How Would You Feel?

Engage students in a creative writing exercise about a character facing a challenging situation.
Ages 8-14 / 45
min Activity
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  • Write about a character’s emotions during a challenging situation, practicing empathy to understand how they might feel and express themselves 
  • Reflect on similarities and differences between how people experience and share their feelings

Supporting Research

There are numerous factors that affect how we express our emotions, including our culture and values, shaping our facial expressions, posture, and actions. This activity aims to foster perspective taking as students write about a character facing a challenging situation by placing themselves “in their shoes”, and diplomacy as they imagine how the character might feel and express their emotions in their own unique way based on their personality and background. 

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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  1. Introduce the activity by explaining: “Today, we’re going to focus on emotions in storytelling. Have you ever noticed how different characters express their emotions? For example, the Hulk starts smashing and breaking everything when he’s upset, while Batman might get moody and withdraw to his batcave. Just like real people, characters have their own unique ways of showing their emotions. Today, our task is to write a paragraph about a character facing a tough situation, focusing on their feelings and how they might express themselves."
  2. Distribute a copy of the “How Would You Feel?” handout to each student, and guide them through the first page.

    Students will begin by selecting one of the characters, each of whom has their own individual personality. Then, they will choose a challenging situation for their character to face. Students can also get creative and come up with their own character and situation. 
  3. After students have made their choices, encourage them to write a paragraph about how the character would react to the situation, focusing specifically on how they would feel and express their emotions. 

    Remind students to consider how their character's personality, background, and experiences would influence their reaction, and encourage them to use descriptive language to convey the character's emotions, such as their facial expressions, body language, actions, and dialogue. For example, students might describe a character’s trembling voice or shaking hands to convey that they feel nervous.  

    Emphasize the importance of empathy in portraying the character's emotions, and encourage students to put themselves in the character's shoes as they write their paragraphs.
  4. After students finish their paragraphs, invite a few volunteers to read their stories to the class. 

    Encourage the other students to share constructive feedback, such as something that they enjoyed about someone’s story, or an idea for how they might express their character’s emotions more vividly. 
  5. Finally, lead a reflection by asking the following questions: 
    • How did you show your character’s feelings in your story? What techniques did you use?
    • How did your character’s background affect the way they reacted to the situation? 
    • Was it easy or hard to imagine your character’s feelings and how they might express themselves? What strategies helped you? 
    • How would you have reacted to the situation that you wrote about? 
    • What were some similarities and differences between the characters that our class wrote about, and how they expressed their emotions? 
    • Why is it important to recognize that people can have different feelings about the same situation, and that they might show their feelings in different ways? 

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.