SPARKLERS / Managing emotions

Sliding Emotions

This activity helps tamariki learn to manage emotions, by giving them an easy way to visualise how emotions build and dissipate
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Each student will need a Sliding Emotions worksheet

Why we love it

This year 7 and 8 activity builds on Tones of Emotions by linking emotions to colours, and giving tamariki a chance to practice the signs for each colour.

We’ll use a slide metaphor to help tamariki visualise the way emotions build and the strategies we can use to work through them and let them go.

Being able to recognise and name emotions is the biggest step towards successfully regulating them.


When your students are calm (if need be, try Sleepy Statues first) ask them what they think ‘emotional regulation’ means. It basically means managing or controlling our emotions.

Remind tamariki that all emotions are okay – even the big ones— and there are three things that can help us regulate them:

  1. Recognising the emotion.
  2. Being able to name the emotion.
  3. Doing something to ‘work through’ the emotion.

What to do

Sliding Emotions

Copy the playground slide from the worksheet and let tamariki know that emotions work like a slide, (or a wave or a hill) – they go up, and come down. Draw an arrow pointing up the ladder, and draw an arrow down the slide.

Ask students to think about the arrows in terms of their breath: an emotion comes in (take a deep breath in), and then goes out (breathe out). In fact, calming our breath, just like that, is one way to help come ‘down’ from an emotion. Relate this to Sleepy Statues, Tummy Breathing or Body Scan if you’ve tried these activities.

Going up the slide is an emotion building or escalating and going down the slide is the emotion passing or regulating. Emotional regulation is like coming down a slide in many ways because it’s about choosing to ‘let go’. All emotions – e.g. worry, happiness, sadness, excitement – follow this pattern.

Ask tamariki to think about some of the big emotions they feel and how they follow the pattern of the emotional slide. Point out that sometimes we spend a long time at the top not wanting to come down, or at number 4 on the ladder, but eventually we do choose to 'let go' and come down the slide. This is normal.

Give them this example:

“So here I am going about my day, down at the bottom of the slide, feeling calm; let’s colour this emotion, green/kākāriki.”

  • Circle the “1” on your whiteboard with green
  • Write the heading: Calm
  • Add the sentence “Going about my day.”
  • Ask for the NZSL for green/kākāriki

How might I know I feel calm? What are some clues?

Relaxed body, no real facial expression, feel light and easy.

“And I just need to put my lunchbox away and Kirsty, who’s in a hurry pushes me. I’m okay, but I’m a bit sad/surprised.”

So I’ve moved to ‘2’ and I’m blue (kahurangi).

  • Circle the “2”on your whiteboard drawing with blue
  • Write the heading: Sad / surprised.
  • Add the sentence “Kirsty pushed me.”
  • Ask for the NZSL for blue/kahurangi

How might I know I’m feeling surprised or sad?

I may have given Kirsty a surprised or dirty look, I might feel a bit deflated or on edge, maybe my shoulders slumped or I felt my facial expression change.

“So, I say “hey” to Kirsty and she laughs and runs off.”

Now I’m annoyed! What kind of friend does that?!

Where have I gone to? I’ve jumped to #4 and I’m yellow/kōwhai.

  • Circle the “4”on your whiteboard drawing with yellow
  • Write the heading: Annoyed.
  • Add the sentence “Kirsty ran off.”
  • Ask for the NZSL for yellow/kōwhai

Ask: What do you think? Why would Kirsty treat me like that?

  • If students escalate the emotions saying things like, “she doesn’t like or care about you,” carry on escalating the story to 5, rage and red (whero).
  • If students de-escalate the emotions saying things like: “Maybe it was an accident, or she was in a hurry and excited and didn’t mean to upset you,” then de-escalate by jumping off the slide (letting go) and heading back to green (kākāriki).

Whichever option they choose, challenge them by applying the opposite to show that escalation and de-escalation often happens based on how we think about what happened. And this is something we can control! (Although it’s not always easy!)

Remind tamariki that none of these emotions are ‘bad’ – they’re just emotions and we all feel them at some points – and we shouldn’t avoid them. The thing to be careful about is how our emotions can affect our behaviour

If Kirsty pushes us and we become really angry, how might this affect our behaviour?

  • We might be rude or mean to other people – this may even include our family when we get home
  • We might break something purposefully
  • We might not really think (or care) about consequences.

But we don’t stay like this forever – thank goodness!

Remember, emotions are like our breaths, they rise and fall – some emotions can take a short time to rise and fall (imagine climbing up and coming back down the ladder), and others rise over a short time (imagine going fast up the ladder) and fall over a long time (imagine going slow down the slide – like what happens if the slide is wet and sticky)!

Sliding emotions worksheet

We can all think about times when we’ve escalated an emotion and behaved in a way we’re not happy about. Even something we might think is a great emotion, like excitement can make us behave in ways we are embarrassed about afterwards. It’s not always anger. It could be fear or worry.

Give each student a worksheet and say that for now we’re going to focus on just the left hand side of the worksheet, which is the emotion building or escalating.

Ask students to imagine a situation where they might move up the the slide, all the way to five. Encourage them to be creative! Ask them to:

  • write the emotions and descriptions on their worksheets
  • colour the numbers to match their mood
  • add arrows to show the emotion building.

Regroup and invite a few students to share their stories. Now say we’re going to focus on the things that help us regulate the emotion, or come down the slide. What can we do to help a big emotion pass?

There are lots of possible answers, including:

  • tummy breathing
  • walking away
  • finding a quiet spot
  • talking to someone
  • reflecting on how things may not mean what we think they mean e.g. Kirsty was just in a hurry and excited and didn’t mean to hit us
  • thinking positive things
  • a cuddle or pat on the back
  • sitting near someone who can keep calm (e.g. a teacher/Mum/Dad/Friend)
  • drinking water
  • using positive self talk.

Write some answers on the board, then ask tamariki to complete the right side of their worksheets, choosing an action (or two) they might use to come down the slide.

Finish off by reminding students we’re learning emotional regulation – just like we learned to read – but what can help is:

  • Step 1 – Recognising the emotion (what are we feeling?).
  • Step 2 – Being able to name the emotion - Name it or say what colour you're feeling (in words or NZSL). Let people know.
  • Step 3 – Do something to 'work through' the emotion - what positive action can I take to 'let go' as quickly as possible and come down the slide.

You may like to ask tamariki to add this to their worksheet.

To extend this on a fine day you may like to head off to the playground or park and ask tamariki to climb the slide imagining they're escalating an emotion, then at the top choosing to 'let go' and come back down. There's some great kōrero you could have about what this was like.

What Next?

Enjoy some acting and drama! For a fun year 7 and 8 extension activity, we’d suggest moving to Dramatic emotions.

Some other fun ways to explore emotions:

  • We recommend doing some reading around emotions, especially worry. Check out our Bestest Books and Vids for Kids.
  • Or try watching an expressive video (like Charlie Chapman or Mr Bean), and pause it along the way, seeing if tamariki can name the emotions that come up. Ask if they can predict what’s coming up based on the emotions they can 'see' and what’s happening.
  • Get creative! Let kids use poetry, artwork, video or film to explore different emotions in more depth. If you do any of these, we’d love to see some of the results!

You could also try:

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