Exploring Emotions Through Facial Expression

Learning empathy can be such a challenge for young children. Learning to read facial expressions is a great place to start.

Daisy has daily practice because I cannot control my facial expressions, as anyone who knows me can attest! I try really hard to keep a poker face and hide my reactions, to no avail. I am an open book.

This does make it easy for Daisy and Rose to learn to read faces but we had a photography mission to accomplish. I am currently photographing new and existing products for our 2012 catalogue coming out in April. I am no photographer but am learning, with the help of a fantastic camera!

I asked Daisy to imitate the boy in the Facial Expressions Learning Cards.

We discussed:

  • Why is the boy making this face?
  • How does he feel?
  • What might he be saying?
  • How does this girl feel?
  • What might have made her sad?
  • What would you do if she was your friend?
  • What is this girl doing?
  • Why?
  • How does it make you feel when you make this face?
  • Why would you give this signal?
  • Have you ever been given a thumbs up?
  • How did it make you feel?

Here we were exploring the Emotions Flannel Board Set:

Daisy was excited to read the words and match them to the corresponding face.

She was using the initial letter to identify the emotion word.

As she matched the faces and words we chatted:

  • How does this child feel?
  • Why do you think they feel this way?
  • How do you show this emotion with your body?
  • What makes you feel this way?
  • What is your favourite emotion?

Ideas for extension:

  • Use faces with stories. Have the children match an emotion face to a character. Discuss how the emotions change through the story.
  • Ask children to complete a graph to record how they are feeling each day.
  • Write short stories together to go with the emotion faces.
  • Use felt faces to help explain and reconcile arguments.
  • Make a list of things to do when feeling a negative emotion.
  • Discuss what makes parents/friends/siblings feel a certain emotion.
  • Relate weather to emotions.
  • Play charades with the emotions.
  • Check-in with children’s emotions during circle time.
  • Sing If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands

Learning Opportunities:

LA: Explaining feelings, forming sentences, developing vocabulary, expressing an opinion.

Social: Developing empathy and understanding, relating emotions to body language, identifying personal feelings.

Math: Counting faces and emotion words (we lost one when it stuck to my sock!).

12 Replies to “Exploring Emotions Through Facial Expression”

  1. I love LOVE your blog post on emotions! We have 4 young boys and one, some or all of us always seem to be highly emotional. Thank you for posting your link on We Teach. One of our sons is deaf and so incidental learning has not happened for him. Most everything needs to be directly taught to him…including empathy. It’s been one of the toughest things to teach him. Thank you so much. I’ll definitely be using many of your ideas. Your ideas for visuals are awesome. My son’s first language is ASL which is highly expressive and visual. Thanks again!!!!

    1. Empathy is so difficult to teach and that is without the added challenge of not hearing! Thank you for your great comments and good luck with all your family’s emotions! My youngest was described recently as being very emotional (19 months and asserting her authority)!

  2. Love this activity! I know when I was teaching there were a LOT of students with a poor emotional intelligence. It’s so hard to teach things like caring, empathy, etc. when they are older. You are so wise to start young with your kids. I’m going to try some of these activities with my boys! (Plus, I LOVE the integration of oral language and early reading!)

    1. Thank you Jackie. I know what you mean about the challenges of teaching emotional intelligence to older children. The younger they start the easier it is. Thanks for your comment.

  3. This is a wonderful blog post. First, yes, it helps teach children to think of other people and understand what they might be saying with nonverbal clues. Also, these feeling words would be great for writing workshop so children could expand their feeling words from simply happy, sad, and mad. Great idea! Thanks so much, Carolyn

  4. This looks like a great product! It would be super helpful for a school psychologist. There are a lot of good children’s book that deal with emotions. I’m thinking of two: The Way I Feel and My Many Colored Days.

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