Practical Tips for Emotion Vocabulary and Social Language Skills

In my last post on teaching emotion vocabulary, I mentioned that both my students on the spectrum and my students with emotional disorders need to expand their vocabulary for feelings, but that I differentiate in how I use the same materials to better meet their different needs. Catch that post here.

Links to FREE resources for teaching emotion vocabulary from Looks Like Language!
Learn Vocabulary for the Strength of your Emotion

In general, when working with students who have emotional disorders,  I have found that giving my students some control over the content or the activities they are being asked to learn is a helpful strategy for getting them to be more involved and cooperative. 
This also opens the door for giving them opportunities to practice the language for negotiating and compromising that I teach them, as well.

If every session feels like they are making you jump hurdles, then maybe your students need some more practice with emotion vocabulary and perspective taking!

You can start by using charts with varied vocabulary for mild to strong emotions. Let students choose the specific words they want to practice from the charts. This blog article has a few nice charts:

Use Some Hands-On Activities

Your students can do some hands on activities for learning the chosen vocabulary.
* make a personalized dictionary and 
* play games with photos of different facial expressions or situations
* find images to make a picture dictionary
* Look up synonyms using a great online student dictionary, like

When your students have learned the new vocabulary words, it is time to put them to practical use! The first activity to incorporate is ‘How big is your problem?’  Using given criteria and varied social scenarios, my students have to decide how big the problems are and an appropriate emotion intensity to match that situation. 

Students who explode over every small incident need lots of varied vocabulary for angry emotions to be able to think about the severity of the problem. They need practice determining the the varied intensities of emotion that different situations call for, even though there are individual differences. Explaining their reasoning for their answers helps them internalize the language and thinking skills for their own future use.

Help for Teaching Problem Solving

This website has a wealth of information on problem solving, including problem solving steps, a video of this in action (with a lovely Aussie accent), scenarios and some downloads.

This is an animated YouTube video about the steps to problem solving. The voice is a bit mechanical, but students may like the animation.
This site has an easy to use chart for the size of the problem as well as videos with students. - 
more problem scenarios

You could also check out these packets of mine for varied skills and levels:
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