Connecting with our Young Students

Tamara Irving
If our emotions have driven the way we have taught, behaved and affected our relationships this past school year, imagine how our little ones have been feeling. Their emotions may have affected their learning, behaviors, and hindered relationships that they may or may not have had the opportunity to create. Imaging not being able to have a playdate with your friend, or learning to walk down the school hall as a line leader. So many opportunities have been missed, yet the emotions from those experiences may still be felt. 

As adults, we may be very aware of having more than just one emotion at a time. This past school year we may have felt anxiety and excitement at the same time. The anxiety could have come from not knowing what to expect in our classroom settings, yet we may have felt excitement from learning and mastering new educational tools. 

It's important to teach our younger students that having more than one emotion at a time is ok and is what is called ‘mixed feelings’. I have a colleague that hosts a rotating kindergarten learning pod for her son. Certainly, there have been lots of emotions experienced by both parents and kinders. Many of the activities that they are learning have been enhanced by using Social Emotional Learning Tools. Most recently her learning pod used the Elementary SEL Planner to help the kindergartners in exploring their emotions. 

It's important that we provide opportunities for our young students to express themselves accordingly. Here are a few tools to do so. 

  1. Ask your students if there was a time when they had mixed feelings and explore what those feelings were and what they did about them. Help them predict when they might have had mixed feelings. Allow them to write about it. 

  2. Create opportunities for your young students to make art to reflect those mixed feelings. This can be in the form of a painting, a drawing, or a sculpture. Sometimes a drawing or painting can help you get your emotions out on paper.
  3. Allow opportunities to teach your young students to speak up when they know that something is not right. Ask them what emotions they felt during those moments. You'd be surprised what little kids can express when they are given the prompts.

  4. Provide an emotion chart in your virtual or face-to-face classroom for students to express themselves at any time during class. Believe it or not, their emotions may change during the course of the day depending on their setting. 

Check out a few pictures of how our SEL planners are used in action from a real kindergarten pod! 

More SEL Teacher Workshops

Identity Workshops

Focus on teaching and supporting your students as they navigate their identity, explore their emotions and develop self-management skills


Investigate how your school can become more equitable for all students by creating SEL-aligned learning environments and teaching philosophies.

Healthy Well-Being Workshops

Learn how to teach students about their own well-being including trauma-informed teaching practices and decision-making skills. 

Community Workshops

Support your students as they navigate tough social situations and create healthy relationships.