Towards a More Peaceful Classroom: Expressing Feelings Through the Creative Arts

When the children are expressing strong feelings towards each other, I have them sit down together and work it out with words or puppets. They take turns speaking of their feelings and listening to each other. If there is a conflict to resolve they each make suggestions until both are satisfied with the creative solution.

elyse peaceful classroom 1

Inspired by my recent trip to Bali for a Creative Arts conference, I thought to use other than puppetry or oral language to express feelings and resolve conflict. At the conference Professor Joe Moreno had us using musical instruments as a way of introducing ourselves to each other. In the final session he played back our musical self-expression and suggested moving to the recorded sound.

I could imagine applying something similar for my work with the children. I could see this tool extended into expression of feelings as well as a means of resolving conflict.

elyse peaceful classroom 2

To facilitate musical expression, as another means for developing a more peaceful classroom, you’ll need percussion instruments and a recorder (optional).

Choose an instrument

Have the child choose a simple percussion instrument. This works best if the conflict hasn’t accelerated to the point where what is needed is time apart to calm down. What might seem like distraction is a more appropriate way to express strong feelings. This is also beneficial for those who suppress their feelings or find them inaccessible.

Teacher/Parent facilitation:

Sample prompts: “Are you feeling sad right now because your friend will not play with you? Which instrument will show how you feel?”

“Are you feeling very angry because someone drew on your art work? Can you show me how you feel with one of the instruments?”

If they cannot choose, you can encourage them to try out different ones until they find the just the right instrument; or you can ask, “Does it feel like this (tapping a triangle or striking a drum)?”

Taking turns

  • Each child takes a turn showing how they feel (record it if possible).
  • If musical expression is recorded, play it back and suggest that they express even more of their big, or small, feelings by moving to the sound of their own music.

Musical Dialogue

  • Have the children move back and forth in a musical dialogue. One ‘speaking,’ one listening, and then trading places, the listener becoming the speaker, the speaker the listener.
  • Encourage movement as they express themselves musically

Observers (optional)

  • If you would like a small group of the other children to become a circle of observers, see if they can guess what the two participants are saying to each other through sound and movement.

Having observers, even when intended as peer support, is tricky. You know your children best and whether this might work for them.  Often those who are still feeling strongly may be self-conscious and not want others around.

Dear Readers, As I am just beginning to explore how effective this is with young children, I’d appreciate your feedback from those who use this tool.

Terima Kasih (Thank you)

Product Recommendations from Discount School Supply®:
Triangle (TRIA)
Bongos (BDR)
Sounds of Nature Instrument Set (NATSNDS)
Rhythm Club™ – set of 4 drums (CLUB)
25-Player Rhythm Set (SUPER25)
Califone® Cassette Player/Recorder (CALCAS)


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rupali
    Sep 17, 2013 @ 10:16:23

    I feel expressing is not about what we think it’s all about what we feel. We give our ideas our thoughts about how to communicate but we never say anything about how to express, the more u share the more your life will be meaningful & happy. I created my own blog about expressing feelings, my blog name is share your feelings too.


    • Elyse Jacobs
      Sep 17, 2013 @ 21:03:39

      I agree, Rupali, that expressing is all about how we feel. With very young children, we start with helping them to name the feelings. In learning to share their feelings, allowing themselves to be vulnerable, they are acquiring, at a tender age,tools for constructing a bridge of intimacy and trust.


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