This blog is the first in our SGM® Summer Study Series. We and guest bloggers will be sharing research articles linked to our methodology. We hope to spark some ideas for you and keeping your wheels turning throughout summer break about how to expand the use of our methodology during summer school and in the Fall and to apply the Story Grammar Marker® and related tools in some new ways.
When asking a child how he or she feels or asking how they think a character feels, the answer is often happy, sad or mad. Occasionally you could get an answer like “scared.” MindWing Concepts’ manuals for Braidy the StoryBraid® as well as It's All About the Story portray the 6 universal feelings (right). We encourage children to use synonyms for these "feelings" words that also indicate the degrees and nuances of happiness, sadness or anger that they themselves or a character might be feeling. Below are lists of synonyms for the six universal feelings.
MindWing also created an 18"x24" Feelings Poster and Mini-Poster to help to inspire the use of different emotion words for when children are telling or writing a story, to make the "feelings" more explicit. But, not all "feelings" are the same.
In an article called "Picturebooks and Emotional Literacy" in The Reading Teacher, the author explains that "although there are emotions for all shades and degrees of joys, sadness and anger, it is problematic to create a universal facial expression for envy or pride" (Nikolajeva, p.253). These emotions can be called social emotions. "Unlike basic [universal] emotions, social or higher cognitive emotions such as love, guilt, shame, pride, envy and jealousy are not innate, or least considerably less innate than basic emotions and may be culturally dependent" (Nilolajeva, p.252).
Social emotions are also emotions or feelings that depend on interaction with another person or group of people. For example, a person can be happy that it is a sunny day outside, but feeling love or jealousy or guilt can only be felt in relation to another person, hence social. At the same time, many of these emotions are not easy to express on one's face or to "read" on another person or character's face.
"In identifying an emotion from an image, we are most likely to choose one of the basic emotions. Nuances of emotion can be conveyed verbally," for example, "sad" could be bored, upset, melancholy, pensive, gloomy, anxious, etc (Nilolajeva, p. 252).
These images from the children's book The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch illustrate a great example of social emotions. Maryellen uses this story in almost every workshop. Just looking at the princess' face, she looks happy in one and sad/mad in the other. However, examining the body language, context and situation in the story, one can conclude that the princess is actually lovestruck/blissful and disappointed/mortified. Nilolajeva explains that "from [picture book] images, we cannot exactly decide on the nuance. This allows a wider range of interpretation and subsequent response" (Nilolajeva, p. 252).
Another example of this can be seen in the images to the right and to the left. At first glance the images on the left appear to be a mixture of happy, sad, mad and scared. However, once you look at the version of these images on the right, that is labeled, you see that these facial expressions are nuanced and many are a range of social emotions.
“Images play a significant role in representing social emotions and frequently carry the heaviest load, especially through body language and mutual position of characters on the page [or in real-life situations]. Social emotions are not directly connected to external manifestations and thus more difficult to express visually [and to interpret]” (Nilolajeva, p. 253). Narrative thought can help to connect emotions and perspectives in social situations. Using the Story Grammar Marker® to tell or retell a story or social situation can help to interpret social emotions. One example is from the animated film Cinderella. See the still images below.
In the first image (left) it looks like the feelings expressed are the universal feelings of surprise, anger and sadness/disgust, however, when you know the story or situation (through narrative thought), looking at the image on the right, you can infer that the characters are probably feeling shock, resentment and envy (social emotions).
Using the Story Grammar Marker® and picture books is an effective way to explore social emotions.
Nikolajeva, M. (2014). Picturebooks and Emotional Literacy. The Reading Teacher, 67, 4, p. 249-254.