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Counselor's Corner: Communicating Emotions with Your Student

How a person feels on the inside can have a significant impact on how they express themselves on the outside. If a student has a less-than-productive day in the classroom, it is possible to identify the underlying emotions that were at play. But how do we raise our awareness of these emotions in the moment, and therefore set our learning spaces up for success? The Mood Meter is an evidence-based tool (originating at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence) that is not just useful for teachers, but parents may also find it useful when communicating emotions with their student at home.

The Mood Meter is a tool designed to help us learn to recognize emotions, in ourselves and in others. It enables us to communicate our emotions using this shared multi-sensory "language" as we work collaboratively and proactively to help our students feel seen, understood, and supported.

How the Mood Meter is set up:

The Mood Meter is a square divided into four quadrants — red, blue, green, and yellow — each representing a different set of feelings. These feelings are grouped together on the Mood Meter based on their pleasantness and energy levels.

  • RED feelings: high in energy and low in pleasantness (i.e., angry, scared, and anxious)

  • BLUE feelings: low in energy and low in pleasantness (i.e., sad, disappointed, and lonely)

  • YELLOW feelings: high in energy and high in pleasantness (i.e., happy, excited, and hopeful)

  • GREEN feelings: low in energy and high in pleasantness (i.e., calm, content, and relaxed)

Communicating emotions using the Mood Meter:

1. Identify the Color Category - For example: “It seems you’re in the red and you want to feel more green, is there something I can do to help?”

2. Identify the Specific Word - For example, if your child is in the blue and feeling sad — ask your student if there is a specific word that best describes how he/she feels. Is he/she tired, lonely, or disappointed?

3. Say what you see - For example: “You’re crossing your arms and stomping your feet. You must be angry.”

4. Identify next steps for shifting away from the current feeling (if that is the desired goal) - For example: “If you’re stressed, what can we do to help you feel less stressed and more at ease?”

Communicating emotions in the classroom:

At Spring Valley School, the Mood Meter is displayed in every classroom. At the beginning of class or at any time that it is needed during the lesson, the teacher can point to the Mood Meter to gather insight as to where the class stands as a whole.

These brief check-ins help indicate to the teacher if there is a need to adjust the pace of the lesson and/or to take more breaks. If a student is in the "red", he/she will have greater difficulty retaining the material. "Green" is the learning zone.

Communicating emotions with the School Counselor:

Ms. Brenna Vincent, the Lower School Social Worker at SVS, applies a multi-sensory approach to discussing emotions with students. Pictured below, are her "Feelings Friends" used as aids for students to pick up and hold as they communicate the dominant emotion they are currently experiencing.

"No emotions are considered bad emotions. The outward reactions, given those emotions, are what matter," Ms.Vincent said.

Sometimes using colors in place of words to communicate our feelings can help vividly explain and therefore sufficiently support what the student needs to be ready to learn!

With practice, the Mood Meter can become a helpful tool for developing greater emotional self-awareness and supporting healthy relationships.

Learn more about the Mood Meter, and download the app at


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