Emotionally Literate Classrooms: Level 1 & 2

This is part 2 of a series focusing on how to support emotional development, resilience and relationships in the everyday classroom.

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) sets out what students are expected to learn across all year levels from Prep to Grade 10. Alongside the Learning Areas, this curriculum also identifies 4 ‘Capabilities’ that students are expected to meet. These are:

  • Critical and Creative Thinking
  • Ethical
  • Intercultural
  • Personal and Social

The area of Personal and Social Capability focuses on the ability to recognise and express emotions, develop resilience and manage social relationships with sensitivity and collaboration.  While this can be achieved through specific classes aimed at targeting skills, it is also important to have an emotionally literate classroom to support this.

Levels 1 & 2:

By the end of Level 2, students show an awareness of the feelings and needs of others. They identify and describe personal interests, skills and achievements and reflect on how these might contribute to school or family life. They recognise the importance of persisting when faced with new and challenging tasks.

Students recognise the diversity of families and communities. They describe similarities and differences in points of view between themselves and others. They demonstrate ways to interact with and care for others. They describe their contribution to group tasks. They practise solving simple problems, recognising there are many ways to resolve conflict.

At this stage children are learning more about emotions of themselves and of others, they are more able to notice their understanding of the range of emotions is increasing. However, at this stage children will often talk about anger as a bad thing; it is important to teach that no emotions are bad (if we never got angry, we’d never stand up to bullies!!). The important thing is that a) it’s the behaviour that gets us into trouble, not the emotion and b) maintaining an emotion about something that happened in the past is not helpful, this occurs by continuing to think about it in unhelpful ways.

In the classroom, we use strategies to help children show positive social skills toward others, to develop their sense of self and their resilience. We should also be encouraging children to explore the world around them, beyond their immediate family, neighbourhood or culture. Some ways to do this include:

  • Explore character strengths: have a display in the classroom where everyone gets to put up their strengths, achievements or work they are proud of. Celebrate a range of strengths from academic work to sporting, creative, musical or compassionate actions.
  • Multi-cultural celebrations: consider displaying signs in community languages, or inviting people to share their own cultures or celebrations. Allow everyone’s voice to be recognised and celebrated.
  • Have an emotions display: as with Foundation level, children should be encouraged to check in with how they feel throughout the day. What this looks like will change, but it is important to continue this strategy throughout their primary years. A worry box may also be helpful for them to express how they feel in an anonymous way.
  • Have a ‘calm down’ space: exactly as in the Foundation year, this can be called anything and should include nice, relaxing activities or resources that help children to get calm when they notice they are becoming overwhelmed. It may also include a quiet workspace children can move to if they are being distracted.
  • Gratitude Diaries: writing in a gratitude diary once a day has been shown to increase school belonging and academic self-competence.
  • Books: as ever, bibliotherapy is a great way to teach children to normalise their experience, and learn to manage their emotions, behaviours and develop social problem solving skills.

Stories for teaching thinking strategies and problem solving:

  •  Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
  • The Dot by Peter H Reynolds
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
  • Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
  • I Think, I Am by Louise Hay

Books for teaching emotions and appropriate ways to regulate these:

  • The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside
  • Is a Worry Worrying You? by Ferida Wolff
  • The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
  • Panicosaurus; The Red Beast; Disappointment Dragon all by Haitham Al Ghani
  • My Mouth is a Volcano; The Worst Day of My Life Ever! by Julia Cook
  • How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath
  • Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen

Books to celebrate individual and family differences:

  • Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
  • It’s Okay to be Different; The Family Book by Todd Parr
  • The Colours of Us by Karen Katz
  • Mommy, Mama and Me; Daddy, Papa and Me by Leslea Newman
  • The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan
  • When the Bees Fly Home by Andrea Cheng
  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
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