Build Emotional Intelligence with Art, Animation, Games, and Augmented Reality


Why Do Check-Ins?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) check-ins are crucial for nurturing students' well-being and academic success. By regularly assessing students' emotions and providing support, educators cultivate trusting relationships and foster a safe classroom environment where open communication thrives. These check-ins not only promote self-awareness and emotional regulation but also enhance students' academic performance.

Why It’s Important to Make Check-Ins Fun and Engaging

Creating fun and engaging ways to conduct SEL check-ins is important since it increases student participation and enthusiasm, making the process more effective. When students enjoy the activity, they are more likely to open up and express themselves honestly, leading to more meaningful discussions about their emotions and well-being.

1.) Draw an Expressive Robot


Drawing emotions on a non-human object like a robot can be useful for children for several reasons. Firstly, it provides a tangible and concrete way for children to express and understand emotions. By externalizing emotions onto a robot, children can visualize and identify different feelings more easily, helping them develop emotional awareness and vocabulary.

Secondly, using a non-human object like a robot can make the process of discussing emotions less intimidating for children. They may feel more comfortable projecting their own emotions onto an object rather than directly expressing them, especially if they are shy or hesitant to talk about their feelings.

Additionally, drawing emotions on a robot allows for creativity and imagination to come into play. Children can personalize the robot with various facial expressions or gestures to represent different emotions, encouraging them to explore and express emotions in a playful and engaging way. 

2.) What Pushes Your Buttons?


Give students the opportunity to discuss what pushes their buttons with this emotion self-awareness game. It asks students to color, assemble, and roll an emoji filled die representing the buttons on PETER O’METER’s emotion panel. Students take turns discussing the factors involved in their experience that invoke the emotion indicated by the emoji rolled. They can begin with “______ pushes my buttons” or “I feel ______ when ________.” In the storybook, readers are asked to advise PETER on which button to press according to the situation he finds himself. Pressing buttons, as a figure of speech, is used to describe situations that elicit emotions.

Using this game as an SEL check-in trains students in:

  • Normalization of Emotions: Talking about a wide range of emotions in various life circumstances helps normalize the experience of emotions. Participants learn that it is natural and healthy to experience a range of feelings in response to different situations, reducing stigma around discussing emotions.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Exploring the circumstances that trigger certain emotions can prompt individuals to reflect on how they respond to those situations. This can lead to problem-solving and coping strategies, empowering individuals to manage their emotions more effectively in the future.
  • Building Connection and Support: Sharing personal experiences and emotions can foster a sense of connection and support among participants. It creates a safe space for individuals to be vulnerable and receive validation and understanding from others.

3.) Augmented Reality Interactive Robot


PETER O’Meter comes to life from the pages of the book through augmented reality powered by Quivervision through their free app, Quiver. Students can color the AR coloring page which teachers can print for them for free, and conduct a check-in from the 3D AR experience. The AR model is interactive. Children can push PETER’s buttons to see his face, screen, and music change to match each emotion. Children can color, scan, and explore a range of emotions through PETER as you see below.


Using this strategy for an SEL check-in helps students with:

  • Activation of Emotion Centers: Observing the changes in facial expression, symbolic animation, color, and music with each press of PETER’s buttons activates the areas of the brain associated with emotion processing.
  • Empathy Development: Playing such games encourages students to put themselves in someone else's shoes by trying to identify and understand the emotions portrayed. This promotes empathy development, as students learn to recognize and relate to the emotions of others.
  • Cognitive Development: Analyzing facial expressions to identify emotions involves cognitive processes such as observation, interpretation, and inference. This helps in the development of critical thinking skills and promotes cognitive growth.

 4.) Drag and Drop an Expression


If your students have digital tools, like an iPad or Chromebook, you’ll love this interactive drag and drop tool for a quick check in with students. You can send out one of the many web-based versions available (Google slides, Easel, Seesaw, or Canva) through your learning management system and Instruct students to identify an expression that matches their feelings. They drag it to PETER’s face, color the corresponding emoji on his panel, and draw a line in his gauge pointing to the color. A classroom without individual devices could use this digital check-in projected on the board. Students can come up to add tally marks under the expression that matches their emotions.

Here are some good times to check-in with students:

  • Transition Periods: Before or after transitions such as arriving at school, switching classes, or returning from recess, quick SEL check-ins can help students regulate their emotions and refocus their attention for the next activity.
  • Before Important Tasks or Assessments: Prior to starting a test, presentation, or any other important task, a quick SEL check-in can help students manage test anxiety or performance pressure, ensuring they are in a positive mindset for optimal performance.
  • After a Challenging Activity or Discussion: Following a challenging academic task or a difficult discussion, a quick SEL check-in can provide students with an opportunity to process their emotions, reflect on their experiences, and receive support if needed.
  • During Times of Transition or Change: During periods of transition or significant changes such as moving to a new school, starting a new grade, or experiencing personal changes, quick SEL check-ins can help students cope with any associated stress or uncertainty.
  • In Response to Behavioral Issues or Conflicts: When behavioral issues arise or conflicts occur between students, a quick SEL check-in can help de-escalate tensions, address underlying emotions, and facilitate conflict resolution.
  • At the Beginning or End of the School Day: Starting or ending the school day with a quick SEL check-in allows educators to gauge students' emotional states, set positive intentions for the day, or reflect on the day's experiences.
  • During Times of Crisis or Trauma: In response to crises, emergencies, or traumatic events, quick SEL check-ins are crucial for providing emotional support, addressing immediate needs, and ensuring students feel safe and cared for.

Incorporating quick SEL check-ins into various points throughout the day helps promote students' emotional well-being, enhances their self-awareness, and creates a supportive learning environment where students feel valued and understood.

5.) Let Your Feelings Show!


Using a robot as a proxy for emotions can help children develop empathy and perspective-taking skills. By attributing emotions to the robot, children can practice understanding how others might feel in different situations, fostering empathy and compassion.

Robots with Animated Glow Lesson and Mini-Course is designed to teach students how to draw, animate, and communicate feelings through an emotional robot.

This course takes you step-by-step through creating an expressive robot on paper and a flip book animation on your iPad using the Do Ink Animation and Drawing app to creatively communicate emotions through art using the animated glow technique inspired by the book, PETER O’METER. It contains links to all the drawing guides, tutorials, and activities to lead your young artists through an animation and drawing experience. Learn more about this project and read the School Arts Article here.

This long-form check-in gives students a dynamic and creative way to express emotions through expressive drawing, symbol, animation, and spoken voice blending SEL communication through technology and art.


Where Do I Begin?

All of these SEL check-in activities are inspired by PETER O’METER, a robot who becomes emotional when his buttons are pushed. This interactive book is designed to actively engage readers in the identification of emotions and practice of empathy while filling their imaginations with PETER's retro-futuristic robot filled world. Before you begin these check-in strategies, introduce your students to PETER: a Programmable, Empathetic, Touch-sensitive, Emotional Robot.


PETER O’METER, is a fully augmented book with 6 moments that asks students to actively engage with PETER by empathizing with his situation and advising him about which button to press on his newly upgraded eMotion panel. This book promotes emotional intelligence, communication skills, empathy, problem-solving abilities, and social connection in a fun and interactive way. Explore the book and all the resources here.


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5 Engaging SEL Check-ins with Young Students using PETER O’METER was authored by:
Tricia Fuglestad

Tricia Fuglestad (Fuglefun), NBCT, K-5 Elementary Art Teacher, K-12 in Tech Integration.

Tricia’s lessons blend digital and physical art making with transdigital lessons to expand the curriculum, give students an opportunity to explore new media, and find transformative ways for students to demonstrate learning dynamically. Her classroom has been featured in educational publications and higher education textbooks. Her students’ Fugleflicks, student-created, art-related videos have screened at international
film festivals and won national awards. She has been recognized for her tech innovation and dedication to art education by NAEA, IAEA, Golden Apple, PBS, Artsonia, and ISTE. Tricia has been a storyteller, songwriter, dreamer, and artist her whole life and can't wait to blend her talents into entertaining and educational products.

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