Back-to-School Feelings Temperature

As the new school year begins, we hope you find a routine or “container” for checking the feelings temperature of your students. In many elementary schools, teachers use a morning meeting structure or integrate a morning check in into their warm-up activity. In middle and high schools, cross grade-level advisories are a terrific way of getting closer to our students and of building trust in the classroom.

Whatever your container might be, it’s hard to imagine a time when it’s inappropriate to introduce and check in about feelings. For both adults and children, they are a window into whether we are ready for what we are about to do. Feelings can stand in our way (think fear, hunger, shame, anger), or they can drive engagement (think excitement, eagerness, confidence, joy), but as the saying goes, “if we can name them, we can tame them.”

Feelings Temperature

Feelings TemperatureThe early weeks of school are really the perfect time to introduce our Feelings Temperature lesson (Theme I, Lesson 2). The lesson includes a simple scale from 1-10 to measure feelings with 1 being “feeling really bad” to 10 being “feeling very good.” (We get into naming those feelings more descriptively later in the curriculum.)

One of our favorite teachers uses these questions to get his students used to using the scale.

  • How did you feel the night before our first day of school?
  • How did you feel on the morning of the first day of school?
  • How did you feel when you saw a friend you haven’t seen over the summer?
  • How did you feel when you sat down in your classroom on the first day of school?
  • How did you feel just before lunch? during lunch?  after lunch?
  • How did you feel when you were leaving school on the first day of school?
  • Can you name the feelings you had at these different times?

If the conversation really gets moving, you can follow up the scale exercise by asking, “When you have a feeling that is uncomfortable, what strategies do you use to try to get to a more comfortable feeling?”

As a teacher, it’s a good idea to share some of your feelings with the class to encourage students to be willing to be vulnerable, but not so much that you draw too much attention to myself. Talk about a time when you felt anxious? Angry? Happy? Sad? Calm?

Our friends at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence use a similar concept called a Mood Meter that helps kids identify feelings across four quadrants and begins to track when and why they feel a certain way. And, yes, there’s an app for that!

We encourage you to share your successes and challenges with us. We may post them with your permission and with photos if you have parent releases for your students. You may comment on this post, email us at, or message us on Facebook or Twitter.




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