Planning For It

When You Might Use This Practice

  • To increase students’ self-awareness
  • To help students process their emotions
  • To increase students’ understanding of each other


Time Required

  • ≤15 minutes



  • Equipment to watch video
  • Paper
  • Pencil/pen


Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Identify the people and places that trigger changes in their emotions
  • Analyze positive and negative consequences of emotional expression in different settings
  • Discuss what triggers their emotions to change


Additional Supports


Character Strengths

  • Empathy


SEL Competencies

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness


Mindfulness Components

  • Focused Attention
  • Non-Judgment

How To Do It

Reflection Before the Practice

  • Think about a situation(s) or person/people that triggered a change in your emotions recently.
  • Take a piece of paper and write the name of the person or the situation.
  • Fold the paper and imagine it representing the change that occurred in your emotional response (e.g., I felt happy when I woke up, after meeting with my boss I felt irritated).
  • Try to really imagine yourself experiencing that emotional change.
  • Next, unfold the paper and this time, imagine your emotional response returning to the original state (e.g., from irritated to happy again).
  • Take a few minutes to just breathe.


  • Pre-check the video to ensure the sound is working.
  • Students will each need a piece of paper and something to write with.
  • Students will need partners for this exercise.
  • You can pre-select partners or choose them based on seating location.
  • Play the following video for students.
  • Follow along with your students and model active participation.
  • Have a discussion with the class using the questions below:
    • Why is it helpful for us to be more aware of the many different types of emotions that we can experience?
    • What are some strategies we can use when we begin to experience a negative emotion?
    • How can we return to the emotions or feelings that we desire if we find ourselves feeling negative emotions?
    • What are the positive and negative consequences of expressing your emotions? How does it feel to express your emotions to others?



Move This World Middle School SEL Curriculum

Reflection After the Practice

  • Do you notice a change in how students respond to triggering situations?
  • How can you create a safer environment so that students are able to talk about their emotions?

The Research Behind It

Evidence That It Works

Research has found that greater emotional awareness is related to the use of more effective emotion regulation strategies. Particularly, individuals who express greater clarity about the kinds of emotions they are experiencing and greater ability to shift their attention towards or away from their emotions also report using emotion regulation strategies that have been associated with greater well-being (e.g., reappraisal and acceptance).

Similarly people who report having greater awareness about what triggered their emotions report a lower engagement in emotion regulation strategies that do not contribute to well-being, such as suppression.

In other words, the more aware we are of the emotions we experience, the more likely we are to navigate our emotions in a healthy way.

Why Does It Matter?

Middle school is challenging for many students, and puberty is associated with an increase in intense emotional experiences. Such changes can make it difficult for students to stay focused in class or to build strong relationships with their teachers and classmates.

Thus, helping students to develop greater emotional awareness is important as it influences the kinds of regulation strategies they use, which can affect their overall well-being. This is particularly important given the increased rates of mental health challenges among adolescents in the age of social media.

“I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
–Oscar Wilde
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