Hampstead School / Liane Harris / Visual Literacy activities

Activity: Body Language

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Exploring how body language and facial expressions offer clues to who the subject of a portrait might be.

Materials needed:

  • Variety of portraits printed at A4 or A5
  • Activity sheets
  • Envelopes with emotions on slips of paper
  • PowerPoint
  • Cameras


  • PowerPoint (content, see below)
  • Make a list of emotions and cut up in strips, placing one in each envelope
  • Activity sheet with the following questions:
  1. What do you think this person is feeling?
  2. What are the clues? (Facial expression? Body language?)
  3. Is there anything else in the photo that tells you something about this person?


a) PowerPoint –

  • Look at images from last week (Appearances) that students took. Discuss-how we choose to appear to the world. How we appear may be different from who we are/how we feel. What are the message(s) we want to convey about ourselves? Etc.

b) Each student is given a portrait and activity sheet (see above). Once the questions are answered, show the portraits on PowerPoint for group feedback and discussion around body language, facial expression, and what this can say about who we are.

c) In pairs – one person gets an envelope with an emotion inside (e.g. serious, nervous, shy, cool, calm, sulky etc.) They don’t tell their partner what the emotion is. Once they figure out how they are going to represent it, their partner takes a portrait of them. The partner, still not knowing what the emotion is, needs to do the opposite body language/facial expression. After both partners have had their photos taken, the emotion from the envelope can be revealed.

If time, give an envelope to the other person and repeat the activity.

d) Upload and choose the best images and pairings.


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