Teaching Deep Thinking and Emotions

Feb 20, 2020

Emotional Charades

 How does the character feel in this story?  How do you know?

These are comprehension questions that we ask our very youngest readers.  Many times the answer to the first question is "good" or "bad."  And to the second question, students have a difficult time explaining how they know that a character is feeling that way.  Reading facial expressions, restating evidence in text, and (in more complex texts) inferring are skills that require prior experience, practice, and (for some) explicit teaching.

To help students think deeply about the characters in the books read, they need the vocabulary to do so.  Let's look at one way to do this.

Attention Grabber


Pictures and conversation are a great place to start the vocabulary development.  All children like pictures of themselves.  I would suggest showing a picture(s) of your students and asking "how do they feel?"

This type of activity allows students to examine facial expressions and expand upon the vocabulary they already have.  Instead of the word "good," a student can be introduced to "cheerful" or "joyful."



Building vocabulary is a great starting point.  Applying it is next step.  Charades is one way to make this application process fun.

To begin, the teacher would choose one charades card. These cards do not have words on them.  This allows for open interpretation to how the individual on the card is feeling.  It also allows the class (and educator) to use words that have been introduced to class.

A timer is set for 30 seconds.  The feeling or emotion is acted out by the teacher.  Students use the vocabulary that they know to describe feelings of their teacher.  Once the timer goes off or the correct word is said, the class can see the image on the card.  This is a time for you, the teacher, to model some other vocabulary that could be used like determined or persistent.



Once students have an understanding of how to play charades and a bank of vocabulary words has been formed, students are ready to practice in small groups or teams.  There are three versions available because every group of students needs something a little different.

One version has only a picture on each card.  The second version helps to build vocabulary by including a word with each picture.  And the third version helps to build empathy by asking students to share their feelings about a particular picture.  Each version provides students with the practice needed to build a stronger bank of words when describing characters.



You can download the charades for FREE (2/20/2020-2/27/2020) by clicking on the image below or pin it for later.




Now that your students have built their emotional vocabulary, how do you apply this to deeper thinking?  It is all about the questions that you ask during and after reading.  Here are some questions that I ask my students after reading...
  • How is the character feeling? How do you know?
  • How did the character's feelings change from the beginning to the end of the story?
  • How did the author tell us how the character was feeling?
  • How did the illustrator show us how the character was feeling through the pictures?
  • How did the character's actions show their feelings?
  • When is a time that you felt the same emotions as the character


Need More?


Here are a couple videos that may help begin or continue your discussion around character emotions.


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  1. Thank you for sharing all of these activities! Playing charades will be a great way to engage students in learning about character feelings!

  2. We role play and draw character emotions. In the past, I have had the students create word clouds and that was fun and a great way to incorporate technology!

  3. I like to have students play games like charades or practice mirroring one another.

  4. I have my students draw pictures (visualize) what they read or what I read. Sometimes I will read a picture book and not show them the book at all and have them draw what they picture in their mind.

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and resources

  6. I love lessons that focus on social-emotional development.

  7. I like to role play and have them make personal connections.

  8. Thank you for the charades activity. I too, have trouble getting my students to come up with words other than "good" or "bad". This will be very beneficial!

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  10. I like to have students draw emotions! Thanks for the great resource!

  11. I like to model my think aloud to help them get ideas and practice how to do it themselves. Thank you for the great info!

  12. I really like the use of student photos for emotions

  13. My students often have to think about different perspectives and this helps them to step into other's roles and feel the emotions.

  14. I love your idea of using student photos to match emotions! Such a great post, my friend! Thank you for sharing your talent and great ideas!


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