Monday, October 29, 2012

Teaching Emotions

 For students with autism, identifying the emotions for themselves and/or others can be VERY CHALLENGING.  
During my first year of teaching, I realized that teaching emotions needed to be a key part of my instruction.  I started targeting emotions in a weekly Drama Time where we played structured drama games related to emotions. Currently, we not only utilize drama time, but try to intertwine teaching emotions into everything we do.  And can I tell has made a difference.  I used to have a student who would scream, cry, throw is body on the floor, and completely shut down to the outside world anytime something didn't go his way.  When we started working on identifying emotions, these behaviors reduced drastically.  I still remember one day this student sitting up and crying in the cafeteria.  I asked him what was wrong and he said "I am sad no playground today." (It was raining).  This would usually have been something that would cause a full blown tantrum.  I was thrilled!  This student had never used language about emotions before except during our structured drama games.  Once he had been taught the words for what he was feeling, he was able to generalize those skills and express his emotions through words instead of dangerous behaviors.  This was definitely a proud teacher moment for me :-)

We continue to have a structured Drama time each week where we work on acting out/identifying emotions through playing games.  One game we play is called Drama Mask Drawer.  We all sit in a circle and pretend to open a drawer and reach into it. The teacher will say "Put on your ___ face."  (Some of the emotions we started with were Happy, Sad, Mad, Frustrated, Silly, Scared, Jealous, etc.).  For my lower functioning students, I use a mirror to show them their face and try to get them to imitate mine.  For my higher functioning students, I will ask them more in depth questions such as "why are you feeling jealous." 

We also incorporate learning about emotions into our literacy/comprehension activities.  This is one activity we use.  I cut these cards apart and use the cards on the left as the scenario.  Then I use the pictures of the emotions as answer choices for my students.  A set of these scenarios along with some other emotion visuals are available at my TPT Store .

We have this posted in our room to practice asking each other about our emotions.

We also incorporate emotions into work tasks during independent work stations through matching and sorting activities.


  1. This is awesome! Thank you for sharing:) It would be interesting to hear more about what types of games/activities you do during the structured drama time. You have done great work modeling these emotions and giving students the opportunity to practice them in a safe spot. This is so fantastic:-D

    We are ALL Special!

    1. Thanks! I will definitely share more drama activities soon!

  2. I like the ideas for teaching emotions! I also made a sheet to go inside an independent work binder to sort emotions. It's color coded and has pictures of real people- maybe you can use it! Love sharing with other autism teachers :)