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Exploring Emotions (lesson plan)


This lesson will focus on drawing faces that express different emotions. Students will talk about different emotions and the characteristics of different emotional facial expressions. Students will use oil pastels to draw a face expressing an emotion.

Grade Levels
NC Standards Correlations
Visual Arts
Cognitive Development
Emotional and Social Development
ESD-6, ESD-7
English Language Arts Language Development and Communication
LDC-1, LDC-5

Artwork Related to this Lesson

  • The Quintet of Remembrance

    The Quintet of Remembrance, by Bill Viola

    In The Quintet of Remembrance, Bill Viola uses video to explore the texture of human emotion. The...

    learn more

Student Learning Objectives

  1. Identify and compare the characteristics of different emotions expressed in a face.
  2. Represent the facial expression of an emotion through art making.
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Make a list of student pairs.

Set Up

Per pair of two students: 2 pieces of manila paper, selection of oil pastels

Introduction/ Warm-Up

1.  Begin by having students name different feelings and emotions. Have students state the emotion and then express that emotion on their face for the group to see. Have students imitate the various emotions that are shared.

2.  Introduce the still image of the video The Quintet of Remembrance. Explain that this video (image) shows people expressing different feelings.

3.  Ask students to describe how they think the people are feeling in the image. Ask students to describe what the people’s faces are doing.

4.  Tell the students that they are going to draw a face showing a feeling. Tell them they will work in pairs to draw a friend’s face expressing an emotion.

5.  Model the process of drawing a face by using another adult or a student. Describe how the person is feeling as you are drawing; model correct placement of facial feature (eyes, ears, mouth, nose, etc.).

6.  Excuse students in pairs to their tables to begin working.

7.  Continue displaying The Quintet of Remembrance for students to view while they work.

Focus Activity Procedure

1.  Each pair of students should have oil pastels to share and a piece of manila paper each (or drawing paper).

2.   Students should pick who is going to make a face first and who is going to draw first. Student #1 should make a face expressing an emotion and student #2 should draw the face of his or her friend. After a teacher-selected amount of time, students should switch roles, allowing each child to have the opportunity to draw and the opportunity to express a feeling. Teachers should circulate and help students with their decisions and problem solving.

3.  When students are finished, teachers can write students’ names on the back of the drawing along with the emotion depicted.


1.  Gather the class for the closing routine, and invite a few student pairs to share their work and the feelings they created.

2.  Ask students to look for art all around them at home and at school!

Written by Elizabeth Nida


1.  Have students verbally label facial features and their selected emotion to assess their ability to depict facial expression of an emotion.

2.  Through closing discussion, ask students to facially represent various emotions and compare them with the emotions shown in the student artwork.

Lesson Resources


Emotions: sad, happy, angry, scared, excited, calm, fearful, etc.

Facial features: nose, mouth, ears, eyes, eyebrows, lips, etc.


Images of facial features and faces

Oil pastels (if oil pastels are not available, use crayons or colored pencils)

Manila paper or drawing paper

Extension Activities for Teachers

  • Use completed drawings as prompts for a writing-center activity. Have students dictate or write why they are feeling the way they are. Discuss reasoning for different emotions.
  • Use student drawings during social skill lessons.
  • Create a class book of the feelings drawings for students to read at the book center.

Extension Activities for Families

  • Discuss different emotions at home.
  • Label facial features.

Suggested Books for Classroom Library

Cain, Janan. The Way I Feel. Parenting Press, 2000.

Bang, Molly. When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry. Scholastic, 2004.


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