Musical Activities for Exploring the Mood Meter

This post describes a number of different activities I have used with groups to explore the mood meter in more depth, using music. You can read more about the mood meter here, but here is a quick reminder of the four zones:

Here are the musical activities:

Match the Music to the Zone

I have created some playlists with music that reflects the four quadrants of the mood meter. We listen to fragments of each piece of music or song and pupils move to the spot on the mood meter they feel matches the music. Sometimes we spontaneously start dancing! The playlists can be found on Spotify: Playlist 1 (more pop/rock) and Playlist 2 (more classical).

Guess the Zone

In pairs, using percussion instruments, one person secretly chooses and then plays music for one of the feeling words or mood meter zones to their partner, who has to guess which word or zone is being played. A variation on this is for the person who is guessing not just to listen, but to take a similar percussion instrument and mirror their partner’s playing, so they can really ‘feel in’ to the emotion that is being played.

Painting to music

Each person has a large sheet of card or thick paper, and there are big bottles of paint, paper plates for pallettes, brushes, water and paper towels available. Each person finds a space where they won’t be disturbed by anyone else and then, without talking, paint freely whilst listening to the music in one of the playlists mentioned above (whole songs, not just fragments). I encourage pupils not to focus on painting recognisable objects, but rather to use colour to create the changing moods and emotions they can hear in the music. They can choose to paint each different mood on different parts of the paper, or to paint over each successive mood, creating a painting where each layer is hidden under the next.
 After finishing the paintings, we lay them out in the middle of the room, so the group can walk around and look at them. One way pupils can respond is to use a set of Mood Cards. The cards can be laid out on a table or on window ledges, and pupils can pick them up and place them next to each other’s paintings to show what feelings and emotions they can see or feel.


In small groups, pupils make lists of songs from their own playlists for each zone of the mood meter and then share them with the whole group, using their phones so we can listen to a bit of each song. We talk about how we can use music both to reflect our current mood and to shift our mood to another zone if we want to, for example, raising our energy levels for a sports workout, or calming ourselves down if we have had a stressful day. 
We also recognise how annoying it can be when people try and make us change our mood quickly when we just aren’t ready, maybe telling us to “Cheer up!” when we are feeling really down, or to “Calm down!” when we are angry. What we often need in those moments is first for our mood to be seen, recognised, and acknowledged. If we then want to change our mood, we can create playlists of five or six songs that move in small steps from one zone of the mood meter to another.

Musical Rest

If pupils’ energy is low by the end of the workshop, sometimes I invite them to make themselves comfortable, sitting or lying down in a space, closing their eyes if they want to, and then we listen to “Spiegel im spiegel” (The Mirror in the Mirror) by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, which lasts about 10 minutes. Teenagers particularly appreciate the opportunity to spend this time doing ‘nothing’!

Moving to Music in Pairs, with Fingertips Touching

This is a final activity I learnt in my play therapy training, that I have used with groups that already know each other well and/or where there is a high level of trust and openness. It definitely isn’t for everyone, so I always give the option of sitting out, but for those who are ready to join in, it can be a very powerful experience. Whilst Elgar’s music “Nimrod” is playing, in pairs, the pupils stand opposite each other, with eyes closed and touching just with their fingertips. Without speaking, they move together to the music, which goes through a range of different energy levels and feelings. Afterwards, the partners can discuss where the music took them together, how they felt, who was leading or following and how that changed during the activity, any power struggles that emerged, or moments of special connection.

I’m sure you can devise many more creative activities using the mood meter, and I would love to hear about them! Please send me a message and let me know if I can share your ideas on this site so others can also use them!

Useful links and resources

Here are the sources I used when exploring this topic, in case anyone would like to explore further:
Handbook of Music, Adolescents and Wellbeing” (McFerran, 2019): Brilliant book that explores both theory and practice of how adolescents experience and use music to promote or hinder wellbeing.

Interactive Music Mood Meter: This is a fun and easy to use interactive tool that places a variety of musical genres on the Mood Meter, giving examples of adjectives that match the mood and links to audio samples of each genre.…/emotional-regulation/: Games, songs and activities to promote child-parent bonding and emotional regulation. Ideas for teaching mood with music.…/2015/10/Mood-Meter-Dance.pdf: Dance lesson plan using the Mood Meter.

Author: Katie Roth