Developing Emotions

Developing Emotions is a pioneering programme of lessons designed to promote emotional literacy and emotional awareness in school children. It has been developed as a collaboration between the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London and TKAT Multi-Academy Trust.

In February and March 2020 the lessons were piloted in eight TKAT schools. Today, as the current school closure continues we are making the lessons, activities and resources available to other schools, and to parents teaching their children at home

You can find out more by reading the rest of this blog post below and also by listening to this podcast episode, in which Thomas Dixon visited one of the participating schools to talk to teachers there about the way the lessons support emotional learning:

There are six units in Developing Emotions, covering topics including sadness, joy, tears, laughter, anger, revenge, fear, worry, love and friendship. It is a cross-curricular programme with an emphasis on the history of emotions, literacy, vocabulary, and the creative arts. It also covers topics in PSHE, science, and philosophy.

Activities include art, writing tasks, debates, music, dance, and a final quiz for each unit. Children will encounter blues music, Shakespeare, the philosophy of utilitarianism, Romantic poetry, Charles Darwin’s ideas about emotions, modern dance, and more.

Each of the six units is made up of three lessons. Each lesson is 30-40 minutes in length. At present, materials have been developed for use with Year 3 and Year 5 classes (children aged 7-8 and 9-10), although they could of course be adapted for other age groups.

We hope you and your children enjoy them! We would love to hear from you about your experience of using the lessons, or if your school would like to take part in a future pilot. When you sign up you will receive a welcome email letting you know more about how to stay in touch.

The rest of this blog post includes all the links and information you need to understand and use the materials. When you are ready, you can sign up here to get access to all the resources.

What will I get when I sign up for these resources?

You will receive a login and password to give you access to all the teaching materials on the schools pages of our website The Emotions Lab.

There you will find the teaching materials divided into two pages – one for Year 3 and one for Year 5 children. On each page you will find the PowerPoints and teaching materials. Each of the six units has a PowerPoint and a PDF document. The PowerPoint walks you through the lessons, with video and audio clips and images. The PDF includes a briefing for teachers, a one-page plan for each lesson, and all the necessary worksheets and print-outs.

Can you give me a rough idea what is covered in the lessons before I sign up?

Yes! We have prepared a one-page overview of the programme for each of the two year groups to show you at a glance the content of the 18 lessons in each. Here they are:

Is this a PSHE programme?

No, although it could be used as a central strand of a PSHE curriculum. This is a cross-curricular programme using history, literature, art, drama, music, science, and philosophy to provide children with an enriched understanding of how words, images, and music can represent human emotions.  This is a programme rooted in history and with an emphasis on vocabulary and the arts.

Is this suitable for children with special educational needs or disabilities?

We hope that all lessons will be suitable for all children. They are not designed to initiate discussions of particular children’s emotions, or emotional problems, but to help all children learn more about a wide range of human experiences. It will be for you to think about whether any particular child might encounter issues in a lesson about, say, anger or sadness. You should take the usual precautions and consult with the safeguarding, pastoral, or counselling staff in your school about any concerns.

Do you know if the lessons work?

Yes! We have piloted them in TKAT schools and received positive feedback from the class teachers, who told us that children are really engaged by them and enjoy learning all about words, images, and ideas to do with emotions.

What other feedback did you receive from teachers?

There were two main things that teachers told us, which we will feed into future versions of the materials. First, they said that the lessons take longer than the 30-40 minutes we estimated – in some cases they could be extended to up to an hour each. Secondly they pointed out that at present there is no differentiation in the activities between children in each year group with different levels of ability and attainment.

The history of emotions sounds interesting! Where can I learn more?

We recommend browsing the blog posts and listening to the podcasts about different emotions on The Emotions Lab to get a flavour of the research behind Developing Emotions – and checking out our two games.

What if things are still unclear or I have other questions?

Please feel free to contact the project team at Queen Mary at any time by sending a message to

Thank-you for your interest in Developing Emotions!

You can now sign up here to get access to all the resources.