Having an Emotionally Literate 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.

Over the next few weeks, I will be focusing on how to support emotional development, resilience and relationships in the everyday classroom. Each post will focus on one level and will be referenced against the VCAA curriculum.


By the end of Foundation level, students identify and express a range of emotions in their interactions with others. They recognise personal qualities and achievements by describing activities they enjoy at school and home, noting their strengths. They recognise that attempting new and challenging tasks are an important part of their development.

Students identify different types of relationships. They begin to identify and practise basic skills for including and working with others in groups.



Most children are able to recognise the ‘core’ emotions; however, they may struggle to label these when they experience them. More importantly, they often struggle to cope with them when they get too big. At the Foundation Level we want to use strategies that help children to recognise and regulate their emotions.

  • Have an emotions display: children can place their name on the face/colour/label that matches how they are feeling. They can be encouraged to check in with this and move it throughout the day. This helps them to notice the emotions change over time.
  • Have a ‘calm down’ space: 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.
  • Label feelings: when you are talking to children one-to-one, model emotion skills by labelling their emotions (‘I can see you are feeling upset about that’) and normalising these. You can offer to problem solve, but never just launch in to solve a problem without permission, they’ll only dismiss your ideas and possibly get more stuck.
  • Play games: emotions charades helps children to notice what happens in their body when they feel a certain way; emotions bingo or snap helps with facial expressions and names of emotions; role play characters that feel certain ways and work out what they are thinking to help hcildrne notice that their thoughts and moods are linked.
  • Use popular culture: there are a wealth of popular culture references to use in the classroom to support emotional recognition (think: Inside Out, Emoji move, the Hulk).
  • Stories: these are a wonderful way to teach children about emotions, and more importantly, about how to handle them. Some of my favourites for this age group are below.


  1. When I am feeling… by Trace Moroney
  2. Have you filled a bucket today? by Carol McCloud
  3. In My Heart by Jo Witek
  4. The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
  5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  6. It’s Okay to Be Different; The Feelings Book; The Feel Good Book all by Todd Parr
  7. The Mixed Up Chameleon or The Bad Tempered Ladybird by Eric Carle
  8. My Many Coloured Days by Dr Seuss
  9. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
  10. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
  11. The Bear and The Bees by Ella Richardson
  12. Personal Space Camp by Julia Cook
  13. Social skills books by Shona Innes (The Playground is Like a Jungle; Friendship is Like a Seesaw; Worries are Like Clouds etc).
  14. There are also a range of relaxation books by Lori Lite


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