Feelings Charade

This fun activity can help open up communication with and among students about their feelings. It also helps build students' vocabulary and their confidence in using their full vocabulary range.

To the Teacher: This activity can help open up communication with and among students about their feelings. It also helps build students' vocabulary and their confidence in using their full vocabulary range.

When students are challenged to come up with words in a game of charades, they may demonstrate that they know more words than they thought they did. The point of "Feelings Charades" isn't just guessing the right words - much of the lesson is in the "wrong" guesses students make.
You will need enough 3x5 index cards for every student in the class. On each card, write a feeling. Try to balance "positive" feelings (excited, proud, elated) with "negative" ones (frustrated, furious, nervous). Try to steer away from the simplest, most common terms (sad, happy, mad).

1. Class Discussion about Expressing Feelings

You might begin the activity by talking with students about the importance of expressing our feelings in a constructive way - and of understanding others' feelings. Expressing and acknowledging feelings is an important tool for resolving conflicts. And trying to understand another person's feelings can help deescalate conflict.
When someone doesn't use words to say what they're feeling, we often try to guess what they feel by interpreting their facial expression or their body language.
Today, we're going to see how well we are able to interpret someone's feelings this way. In Feelings Charades, students will have a chance to demonstrate one emotion. The rest of the class will guess what the emotion is. The person who is doing the charade cannot speak - they must use facial expressions or body language to get classmates to guess the emotion. After the game, we'll have a class-wide discussion about what happened.

2. Select Scribes

Select two volunteers to be "scribes." Note: If your class has more than 20-25 students, you may want to create two groups for the charades game, each with two scribes.
The scribes will take turns writing down every guess students make in the course of each charade. They will alternate turns in taking notes. Whoever is not taking notes during a charade can participate in the game. Tell the scribes that the class will be using their notes when the charades are over.

3. Demonstrate a Charade

Demonstrate a charade, choosing whatever emotion you like. Begin the charade by passing both hands in front of your face, bringing them down as if a curtain is dropping over your face. Once your hands have passed your chin, show the emotion. (This gesture can help charaders clear the slate and focus on their performance.) Let students guess what emotion you are depicting. If they don't guess the emotion in a minute or two, tell them.

4. Class Charades

If possible, give every student a chance to perform a brief charade — or, if not, ask for a certain number of volunteers. Ask each performer to select a card from the collection in your hand. They should begin with the curtain, then use only facial expressions and body language to demonstrate their word.
Check to make sure the scribes understand their job and are carrying it out.
Move quickly until everyone has performed a charade.

5. Post-Game Discussion

Afterwards, have discussion with students about what happened. You might ask:
  • Did you like the game?
  • What was fun about it? What didn't you like?
  • What did you notice about the game?
  • Did we always guess the right word?
  • Did we often guess the same words over and over? Which ones?
This last question is an opportunity to discuss the "ad" family of feelings: mad, sad, bad, glad. These words (along with "happy" and "good") tell us something, but not as much as more precise words would.

6. Reviewing the Class's Work

Then, ask the scribes to read off some of the words they have written down. You might write these on the board.
When a good number have been listed, you might remark on the wide range of words students have come up with. We know more words than we think we do, although sometimes we don't use all the words we know.
Make sure you collect the scribes' complete lists - you may be able to use these word collections in follow-up activities, like those described below.

7. Follow-up Activities

Post a list of all the words the scribes wrote down prominently in the classroom as a reminder of all the "feelings" words students have at their disposal.
At any point, you might pick a word and ask students to come up with synonyms and antonyms.
You might also select words in the "ad" family (or "nice" or "good") and ask students to create a "thermometer" showing the range of feelings these words cover. For instance, a "mad" thermometer might go from "irritated" on the cool end to "enraged" on the hot end. "Sad" might go from "disappointed" to "grief-stricken."
The feelings words might also be used as a starting point for writing assignments.