What is it? Through observation and narration you have become aware of many of the child's thoughts and feelings. Labeling consists of communicating to the child your ability to read and understand his/her emotional state.
Why is it important? The accurate use of language to label the child's emotional states provides children with a set of coping skills that are fundamental aspects of emotional health. Through this process, language becomes a fundamental way in which the child and teacher develop a sense of shared meaning, and in turn, the teacher-child relationship is strengthened.
How is it accomplished? As you observe and narrate play, pay attention to the child's verbal and non-verbal communication of affect. Try to be aware of the child's positive and negative emotions. Often children have more difficulty communicating their more negative feelings, such as anger, frustration, sadness, fear, and anxiety. Thus, you should pay special attention to any words or behavior that suggest these feelings. If the child is engaged in pretend play, attend to the feelings and thoughts of the characters in the play as well. Once you have identified emotional content in the child's play, reflect it to the child with a simple statement such as, "You look pretty frustrated" or "It seems like that little boy is sad that his mom left."
Be alert for signs that you are accurate in your labeling of the child's thoughts and feelings (see inset). In the case of inaccurate labeling, you can usually reengage the child by spending a few moments returning to simple observation or narration of the child's play.