Learning about Emotions

Increase Miller Elementary’s fourth and fifth graders were quickly immersed in a short segment of “Rattatouie,” the Pixar film about a young rat who dreams of becoming a chef. All too soon, Assistant Principal Dr. Michael Weschler paused the clip and asked the students, “In this scene, which zone is Rattatouie in?”

Hands went up. “Yellow!” the students said. The yellow zone, they knew, meant feelings of frustration, stress and nervousness. They were spot on.

All students at IMES are challenged to be emotion detectives. The school-wide initiative called Spot Your Emotion, which is linked to the Zones of Regulation Program, kicked off in early February with assemblies led by Dr. Weschler. It will also include read alouds, coping strategies and activities about feelings. The goal is to teach students ways to identify and manage their emotions.

“It’s a challenge to spot your feelings,” said Dr. Weschler. “It takes practice.”

He referred to the big, colorful Know You Zone / Use Your Tools bulletin board in the main hallway with four quadrants—blue, green, yellow and red, each one associated with specific feelings. Younger students’ work hung there, too: Spot Your Emotions statements and drawings including “I feel loved when I see my mommy,” and “I feel calm when I hear music.”

“Everyone experiences emotions in all of the zones,” he said. “It’s about time and place. When you are sitting in class ready to learn, what color should you be in?” The students knew. Green, which represents being calm and focused.

“If you’re not in the green zone, what are some strategies you can use to regulate your emotions?” Dr. Weschler asked the students.

“If I am in the red zone, I change my breathing,” said one of the students. The red zone represents an extreme emotion/loss of emotional control.

“If I’m in the blue zone, I get on the couch and my cat comes running to me,” said another student. The blue zone includes feelings of being sad, tired or bored.

Students had time to turn and talk to a classmate, sharing the zone they were in now, as well as something they do to move into the green zone. Dr. Weschler reminded them that what they were doing—connecting with a friend—was one of the best ways to stay in the green zone.