SPARKLERS / Managing emotions

Game Face

A fun activity to help tamariki overcome inhibitions and get to know each other better
Connections with the NZ Curriculum and Mental Health Education Guide (learn more)

Learning outcomes

Tamariki can interpret non-verbal communication and practise connecting with others.

He aha ai? – Why we love it

This activity combines some of the key skills used in improvisation (e.g. fast thinking and acting) and helps students interpret non-verbal communication. It also provides an excuse to have a bit of a laugh at yourself and others, in a fun and positive way – it’s supposed to be funny!

Laughter is a great stress relief and relaxes the whole body, and when we do it with others, it helps us connect – one of the things that most positive for our wellbeing.


Let tamariki know you’re going to call on their greatest acting skills but there are no ‘lines’ or words to this play!

Ask them to pair up – it’s best they start with someone they know, just in case they are feeling whakama (shy).

Ask them to stand back-to-back and when you call out the ‘instruction’, they both have to jump around and without talking, act out the face they'd make in that situation.

Hei mahi - What to do

When the tamariki are back-to-back, ask them to jump around to face each other and demonstrate how they look... at 6am.

Ensure they’ve understood the activity, making corrections as needed.

Then ask them to stand back-to-back again and this time to show each other how they'd look when:

  • You get a great mark on a maths test.
  • You find out I’m away for the day!
  • Your pet wees on the carpet.
  • You’re off to a party!
  • You’ve stolen a biscuit before the guests have been served.
  • You forgot your lunch…
  • But a family-member drops your lunch off just in time!
  • You have toothache.
  • You’re told to get off the iPad.
  • You’re about to present a speech to the school.
  • You’re about to leave on holiday.
  • You accidentally snap your Mum’s Eftpos card in half!
  • The Silver Ferns walk into the room to coach your class at netball.

Make up your own and you can always rely on the creativity of your students – asking them to call some out too, or to put ideas in a box for the next time you play.

What next: Action and reaction

To 'level up' ask pairs to choose one person to show an emotion and the other to react (again non-verbally). E.g. If you give a scenario that elicits sadness, one person would show this while the other reassures them – an empathetic look, a hand on their shoulder.

This is a great way for tamariki to develop appropriate responsive skills and build empathy and understanding.

Sparklers at Home

If you think it may be useful for whānau to have some fun playing Game Face too, simply copy and paste the following 'blurb' into an email or your home-learning programme as an introduction.

In the classroom we've been exploring our responses to situations and normalising all the emotions we feel. In this way tamariki understand that emotions are normal (the whole range of them) and the more familiar they become with their emotions, the more able they are to notice and manage them.

To do this, we've been using a Sparklers at Home activity called Game Face which has now been adapted for home-use. The children have really enjoyed this game in the classroom, and it's very funny! We thought they would enjoy it with you too. Have a go!

Thank you to...

We’d like to acknowledge the pocket book of great ideas ‘Brain Breaks’ created by the Institute of Positive Education and Geelong Grammar School.

Thank you for sharing!

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