Communication Through Facial Expressions

Lesson 1: Communication Through Facial Expressions

Lead Teacher:  Becca


Lesson Objective:

Students will demonstrate their understanding of communication through facial expressions as they participate in creating a story using facial expressions


National Arts (UT Core) Standards:

  • TH:Cr3.1.4a. Revise and improve an improvised or scripted drama/theatre work through repetition and collaborative review.
  • TH:Pr4.1.4b. Make physical choices to develop a character in a drama/theatre work.
  • TH:Pr6.1.4a. Share small-group drama/theatre work, with peers as audience. 




  • Printed lesson plan, so you can access the short story reading



Warm-Ups: (5-10 min)

  • Limb shaking countdown
    • Have the students find their own standing place in the room then turn so they’re facing you as you stand in the front of the room.  They need enough room that they can stretch out their arms and not touch anyone.
    • Shake your left hand 10 times, right hand 10 times, left leg 10 times, right leg 10 times. In the same order, shake each limb again, but 9 times, then 8, all the way to 1 time.
    • Don’t forget to shake out the face! Start by scrunching up your face for 10 seconds, as tight as you can. It should look like you just tasted something sour.  Tighten your eyes, mouth, nose… Then make everything as wide as you can! Open up your eyes, mouth, nose, lift your eyebrows…It’s like you just had the biggest surprise of your life! Hold for 10 seconds. Go back and forth between scrunched and open, then shake it out. 



  • Pinochio activity
    • Have the students stay in their standing space in the room. The teacher will give the following instructions from the front of the room, observing the students as they do the activity. The teaching partners can walk amongst the students to ensure that everyone is following directions.
    • We’re going to do an activity to help us be super aware of our bodies and how they move.  To start, you have to stand as still as a statue, like you’re made completely of wood.  Your arms and legs are carved from a single piece of wood.  
      • Have the teacher show how they want the students to stand.  It should be in an upright position with arms folded in front of them, facing forward.

You can’t move any part of yourself at all.

Now the magic spell has begun.  It begins at the top of your head.  The spell moves down slowly until your head down to your eyebrows is flesh and blood.  Try and move your eyebrows.

The spell keeps moving down.  Now you can move your eyes!  All your life you’ve been staring straight ahead, and now you can look to the sides.

The spell gets to your ears and your nose.  See if you can wiggle them.

The spell gets to your mouth.  You can smile.  It feels strange at first, and probably looks pretty strange too, but you grow more comfortable with it.  Try some other facial expressions as well.

Slowly you discover that you can turn your head.  Careful!  You can look up and down carefully as well.  Look!  You have feet!  This is the first time you were ever sure.

The spell reaches your shoulders.  But remember, your arms and hands are still attached to your torso, since you are carved from a single piece of wood, so you can move ONLY your shoulders.  Try some circles.  Do you feel a tingle up and down your spine?  That’s the magic working.

The spell reaches your chest.  You can puff it out like a soldier.

Your elbows can move now, but still not your hands.  As the spell goes lower, see if you can pull your left hand away from your body.  Ooofff!  You did it.

Bring your hand up to your face and study it.  See if you can move the fingers.  Wow!  How does that feel? 

See if you can get your right hand free as well.  Does it move too?

The spell has reached your waist.  Carefully bend forward, to the side.  See if you bend backwards.  See if you can make a circle.

The spell reaches your hips, but your knees are still locked together and your feet are still attached to your pedestal.

The spell gets to your knees.  See if they bend!

Reach down and see if you can pull your left foot free.  Ooofff!  Point the toe.  Flex the foot.  Make little circles.

Now see if you can get your right foot free.

You’re all real now!  See how you can move.  Careful at first–these are your first steps!

  • Once the activity is finished, ask the students what discoveries they made? What did it feel like to be super aware of their bodies and how they moved? Did they find a new way of moving a body part as they focused on it? What did it feel like to only move their face? What did their bodies communicate with these movements?

Let’s find all the ways our new bodies move!




  • Step 1: Introduction to instructors and students/establishing expectations


    • As the previous activity finishes, gather the students together into a large circle so everyone can see each other.  The teachers will then introduce themselves as well as get to know the students.
      • Hello everyone, my name is Becca, and this is Emily.  We’re from BYU and will be here for the next few weeks.  We have another teacher, Pollyanna, who will be joining us next week. We’re excited to be here! While we’re here, we expect you to be respectful, listen when we’re talking, raise your hand if you have something to share, and participate as best you can in all the activities we do.  If there’s something you feel like you can’t do, let us know and we’ll do our best to help. 
    • We want to get to know you a little! Let’s start by going around and telling us your name.  After you say your name, show us with your face how you’re feeling right now. For example, my name is Becca and I’m excited to be here (show excitement with facial expression.)



  • Step 2: Introduction to lesson


    • We’re going to be exploring different ways we communicate with one another.  Does anyone know what “communication” means? 
      • Possible answers: Communication is how we talk to each other
    • How do we communicate?
      • Possible answers: verbal words, written words, body language, sign language…
    • Today we’re going to focus on our facial expressions. This means that we’ll be communicating with our faces! It won’t require any noise, but we’ll still find ways to communicate and understand one another. 



  • Step 3: Drama Activity


    • To begin, we’re going to see how well you’re able to communicate different emotions. Remember, we’re focusing on our faces.  So use your mouth, eyebrows, and eyes.
      • While staying in the circle, call out different emotions for the class to express as a whole.
        • Possible emotions: excited, happy, sad, scared, nervous, angry, tired
        • Remind the students that this is a non-verbal activity if they start to get noisy.
    • Next, we’re going to see how our facial expressions can tell a story! We’ll do a story together, then split into groups where you get to create your own stories with facial expressions.
      • Have the students sit where they are in the circle for the following activity.  They will do facial expressions while the teacher is reading this story. Pause occasionally to acknowledge facial expressions they do and how it helps tell the story.
        • It was a dark and stormy night. I was hiding in my bed, scared of the lighting and thunder going on outside.  I jumped in terror as I heard a tree scrape against the window. Suddenly there was a knock on my door. My mom came in and sat on my bed. She calmed me down as she read me a story.  It was a funny story. We laughed together and forgot about the storm outside. When the story ended, I was so tired that I quickly fell asleep
          • After the class finishes doing facial expressions with the story, ask the students what words they chose to dramatize.  What stood out to them and how did they show it on their faces?
  • Now we’re going to split the class into groups of 4.  Your group will need to create a silent story that can be understood through your facial expressions. A story consists of a beginning, middle, and end.  So it could be something like “I walked to school in the cold snow today.  I have lots of fun at school. I’m sad when I have to leave.” Emily and I will walk around and help you with your stories if you need it. Be sure each story has at least three different emotions or actions that you can show through your facial expressions.  For example, the story we just read was scared, calm, happy/laughing, then sleeping. 
    • Divide the class and assist them in their stories. The teachers should take the time to watch each story and give feedback on the students clarity in facial expressions.  If needed, have them revise their stories based on the feedback.

Step 4: (optional)

  • If there’s time, have the students perform their stories for one another.
  • If there is still extra time, create scenarios that the students can perform individually or as a group.  The students who aren’t acting will guess the scenario.  Similar to the charades game at the beginning of class.



  • Students will be assessed on their participation and contributions to their final stories as well as through the questions asked throughout the class.