Finding Feelings, the second theme in the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum, teaches children to understand and label their own emotions and the emotions of others. Before children can begin to figure out how others might be feeling, they have to be attuned to their own feelings. Adults, too, need to be aware, not only of the various feelings they have, but also of the way that these feelings are evident in facial expressions and body language.

Reading faces. How we feel is often “written” on our faces! Our faces can be very expressive – we use our eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and facial muscles to show different feelings and various degrees of happiness, excitement, sadness, or frustration. Although not everyone feels the same emotion in response to the same situation or stimulus, research has shown that there are universal similarities in how we show certain basic emotions, including fear and anger. Physical cues help us express how we are feeling and also help us figure out how someone else might be feeling. It’s important to learn how to “read” these signals so that we can effectively communicate with and respond to other people. Promoting our and children’s ability to accurately identify and label feelings in others can enhance empathy, communication, and relationship skills.

Try this in the classroom:

Mad about you! Ask students to make a “mad” face and then take a photograph of the group. You can also instruct students to make a “sad” and “happy” face. Show the photograph to the students and ask them to identify similarities in how they express this emotion. For example, prompt students to look at everyone’s mouth or eyebrow and see if it is in the same shape or position.

Check this out: Older students may enjoy segments or photos from the TV series Lie To Me. Based on the research of Paul Ekman, an expert in non-verbal communications at the University of California, San Francisco, Lie To Me features Tim Roth, who plays Dr. Cal Lightman. Lightman looks for micro-expressions – a slight move of the brow, for example – to find out whether subjects are telling the truth. His great skill at this has led to his being known as the human polygraph.

Find one thing in common. Challenge students to find one thing in common with every other student in the class; examples include sharing the same birthday month, hair color, favorite pizza topping, or television show. Ask students if anyone was surprised by the similarities they share with other classmates. Can you find one thing you share in common with each of your students?