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2. Set

In this activity…

Students learn the two core dimensions of emotions and how this relates to the Mood Meter.


Start this lesson by drawing a connection to math (specifically to graphing). Show students the picture of the blank graph and ask them to consider how they would plot a point on this graph.

Students should be able to explain that:

  1. You need to have both an x- and a y-coordinate to plot a point on the graph.
  2. The x- and y-axis represent two distinct dimensions.

Axis Graph

Next, tell students that they can use these very same principles to recognize what emotions they, or the people they know, are feeling. Remind students that there are five key skills for becoming an emotion scientist, which can be remembered by the acronym RULER. The first skill – the ‘R’ – is about recognizing emotions.

Explain that emotions have two core dimensions – pleasantness and energy – and that they can map their feelings based on the direction (i.e. pleasant or unpleasant, high or low energy) and intensity of each of these dimensions.

Show students the simple Mood Meter and point out that the horizontal axis represents pleasantness and the vertical axis represents energy.

Each axis ranges from -5 to +5, with -5 representing an extremely unpleasant emotion (x-axis) and having very low energy (y-axis), and +5 representing an extremely pleasant emotion (x-axis) and having very high energy (y-axis).

Mood Meter

For now, let students know that they don’t have to worry about any specific names of feelings associated with each point on the Mood Meter – you will worry about this another day.

Walkthrough each quadrant of the Mood Meter with students using an example:

  1. Josephine has always had stage fright. Previously, her parents had let her skip her year-end Piano recital because they knew about her stage fright, but this year, Josephine’s parents decided that it’s time for her to face her fears. When they first broke the news to Josephine, she was shocked, but that shock quickly transformed into anger. How could her parents do this to her? Didn’t they love her? For weeks, Josephine was anxious about the performance and, in the days leading up to the recital, her anxiety grew into a panic. All of these emotions – feeling shocked, angry, anxious, and panicked – are unpleasant, high energy emotions found in the top left, red quadrant.
  2. Chun immigrated to Canada from China when he was five years old. He remembers his first day of kindergarten, where the other kids pulled the sides of their eyes to make fun of his own eyes, and where they made weird noises, imitating his language. Chun felt alienated. At first, he tried to stand up for himself but when nothing changed, Chun felt hopeless and didn’t bother fighting back. Now, Chun is in Grade 6 and he doesn’t have many friends. He feels lonely at school and by the time he gets home he is exhausted from pretending that the mean comments don’t offend him. All of these emotions – feeling alienated, hopeless, lonely, and exhausted – are unpleasant, low energy emotions found in the bottom left, blue quadrant.
  3. Laticia had a long week at school, but she got a lot done, so she left school on Friday feeling fulfilled. On her walk home, Laticia talked to her mom about feeling grateful that she had such a good teacher and such close friends. Her mom agreed and told Laticia that she was such a thoughtful young girl. Later that evening, Laticia snuggled up on the couch with her mom feeling cozy, and they watched a movie together. All of these emotions – feeling fulfilled, grateful, thoughtful, and cozy – are pleasant, low energy emotions found in the bottom right, green quadrant.
  4. For his 12th birthday, Mitchell, a hard-core basketball fan, got tickets to a Raptors game with his parents. He was surprised by the gift, and the idea of seeing a live game motivated him to practice harder on his free-throws. Leading up to the big day, Mitchel was feeling excited. Finally, watching the game in person left him feeling very inspired. All of these emotions – feeling surprised, motivated, excited, and inspired – are pleasant, high energy emotions found in the top right, yellow quadrant.

Now that students have a basic understanding of what each quadrant represents, explain that they can gain a general sense of their underlying emotional state by taking a moment to consider these basic questions:

  • Is what I am feeling pleasant or unpleasant?
  • Do I feel full of energy or like I have low energy?
  • What physical sensations am I experiencing? Is my heart racing? Is my body language open or closed?

Ask each student to answer these questions for their feelings at this very moment and (based on these answers) ask students to map their emotions on the Mood Meter.

This can be done in three ways:

  1. You can project the blank mood meter on the whiteboard and ask each student to take a turn plotting their feelings on the Mood Meter using a whiteboard marker.
  2. You can project the blank mood meter on a screen and, using PowerPoint, you can add each student’s point on the Mood Meter. This option allows students' feelings to remain anonymous if they do not (yet) feel comfortable sharing their feelings with the class.  
  3. Have each student independently plot their feelings using the Mood Meter worksheet.