Emotion Recognition Activities

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Identifying the emotions of others and reacting to them appropriately is an important life skill for all students to learn. Use these activities to help students understand emotions and how to respond to them.

From the Inside Out

People usually don't smile and laugh when a friend tells them their pet has passed away. While most people may understand that our facial expressions, body language, and words often provide clues as to our emotional state, some students may need additional help identifying emotions and appropriately responding to them.

When students begin to understand emotions, they gain valuable life skills which will allow them to interact appropriately in diverse situations. Let's look at some activities that can help students identify and respond to different emotions in various settings.

What's the Expression?


  • Signs with an emotion written on each
  • Pictures and/or video clips of facial expressions and body language that show different emotions

Teacher Directions

  1. Prior to the activity, create signs listing different emotions and hang them up around the room.
  2. Discuss how students can identify various emotions. Show the students pictures and/or video clips of people using different facial expressions and body language to reflect emotions.
  3. Have the student stand in the middle of the classroom.
  4. Use your own facial expressions and body language or show pictures and/or video clips of people portraying different emotions.
  5. Have the students move to the area of the classroom with a sign designating the corresponding emotion.
  6. Discuss the correct answer and repeat the same process as time allows.

Discussion Questions

  • Which emotion was the hardest to identify?
  • How can you tell how someone is feeling by looking at what their face and body are doing?

Emotion Marker Race


  • Chart paper
  • Markers

Teacher Directions

  1. Prior to the activity, hang chart paper around the room. Label the top of each chart paper with a different emotion.
  2. Discuss different scenarios and the emotions students can expect people to exhibit as a result. For example, at a funeral, you would expect people to be sad or upset, and to express this by crying or putting their head down.
  3. Divide the class into teams and give each team a marker.
  4. Have each team stand in a line in front of one of the chart papers hanging in the room.
  5. When you say 'go', have the first person in each line run up to the chart paper and write down a scenario during which they would expect to encounter people feeling the emotion listed there. For example, if a team's emotion was 'elated' or 'happy', they might list going to an amusement park, graduating from college, or winning a race.
  6. After a certain amount of time, have the teams stop.
  7. Each team should count how many scenarios they wrote on their charts. Teams should only count duplicate scenarios once.
  8. The team with the most scenarios listed on their chart paper wins.
  9. Have the students walk around the room and see the different responses of their classmates.

Discussion Questions

  • What was difficult about this activity?
  • Why might people have different emotions than what is expected for a specific scenario or event?

Emotional Role Play


  • Video clips of movies/TV shows where the characters are reacting to the emotions of others

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