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Language and Communication Differentiate between similar emotions  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.


To understand the difference between often confused emotions in a situational context, e.g. 'surprised / shocked', 'upset / angry'.

Early years skill:not specified
Early years typical range:not specified
P-scales/Curriculum skill:PSHE and Citizenship
P-scales/Curriculum level:L2
TAP skill:Social Interaction
TAP level:TAP72
Pre/Nat. Curriculum Area:not specified
Pre/Nat. Curiculum Standard:not specified
Section:Primary (5-11yrs) info; Secondary (11-16yrs) info
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Activity/strategy name and materials required How to do the activity Key principles for doing the activity and comments
Emotions and situations pictures

6 baseboards each showing a photograph of a different emotion

4 situation cards for each emotion

Blacksheep press produce a ready made pack of situations and emotions.

Discuss the different emotions shown on the baseboards.

Choose two boards to start with, from the combinations opposite, and lay them out on the table.

Put the relevant situations cards into a bag or box. Take it in turns to pull one out, describe the situation, and put it on one of the two boards.

When one board is full, declare that one the 'winner'. Discuss times when you and the child have felt like that, or what might make you feel like that. Talk about what the people in the pictures could do, and what you could do when you feel that way.

Contrasting emotions to start with:

frightened - worried

bored - cross

cross - sad

happy - bored

worried - cross

frightened - cross

To make this more difficult, use more boards.

You could deliberately put a situation on the wrong board, and see if the child notices.


Notebook / flashcards


Explain that you are going to talk about what we mean when we say we are feeling 'angry, sad, happy' etc.

If you are using a notebook, talk about making a 'dictionary' of feelings. Write one word at the top of a page. Talk about what we mean when we say we are feeling that way.

Decide on a definition and write it under the word.

The child could decorate the page with appropriate colours and pictures.

If you are using flashcards, write the emotion word on one side and the definition on the other. You can then use the cards as quiz questions.


Happy: This is when I feel good about something. I might smile or laugh.

Sad: This is when I don't feel good about something. I might cry. I might show I feel this way by being cross.

Angry / cross: This is what I feel when something is not fair, or is bad. I might feel like shouting or punching or doing something to someone.

Bored: This is when I'm not interested in what is happening, and just want it to finish. I might sigh, or lean my head on my hand.

Upset: I might feel like this when something is not fair, or when someone is unkind. I might cry, or feel like shouting.

Frightened / scared: This is what I might feel if I don't know what is happening, or if I am unsafe. I might cry, or scream, or just try not to move. I might want to find someone I know, like my mum or my teacher.

Surprised: this is what I feel when something good happens that I didn't expect. I might smile, open my eyes wide, and say something like 'wow'!

Excited: This is what I feel when I know something good is going to happen soon. I might smile, move around, and keep thinking about what is going to happen.

If you're happy and you know it...

Flash cards or definitions book (see "Definitions" activity)

Time-line of a day

Explain that you are going to think about when you all feel happy / cross / frightened.

Put all the Feelings Flashcards in a bag and pull one out / choose a page of the book.

Put that at the top of the time-line. Talk through the day, and what makes you feel that way at that part of the day. E.g. 'I feel happy at breakfast time when I can have coco-pops for breakfast' / 'I feel worried if my bus is late.'

Discuss what you might do to show that you feel that way. What could you do about feeling like that? (e.g. 'Ask my mum if we will be late for school or not')

You could choose a different feeling each day to work through the timeline.

You could also display the timeline, and encourage the child / children to identify how they are feeling at different parts of the day.

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