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Feelings 1: Feeling sad

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To provide an opportunity for students with autistic spectrum disorder to identify and explore the feeling of sadness.

Preparation and materials

  • Note: students with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty understanding and expressing how they feel and find it very difficult to identify the feelings of others. These eight assemblies have therefore been created to provide opportunities to identify and explore the following feelings:
    – sad
    – happy
    – worried
    – frightened
    – angry
    – tired
    – hungry
    – sorry.
  • The aims for assembly times with students with ASD are to:
    – create a friendly environment
    – create a predictable schedule, using PECS or other familiar symbols
    – communicate clearly and give students time to process the information
    – help develop social and play skills.
  • The aims of the eight feelings assemblies are to:
    – examine feelings and behaviour via stories
    – use stories from the Bible to illustrate how we might respond to these feelings helpfully.
  • The Bible stories used for the different feelings are:
    – sad – Zacchaeus, because he had no friends before he met Jesus
    – happy – the children coming to Jesus, because he always has time for them
    – worried – Jairus, because his daughter was very ill
    – frightened – disciples in the boat, because there was a bad storm
    – angry – Mary and Martha, because Martha had too much work to do and was annoyed her sister didn’t help
    – tired – Jesus, because he had spent so much time with needy people
    – hungry – feeding the five thousand, because the crowds hadn’t planned to be listening to Jesus for the whole day
    – sorry – the prodigal son, because he had spent all his money and realized he needed to go home.
  • Make the symbols referred to in the assemblies and use them consistently in each of the subsequent assembles.
  • Make up a simple tune for the ‘good morning’ welcome song in the ‘Assembly’, Step 2, that you can use each time with confidence.
  • Find a version of the Bible that is appropriate for your audience and familiarize yourself with the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19.1–10). TheJesus Storybook Bible, written by Sally Lloyd-Jones Zondervan, 2012), is excellent, as is Pat Alexander and Carolyn Cox’s The Lion Children’s Bible (Lion, 1991), or else you could tell it in your own words.
  • Listen to and learn ‘Zacchaeus was a wee little man’ song at:



  1. Introduce the assembly. How you do this will depend on whether the students are in a small class group, in which case they could simply sit in a circle, or in a larger assembly with a teacher leading from the front.

    Show Symbol 1 – of students gathered together in a circle (or another appropriate symbol, if this is a larger assembly).

    Show Symbol 2 – of musical notes (or another appropriate symbol).

  2. Sing the welcome song.

    In a small class group situation, this would proceed something like this:

    Teacher sings: Good morning to Robert.

    The students join in: Good morning we say, 
    we’re happy to see you

    Teacher: How are you today Robert?

    Student: I’m fine, thank you.

    Repeat this for each student. 

    After all the students have been sung and spoken to, another adult present asks how the teacher is.

    In a larger assembly with a teacher leading from the front, the teacher would instead proceed along the following lines:

    Teacher sings: Good morning, good morning
    good morning I say
    I’m happy to see you

    The teacher could then ask a few students in the assembly how they are today.

    Then, as in the smaller assembly, another adult present asks how the teacher is.

    Then, for both small and larger assemblies.

    Teacher: I’m feeling rather sad this morning. 

    The teacher needs to convey an appropriate image of the feeling by means of facial expressions, posture or movements and, perhaps, musical instruments. The following could be used for non-verbal students:

    – sad – lower xylophone notes
    – happy – bells or tambourine
    – angry – drum.

    The idea is that, hopefully, once the students have experienced a few of the assemblies in the series, they might say of their own accord, ‘I am feeling sad this morning’ and so on rather than give the ‘I’m fine, thank you’ response.

  3. Show Symbol 3 to indicate that it is talking time.

    Adult to teacher:
    Why are you feeling sad this morning?
    Teacher: I am feeling sad because  . . .

    When you are sad you sometimes have a heavy feeling inside.
    When you are sad you sometimes cry.
    When you are sad you sometimes like to sit by yourself, don’t want to talk to others or like to have a friend comfort you.

    Then, for each of the students or a few, depending on the size of the assembly, the following question is asked.

    Teacher: Have you ever been sad, Robert? 

    Once the student has responded, then ask the following question.

    Teacher: What do you do when you are sad?

  4. Show Symbol 4, indicating that you are going to read a Bible story.

    The Bible is a special book in which we find out all about a good friend called Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus came to show us what God is like.

    Tell the story of Zacchaeus, either from a children’s Bible (such as those mentioned in the ‘Preparation and materials’ section above) or in your own words.

    Ask the students to listen to the story to find out why this man was sad.

    Identify that Zacchaeus was sad because he was doing some wrong things and nobody wanted to be his friend.

    The students could mime Zacchaeus asking Jesus into his home, showing him a seat, having a cup of tea, asking, ‘Would you like milk and sugar? A biscuit?’

  5. Practise greeting visitors to the class and making them feel welcome.

Time for reflection

 Show Symbol 5 – hands together inprayer.

Dear God,
Thank you that Jesus loves me. 
Thank you that he made Zacchaeus change his ways so he could be happy. 
Thank you that he is there for me when I am feeling sad. 


(Show Symbol 2 again to indicate that it is song time)
‘Zacchaeus was a wee little man’ 

Publication date: September 2014   (Vol.16 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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