SPARKLERS / Managing emotions

The Faces Game

A game for identifying, naming and sharing emotions.
Connections with the NZ Curriculum and Mental Health Education Guide (learn more)

Learning outcomes

Tamariki can name and recognise a range of emotions and describe situations that might elicit them.

Tāngia ēnei tohutohu – Print me

For this activity, students will need our Faces Game Worksheet, ideally printed on card. You may also like to print a copy of our teacher's version, with 'general' answers - they're not absolutely correct, more of a guide!

OR if you'd like tamariki to try this with whānau at home, we have a special version of this activity in Sparklers At Home that doesn't require a worksheet.

He aha ai? – Why we love it

Emotional literacy (the ability to name and recognise different emotions) is critical to thinking about our feelings and managing our reactions. It can also help us to better understand and be there for others.

This game builds emotional literacy by encouraging tamariki to think about, name and share different emotions. Away from this game, we can encourage students to share their emotions when telling stories and expressing themselves, and by noticing and recognising the emotions we see in stories and everyday life.

This activity can be easily adapted for ECE tamariki. We would suggest reducing the amount of faces/expressions from the worksheet to around four (perhaps 'happy', 'sad', 'angry' and 'worried'), and adding the remaining five faces and expressions over time.


Give each student our Faces Game Worksheet (ideally printed on card) and take some time to kōrero about what the nine faces might mean (answers (or general ideas!) are here).

How might we be feeling if we had this expression (or look) on our face? What’s a time we might feel this way? Ask students to write these emotions on their sheets. They may also like to add some colours (to personalise their cards) before cutting them out and writing their name on the back of each.

Hei mahi - What to do

Once students have made their cards (see the above Kōrero), explain that you’ll now be playing The Faces Game.

For this game they’ll get their own set of face cards, which they'll be able to use like judges in a contest, holding them up to show how they’d feel in different situations. Older tamariki may like to hold up more than one card, to show mixed emotions.

Situations to begin with. “How would you feel if…”

  • A friend gave you an invitation to their birthday?
  • You dropped your ice cream and couldn’t eat it?
  • Someone funny read you a great story?
  • A classmate became angry and hit you?
  • You got an award for your work at school?
  • Someone told you off for making a mess?
  • You had a sore tummy?
  • You were asked to do something you’re really good at?
  • You fell over in front of everyone?
  • Someone stole your favourite toy/possession?
  • An adult asked you to do something you didn’t want to do?
  • A friend asked you to do something you didn’t want to do?
  • You arrived somewhere new and didn’t know anyone?
  • You were playing a favourite game with friends?
  • You didn’t understand a question?
  • You won a big holiday to your favourite place?

End the game on a high then give students a paper clip or bag for their cards.

Remind students that two people might show the same emotion in different ways. E.g. Some people giggle when they’re embarrassed, while others go very quiet and look away. Or if we give someone a present, we might expect them to be happy, but they may not show this if they are surprised or moved.

What next?

In pairs, get tamariki to choose an emotion to copy / try themselves. They could take turns, with the other person trying to guess the emotion. This extension is the perfect intro to our Frozen emotions activity.

Try reading Feel A Little – Little Poems About Big Feelings or write your own short poems about emotions.

And we also love these emotions in English and Te Reo from the Ministry of Education's TKI website.

Sparklers at Home

If you think it may be useful for whānau to understand emotional literacy and play The Faces Game at home, simply copy and paste the following 'blurb' into an email or your home-learning programme as an introduction.

In the classroom we've been learning about emotions! This is all about developing the children's emotional literacy. Emotional literacy is the ability to name and recognise different emotions which is actually really important in children being able to manage them. It can also help us to better understand and empathise with others.

Sparklers at Home has the same activity we're using in the classroom The Faces Game, but for use at home. It would be really great if you could play this game with your child too. The more opportunities your child has to talk about emotions, the more they'll recognise them and manage them. The Faces Game is also lots of fun!

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