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Social-Emotional Learning

The Two-Word Check-In: A Powerful Practice for Connecting with Students

In this Panorama Education Intervention Brief, we explore the two-word check-in: a ritual that educators can use to gauge how students (or colleagues) are feeling in the moment. You can find this strategy in Panorama’s Playbook and in the intervention library of Student Success, Panorama's MTSS intervention management platform for school districts.

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Quick Summary

Intervention Name: Two-Word Check-In

Tier(s): 1, 2, 3 

Grade Levels: K-12

CASEL Competency Alignment: Self Awareness, Social Awareness

Description: The two-word check-in is a simple yet powerful classroom exercise that enhances emotional awareness, promotes authenticity, and builds community.

Check-in with students during school reopening using these questions! [Download the question bank as a PDF]

Two-Word Check-In Overview

The two-word check-in is a group-oriented and research-backed behavioral intervention. It is often used as an opening or closing ritual to help students (and caring adults) describe how they are feeling. Using the two-word check-in in your school can help to build students’ self awareness and social awareness skills while also increasing their sense of belonging and safety in the classroom.

The two-word check-in gives students an opportunity to reflect on (and label) the emotions that they are experiencing. The goal is to take a pulse on where members of the classroom community are at during the start or the end of a day, class period, or restorative circle. Classroom teachers can implement a two-word check-in in less than 10 to 15 minutes per day and tend to use it with students on a recurring basis.

Adults can also benefit from doing regular feelings check-ins. In many districts, teams of educators will begin meetings with a two-word check-in or an internal weather report. When educators embody the same wellness practices that they hope to teach their students, the outcomes for learners and teachers are amplified.

How to Implement the Two-Word Check-In

The following script and instructions are adapted from a lesson plan created by Breathe For Change, a Panorama Playbook partner.

  1. Ask students to find a comfortable seat (either at their desk or on the floor). If there is space, students can sit together in a community circle. Make sure that your body language is relaxed and inviting as you begin this exercise.
  2. Instruct students to place both hands on their heart and take a few deep breaths. Students can keep a soft gaze or close their eyes, if this feels safe for them. Model this for students by taking a few deep breaths yourself.
  3. Say: “As you continue to breathe, notice how you are feeling right now. What emotions are you experiencing inside you? Every emotion is welcome; give yourself permission to be exactly as you are. Take a few more moments here to connect to how you are feeling as we take some collective breaths.”
  4. Ask students to choose two words to describe how they are feeling. When they have two words in mind, they can softly open their eyes.
  5. To close this exercise, students can take turns sharing their two words (if they feel comfortable doing so) around in a circle. Educators can start by sharing their two-word check-in.

If you use Panorama: You can select the "Two Word Check-in" strategy when creating an intervention plan for a student. Monitor the student's progress over time by logging notes. Everything will be saved to the student's profile and visible to other educators with access to Panorama.

Two Word Check in - PanoramaExample of a student intervention plan in Panorama (mock data pictured)

Tips for Effective Implementation

  • Differentiate the activity by grade level.
    • For students in grades PreK-1: Consider brainstorming a list of feelings as a class. You can draw and label various facial expressions on the board or on a poster. Encourage students to pick words that they helped brainstorm or to draw a “feeling face” before sharing aloud.
    • For students in grades 2-5: Since elementary students are starting to build a more sophisticated emotional vocabulary, you can provide them with more complex examples of feelings. For example, you might share a feelings wheel.
    • For secondary students: Consider spending time on reflection questions after they’ve shared their two-word check-in. Do they feel safe enough to share their authentic emotions? How do they think the exercise impacts the classroom community?
  • Try implementing it in a one-on-one setting. While typically used as an opening or closing ritual with a classroom or small group of students, the two-word check-in can also work in a one-on-one conversation with a student. When a caring adult models the practice of labeling their emotions, it can help to increase their relationship and level of connectedness with a student.
  • If students are participating in hybrid or remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, implement well-being check-ins virtually. Students can use the chat on Zoom or Google Hangouts to share two words that describe how they are feeling. Or, they can un-mute themselves to respond to reflection questions or talk about what's going on in their day.
  • For team meetings or professional development workshops, consider using the two-word check-in as an icebreaker or opening exercise. The act of checking in can help build educator capacity to model self awareness and self-management.
  • Carve out additional time for students to reflect on the exercise in groups. Prompt students to explore how it felt to label their feelings, what it was like to describe their emotional state in two words (or one word), and how it felt to hear everyone else share their two-word check in. With middle school and high school students, consider reflection questions such as:
    • What was it like to give yourself permission to be exactly as you are?
    • How did it feel to acknowledge your feelings?
    • What was it like to choose two words to describe how you are feeling?
    • What was it like to hear everyone else share their two words?
    • How do you think this impacted our classroom community?

Additional Resources

Download our Student Check-ins Question Bank (includes 80 questions!)

Topic(s): Social-Emotional Learning

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