Closegap helps students understand emotions 

By Cory Mueller and Dawn Reilly 

Hi, how are you?  

Let’s think about the amount of times you are the expresser or recipient of that cordial greeting daily. Now take it a step further. How many times do you get or give honest accounts of true feelings? The typical and superficial response would be, “I’m good,” but that is not necessarily the truth. In the educational setting, we really want to know how our students are feeling because we see a direct correlation between feelings and academic performance.  

Looking from an emotional regulation standpoint, not all students will be entering the classroom in the green zone, meaning that they are ready to learn. Students may be in the blue zone (sad), yellow zone (anxious and worried), or the red zone (angry and frustrated).  

Children’s feelings fluctuate in a given day and over periods of time—all related to things in the imaginary suitcases that they wheel into our school buildings. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as abuse, neglect and household dysfunction all contribute to this rollercoaster of emotions that impact academics and social performance in the educational setting.  

Showing students that it is OK to express true feelings, and that others really want to know how they are feeling, is a life lesson that will lead to the development of healthy minds and provide improved access to coping strategies. So how can we do this in large classroom settings with academic demands and time constraints?  

An emotional daily check-in 

One answer to this question that we have found successful in the Haddon Heights School District is Closegap. The Closegap program is a no-cost digital emotional wellness tool that provides students with a daily emotional check-in. The program walks students through identifying their feelings to utilize coping skills and provides them an avenue to communicate their needs to staff. It also provides teachers with real-time data and increased student insight.  

Closegap can be used classwide or as a tiered social-emotional learning (SEL) support for students identified by their counselors and/or teachers. This program allows educators to take the daily emotional temperatures of their students to determine those who are in need of extra support. Closegap has an easy-to-use website and educator toolkit with all materials needed for successful implementation. Educator buy-in is easy with this program because of its easy-to-navigate platform and positive student accounts.  

Daily data is easily sorted into categories: urgent, could benefit from support, and good-to-go. It can be used by classroom teachers, guidance counselors, case managers and other educators who work with the students.  

In these presorted categories, educators can quickly access individual data on student emotion, energy level, coping activity performed, and how the student felt after the check-in. During this emotional check-in, students are asked how they are feeling, how that feels in their body, what else is going on, and what activity they would like to complete for calming or energizing their bodies. This program uses visually appealing feeling planets coupled with words that teach students how to understand what they are feeling and why they are feeling a that way.  

The teaching and reinforcement of positive coping strategies such as box breathing, the power pose, gratitude lists, journaling and progressive muscle relaxation allows students to understand that the actions they choose to take can improve their negative feelings. The goal is to generalize these techniques during situations that bring them out of the green zone. They learn that sometimes we just need to take some deep breaths before that big test or that we need remember the things that we are thankful for when we are bummed out and feeling like life isn’t going our way.  

Closegap is an incredible program that emphasizes early intervention, crisis intervention, creating relationships with trusted adults and emotional regulation skills. A quick check-in can make the difference in students’ understanding of their feelings, in coping with adversity, and in promoting the mindset that it’s OK to not
be OK. 

Dawn Reilly and Cory Mueller are school psychologists in the Haddon Heights School District in Camden County. 

Explore Closegap

Mental health matters, let’s start changing the conversation in early childhood education and be proactive. Check out Closegap at to support the emotional health of your students from kindergarten through 12th grade!