Talking to Young Actors about Emotion

  • Number of participants: Unlimited
  • Recommended ages: 4-7
  • Duration of lesson: 15-30 minutes (depending upon class size)
  • Required materials:
    • Magazines
    • 3-6 pieces of poster paper
    • Tape, wacky tacky or something to hang the poster paper
    • Markers
    • Kid scissors
    • Glue stick(s)


Give each participant a pair of child/safety scissors and access to an assortment of magazines. Have the students look through the magazines for dramatic expressions and carefully cut out their favorite examples. As they are looking for expressive pictures, engage them in a discussion about the kind of expressions they are coming across. Don’t just limit them to finding only “sad” expressions or only “happy” expressions. Ask them to find any expressive face and, as they are flipping through the magazines, talk about the images they choose. Some questions you could ask are:

  • Why did you choose that expression?
  • How do you think that person feels? Happy, sad, shy, angry, etc.

It would be helpful if you, the instructor, and any assistants that you are working with can sit down with the students and cut out pictures with them. That way, if you find that the majority of the participants are choosing expressions that are “happy” you can diversify the offerings by locating other kids of expressions — sad, tired, confused, etc. You can also prepare a variety of clippings in advance if you are concerned that you will be too preoccupied with classroom management to sit down and work on the activity with the class.


Once you start to see which expressions are the most dominant, prepare your poster boards. For example, if you believe that your top three expressions are happy, sad and angry, then take three pieces of poster board and on the top of one write, “Happy,” on another write, “Sad,” and on another write, “Angry.” Then, as a group, assemble the cut out pictures together so that all the “happy faces” are glued onto the “Happy” poster board, all the “Sad” faces are on the Sad poster board, and so on. You can have the students do this as a group, one at a time, assign an individual student to each poster who is in charge of “approving” the images for the poster or just do the gluing yourself once everyone agrees where each expression belongs.
This choice will depend upon the age range you are working with.


Once all the cut out expressions are glued onto the appropriate poster board, have a class discussion about the similarities in the facial expressions. For example, on the happy poster, what do all or most of the faces have in common — smiling, showing `teeth, etc. For sad, are there tears? Talk about their person’s eyes, forehead and mouth. Where are the hands of the person in the picture and what are they doing? Hiding a part of their face? clenched in a fist?

After you’ve talked about the characteristics of the faces on each of your boards, have the children demonstrate the expressions at first as a group then pick out one or two participants who do a really good job “acting out” the emotion. Let those one or two kids do a solo demonstration of their favorite emotion in front of the rest of the class.

Posted in

Sep 11, 2013

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