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How Can I Teach Emotional Vocabulary to Young Children?

Angie Neal, MS, CCC-SLP

July 1, 2023

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Question

How can I teach emotional vocabulary to young children?

Answer

One effective approach to teaching emotional vocabulary is the RULER approach. RULER stands for:

R - Recognize how your body feels.
U - Understand what happened to make you feel this way (context).
L - Label how you feel.
E - Express what you feel in an appropriate way.
R - Regulate your emotion.

To implement the RULER approach, start by helping children recognize their feelings by observing cues from their bodies. Point out physical signs such as body posture, energy level, heart rate, and breathing. Connect these cues to specific emotions, such as leaning over indicating sadness or excitement manifested through jumping. By linking bodily cues with emotions, children can better understand and label their feelings.

Contextual understanding is crucial in emotional vocabulary. Teach children to recognize the situations or events that triggered their emotions. Discuss the impact of context on emotions, using examples like a funeral setting evoking sadness. By identifying the context behind their feelings, children can gain insights into their emotional experiences.

Encourage children to expand their emotional vocabulary by labeling their emotions more precisely. While simple terms like happy, mad, or sad are common, introduce a range of emotion-related words. Teach them to differentiate between frustration, anger, anxiety, sadness, and disappointment. The more precise their emotional labels, the better they can express and manage their emotions.

Appropriate expression and regulation of emotions are key aspects. Help children understand when and where it is suitable to express their emotions. Teach strategies for emotional regulation, such as deep breathing, positive self-talk, reframing negative interactions, creating physical distance to cool down, and seeking support from others. These techniques enable children to express and manage their emotions in healthy and balanced ways.

Utilize resources like Sesame Street's "Name That Emotion" videos featuring Cookie Monster to support emotional regulation and self-management. These videos provide engaging examples and discussions on identifying, understanding, recognizing, and managing emotions. They can be valuable tools for helping students develop an emotional vocabulary and navigate their feelings effectively.

 

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course The Impact of Tech on Development and Academic Readinesspresented by Angie Neal, MS, CCC-SLP.


angie neal

Angie Neal, MS, CCC-SLP

Angie Neal is the Speech-Language Pathology Consultant at the South Carolina State Department of Education, a member of ASHA's School Issues Advisory Board, a graduate of ASHA’s inaugural School-Based Leadership Development Program, a board member with the State Education Agency Communication Disabilities Council, published author, a LETRS facilitator for South Carolina, previous adjunct faculty for the University of South Carolina, and previous board member for the South Carolina International Dyslexia Association. Mrs. Neal is a frequent presenter on a variety of topics such as cultural and linguistic diversity, language and literacy, remediation of /r/, and pragmatics. 


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