SPARKLERS / Managing emotions

Emotional Rollercoaster

Create an interactive classroom rollercoaster, and support tamariki to develop their emotional literacy and regulation
Connections with the NZ Curriculum and Mental Health Education Guide (learn more)

Learning outcomes

Tamariki recognise emotions – and how our emotions change – and can share how the are feeling with others.

A wee note

A word of advice from the experts - teachers!

We've heard that it takes a bit of time to set this up, especially if you're going to laminate all the parts. But, teachers also tell us that using the Rollercoaster as a check-in at the beginning of the day and after lunch works brilliantly - a clear signal that tamariki need to rebalance (teachers use the activities listed below) or find time to talk.

PS. Keen to give tamariki an at-home option? Check out our Emotional Rollercoaster activity for whānau.

Tāngia ēnei tohutohu – Print me

You will need to print:

You can make the rollercoaster as long as you like, e.g. for a 10m rollercoaster you will need to print 10 sets (40 posters). You could display it right along a wall or even around the whole!

Either have tamariki pin it up as part of the activity or pin it up beforehand to save some time – just ensure they can reach all parts of it.

He aha ai? – Why we love it

Being able to talk about and recognise emotions is important in learning to regulate them. Emotional Rollercoaster promotes this as a simple, every-day classroom activity.


Explain you’re going to make a rollercoaster for the classroom wall.

Let tamariki know this is going to be an emotional rollercoaster where each morning, and perhaps again after lunch, each person can move their individual carriage on the rollercoaster, to show how they’re feeling.

For example if you’re feeling calm, you’d place your carriage above the word ‘Calm’. Or if you’ve had a tough morning, where you couldn’t find your socks and were running behind, you might place your carriage above the word ‘Frustrated’ or ‘Annoyed’.

Ask tamariki why this might be helpful?

  • It’s a great way to think about how we’re doing and start naming our emotions
  • If you’re having a tough day, a classmate, friend or I (teacher!) might be able to help
  • It can be a good chance for me (the teacher!) to see where people are at
  • It can help me (teacher) to match activities to how people are feeling, or you yourself might realise you need to do something to help rebalance your emotions.

Explain that when we acknowledge our emotions, this can really help us come through the ones that can be tricky e.g. annoyance or disappointment (anger and worry too).

Hei mahi - What to do

See “Worksheets” above for what you’ll need to print before getting started.

Invite students to choose a carriage, or hand these out. Ask them to write their names on the carriage and colour it in or decorate it. If you have time and are feeling creative, you might invite tamariki to add a photo or create their own carriages.

If you haven’t already, this would be a great time to pin the track to the wall.

Once tamariki have completed their carriages, ask:

  • What types of emotions do you know?

Write these on the board and generate discussion by asking: how does it feel in your body when you have that emotion?

If you’re struggling to get much of a list, add some emotions from Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions, asking what they mean and how they feel.

Try to ensure the words are recognisable for your tamariki and mostly created by them. They might use kupu in te reo Māori and English, and there might be some slang there, too. Any way that tamariki think best describes some of the emotions they feel, e.g. ‘harikoa’, ‘whakamā’, ‘stoked’ or ‘wriggly’.

When you have a decent list on the board, ask tamariki to write them into the spaces on your class rollercoaster. Perhaps ask tamariki to think about good spots to place the emotions – e.g. at the top of a loop, down the bottom – it really won’t matter for the activity but it’s a great chance to talk about the ‘feelings’ associated with emotions.

Let tamariki know that new emotions can be added at any time, so it won’t matter if we leave some empty for now.

Ask them to add their carriages to the emotional rollercoaster!

We recommend using your emotional rollercoaster to acknowledge what you're noticing about any emotions in the classroom. We advise not singling tamariki out about how they’re feeling, but instead making broad statements such as, “it seems we’re in a pretty good place right now”, or “woah, we’re a bit all over the place” and ask what might help? Or choose a Sparklers activity to help balance things and prepare tamariki for learning. Some tamariki might need a chance to have some quiet time, allow this if you can.

Oh, and make sure you have a carriage too!

What next?

Build a repertoire of your favourite re-balancing energy activities - calming and energising. The Ready for Learning selection are great options.

We have also been told that this activity works really well with Emotions in Colour too.

All of these activities are also great ways to continue talking about moods and emotions.

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