print off a yearly calendar that fits on one page. Use this mood meter every morning or night to color in the calendar based on your emotion. This can help to shed light on any patterns of emotion occuring. It may be beneficial to pick a hard part of your day to track, but just keep it consistent.
    • Blue: low pleasantness, low energy
    • Red: low pleasantness, high energy
    • Green: high pleasantness, low energy
    • Yellow: high pleasantness, high energy
  • Further reading and videos:
    • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
    • Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness by Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, and Frances Johnston
    • Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves
    • Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee
    • Wise Mind Living: Master Your Emotions, Transform Your Life, by Erin Olivo Ph.D.
    • Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, by Daniel Goleman
    • Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators by Elena Aguilar
    • Yale RULER (recognize, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotions),
    • TED Talk: The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown
    • TED Talk: How to Practice Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch
    • TED: How to Embrace Emotions at work by Liz Fosslien

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