When assessing the values and limitations of sources, get students to use Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions to explain the tone of the author and thereby evaluate its reliability with a more sophisticated use of vocabulary and reasoning:


Case Study

Too often, when analying historical sources, students treat their content and provenance as two completely distinct features. By this logic, the content can be used to provide information and to help us make deductions, whilst the provenance alone can help us put it into context and thereby decide how reliable this content actually is.

In reality, however, one of the most useful ways of determining the reliability of a source is through its content, not its provenance. After all, the tone of a source is a useful indicator of the objectivity and detachment of the author, or conversely of his or her emotional involvement and subjectivity.

To get students thinking about analysing the tone of sources in a more sophisticated manner during sourcework analysis exercises (for example, during a silent discussion activity), have an image of Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions on the board and instruct them that only words listed within it can be used in their annotations and later answers. The teacher can then circle each one off if and when it is used by somebody in the class during discussion, with the rest of the class being given the opportunity to challenge its use and suggesting something more appropriate. Once a word has been settled upon, it can no longer be used that lesson. Special credit could be given to students who are deemed to have used the widest and most appropriate range of adjectives by the end of the lesson.


Taking it further

The use of Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions can be combined with a banned word list to restrict them from using basic adjectives (“biased”, “happy”, “angry”).
Similarly, those same words could be made subject of a series of a pack of ‘taboo’ cards by students in class, and the game played in revision sessions to ensure that their vocabularly is rich and expressive in the final examinations.
Students could be presented with various emotions from the different rings within the diagram, and challenged to provide a word which lies inbetween them: this image has gaps in the outer circle, for example, that students could try to complete for extra credits:


Students could also use Emojis to label appropriate parts of the diagram, or use a Venn diagram to help them identify some of the most important overlaps between the ‘strongest’ emotions towards the center of the piece, as in this example from this website:



Jessica Hagy, Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions – Indexed (Available at: http://thisisindexed.com/2012/07/plutchiks-wheel-of-emotions/, last accessed 25th January 2017)

Russel Tarr, Using Emojis to develop vocabulary and source analysis skills (Available at: http://www.classtools.net/blog/using-emojis-to-develop-vocabulary-and-source-analysis-skills/, last accessed 25th January 2017)

Russel Tarr, Silent Discussion (Available at: http://www.classtools.net/blog/using-emojis-to-develop-vocabulary-and-source-analysis-skills/, last accessed 25th January 2017)