Emotion Telephone

Play a fun game to “pass on” different emotions through acting!
Ages 8-10 / 30
min Activity
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  • Practice non-verbal communication skills through facial expressions, body language, and gestures to convey different emotions 
  • Observe and recognize emotions being acted out by others 
  • Apply similar strategies to better understand others’ emotions during daily interactions

Supporting Research

Developing emotional competence is a crucial skill for students, as it enhances their ability to recognize their own feelings and identify others’ feelings based on facial expressions and other cues. A higher level of emotional competence empowers students to effectively regulate their emotions and form positive relationships with their peers and educators. This activity aims to foster students’ emotion recognition as they interpret others’ emotions and mirror them for the next student, and diplomacy as they recognize that everyone feels and expresses emotions in their own way.

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners

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Play “Emotion Telephone” by guiding students through the steps below.

  1. Arrange the class in a single-file line. Students should face the same direction, looking at the back of the person in front of them (as shown below).
  1. Approach the last student in line (Student E) and whisper an emotion quietly into their ear, such as: 
    • Happy 
    • Sad 
    • Nervous 
    • Excited 
    • Frustrated 
    • Angry 
    • Lonely 
    • Grateful 
    • Jealous 
    • Curious 
  2. Next, Student E should tap the shoulder of Student D (who is standing in front of them), inviting them to turn around and face them. Student E should act out the emotion without speaking, using facial expressions, body language, and gestures. Make sure none of the other students are peeking, and that they are still facing away from Students D and E! 
  3. Student D should try to interpret the emotion, and then tap the shoulder of the next person in line (Student C) so they can act it out for them. Continue this process until Student B has acted the emotion for Student A! 

    Encourage students to act the emotion in their own way, instead of copying the previous student’s actions! 
  4. Once the emotion has traveled all the way to Student A, ask them to call out what emotion they think Student B was acting out. Compare their response to the original emotion that you shared with Student E! 

    Repeat the game with different emotions, and rotate students so that everyone gets a turn to act out and guess the emotions.

    Afterwards, gather students to discuss the game by asking the following questions: 
    • How accurately did we pass the emotions down the line? 
    • Were there any emotions that were tricky to guess or act out? Why do you think some emotions are harder to express without words? 
    • What were some clues that made it easier for you to guess the emotion that someone was acting out? 
    • What were some interesting differences in how we expressed the same emotion? 
    • How can we apply strategies from this game to understand others’ feelings when we interact with them? 

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.