Fun Activities For Language Of Emotions
Using TPR, drawings, stories and games to make feelings vocabulary memorable and fun
Miming “happy”, “sad” and “angry” is a very good way of making the meaning of the words clear. It can also be turned into a practice activity in which one person picks up a flashcard with a feelings word and/ or picture on it and mimes it for their classmates to guess. For example, a student picks up a card and stomps their feet and shows their teeth until someone shouts out “angry”.
You can make this game more challenging by adding feelings that are more difficult to mime like “confused” and “disappointed”. You could also ask them to mime whole sentences like “I am irritated because my skin is itchy” or “I feel tired because it is 4 o’clock in the morning”.
You can make miming more active and make guessing more difficult by asking students to hide their faces. The easiest way of achieving this is by having them miming with their backs to their partners.
Rather than miming, students keep their hands still and just make noises to show the feeling, e.g. yawning for “tired”, sighing for “bored”, growling for “angry” and groaning for “disappointed”. You could also do longer phrases with this game, e.g. roaring then screaming for “I am scared because there is a lion”.
This game could be followed up with a lesson on how sounds are represented in English, e.g. with words like “ouch”, “wow” and “phew” (all of which have a connection to feelings). The fact that these are different in L1 is usually fascinating for students.
Students draw something to represent one feeling until their partner guess which one it is, e.g. drawing a face and tears for “sad”. This can also be done with full sentences, e.g. “I am bored because I am doing my homework”. You could also combine it with a recent vocabulary point by drawing “a happy carrot” (food vocab) or “an angry car” (transport). How faces are drawn to show feelings is surprisingly culturally dependent, so bringing in typical drawings from other countries could add a nice cultural aspect to the lesson. You can then move onto the fascinating topic of emoticons in different countries.
Feelings definitions game
The person with the flashcard describes what it is for their classmates to guess the feeling, e.g. “It is how an elephant feels when it sees a mouse” for “scared” and “It is how I feel in maths class” for “confused”. They cannot say the word on the card or other parts of speech of the same word (e.g. “anger” for “angry”).
Feelings definitions game 2
Students try to explain things that are associated with particular feelings. These could be things that make you feel a certain way, e.g. “It is noisy. It is in the sky. It makes you scared” for “thunder”. They could also be actions that people do when they feel certain ways, e.g. “You do it when you are angry. It makes a noise on the floor” for “stamp your feet” and “You do it when you are cold or scared. Your whole body moves a little” for “shiver”.
Feelings sentence completion
This is a nice way of adding personalisation to the topic of emotions. Give the students sentences with gaps that they can fill to say something true about themselves, e.g. “I feel _________________ in PE lessons” and “______________ makes me feel disgusted”. Students read out just the part they have filled in, and the other people in their group try to guess which sentence those words come from. For example, one student reads out “Fish and chips” and the other people make guesses until they find out that it is “Fish and chips makes me full” (not “Fish and chips makes me disgusted”!)
Stories Add the feelings
Find or write a story with lots of feelings adjectives in it and then blank those words out. Students read the story and try to fill in the missing words. If you can’t find or put enough feelings words on one page, you could use various short extracts, e.g. ones found through internet searches for each feelings adjective.
Stories Add the feelings 2
Ask students to write stories using as many feelings adjectives as they can and then ask them to blank them out for other students to guess.
Feelings storytelling game
Give students a pack of emotions adjective cards and ask them to take turns continuing a story using as many of the words as they can. For example, one person starts the story with “Dillon woke up in a really grumpy mood” and the next person continues with “Seeing his wife’s cheerful face just made him feel worse”. This can be turned into more of a competition by dealing the cards out between the students and making the winner the person who uses all their cards.
Act out your feelings
Ask students to read out a dialogue with different emotions each time, e.g. angrily, kindly, and sadly.
Act out your feelings 2
Students go through a dialogue or script and write feelings next to the lines. Those scripts are then dealt out around the class at random, to be performed in front of the class or other groups. The people listening try to work out which feelings are being expressed and/ or which group is acting out the script that their group wrote the feeling on.
Act out your feelings 3
Give the students a worksheet with the feelings written on it and ask them to write a dialogue to match those emotions in the places where those words are written.
Act out your feelings 4
Students put a pack of feelings cards face down on the table. Each person turns over a card before they speak and must continue the (improvised) conversation with that emotion.
Feelings brainstorming race
Ask students to brainstorm as many things as they can associated with one feeling, e.g. things that make people happy and/ or things that people do when they are happy such as “laugh” and “smile”. This can be set up as a race, with their list being checked by another group and the group with most correct words and expressions winning.
Feel the video
The easiest way of using a video for feelings language is for students to just shout out an emotions adjective when they see someone feeling that way on the screen. You could also ask them to make whole sentences, e.g. “The man is feeling disgusted because a nappy flew into his face”.
Feel the video 2
Students guess how the characters will feel from a worksheet that has some dialogue and descriptions of what happens on it, and then watch to check their answers.
Feel the video 3
Give the students a worksheet with a list of feelings in the same order as the video. The students have to guess what makes the characters feel that way and/ or how they react, and then watch and check.
Feelings design projects
Students compete to design and draw things that would prompt certain feelings, e.g. to design a whole theme park with particular attractions meant to make you feel scared, excited, disgusted, dizzy etc.
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic blog.