Exploring Feelings through Poetry: A Social Emotional Learning Lesson

Poetry and social emotional learning go hand in hand!

It's important to give children the time and space to express their own emotions and be in tune to others' emotions. Poetry is a great tool for cultivating this emotional awareness.  

Cover of poetry Anthology Imperfect II: Poems About Perspective shows a ground looking up view of black skyscrapers against a blue sky.
An excellent resource for exploring challenging situations and feelings through poetry is the book Imperfect II: Poems About Perspective. This anthology includes 80 poems by children's poets from around the world. (While the anthology is suggested for middle schoolers, I've used it successfully with students in grades 3 and up.) As the back cover explains, as humans, we tend to "think we're the only person who has had something really embarrassing happen to us, or that a problem we're having will go on forever. When we've lost sight of the big picture, how can we help ourselves put things back in perspective? Poetry can lend a hand."  

I'm honored to have my poem, EMBRACE MISTAKES, included in this anthology. In this poem, I explore an emotion I often feel, especially when I encounter writer's block:



When you hit a snag and stumble, 
do you feel a grumble rumble? 
When your best plans turn to rubble, 
does your anger start to bubble? 
Does it boil toward a fit? 
Do you want to shout: 
“I QUIT!” 
If a setback’s plaguing you, 
take a b r e a t h, and try this view: 
        Don’t get irate, 
        Don’t make a fuss,
        rethink, discuss. 
If you persist and don’t give up, 
at some point you’ll break through. 
A problem’s not a roadblock. 
It’s your path to something new!

-© Michelle Schaub 2022

In EMBRACE MISTAKES, I acknowledge some negative behaviors that tempt me when I'm frustrated, then I offer healthier alternatives to deal with my frustration. After reading my poem with students, we discuss other challenging emotions.  We brainstorm both negative and positive actions we can take when we feel those emotions.  I use this FEELING WHEEL to facilitate the discussion.

Then I invited student to write their own poems that explore ways to turn negative emotional reactions into positive ones. To facilitate the students' poem writing, I created this FEELING POEM TEMPLATE: 

Feeling Poem Template

I model how to use the template by sharing a poem I wrote and one written by a group of students. (Both poems are included in the free, downloadable FEELING POEM TEMPLATE:)

When rejection
pours over my head
like an icy bucket of water,
instead of curling into a ball
and shivering,
I'll shake off my doubt
and stand in a warm patch of possibility
and watch rejection

    -Michelle Schaub, 2022

When frustration 
hovers over me 
like a black cloud of gnats, 
instead of yelling, screaming, 
and throwing a fit, 
I’ll swat away my doubts 
and keep calm and keep trying 
and watch frustration
fly away. 

     -Haedyn, Ella, and Lola, 2022

As you look for ways to cultivate emotional awareness among your students, I hope these poetry resources lend a hand! 

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About Michelle Schaub

Michelle Schaub is an educator and award-winning children's poet. She is the author of the picture book poetry collections Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market, (which won the 2018 Growing Good Kids Award and 2019 Northern Lights Book Award,) and Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections. She is also the author of two picture books in verse, the bedtime STEM book Dream Big, Little Scientists and Kindness is a Kite String: The Uplifting Power of Empathy. Her poems appear in several anthologies, including  A World Full of Poems and Hop to It: Poems to Get You Moving.  Michelle loves visiting schools and speaking at conferences on the power of poetry to boost literacy. Find out more at:  https://www.michelleschaub.com/