One of the main components of social-emotional learning is empathy. It’s the ability to understand how someone else is feeling through verbal and nonverbal cues. Building empathy teaches students how to relate to others and build healthy relationships throughout life.

In this cooperative activity, students will assume poses in response to specific words. Working in pairs, one partner will mirror the poses of the other. This experience helps students understand that we can convey information and feelings through our “body language.”


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  1. Have students get together in pairs. Tell them to decide who is “A” and who is “B.”
  2. Explain that you will read a word aloud, and the A’s will strike a pose showing the meaning of the word, or what they think of in response to the word. Also explain that there are no right or wrong responses, so whatever they come up with is okay. However, it must be a still pose, not a series of movements.
  3. Tell students to hold the pose until you tell them it’s okay to move again.
  4. Have the B’s face their partners and mirror the pose, mimicking as many details as possible. They, too, must hold the pose until you them to move.
  5. Then have them switch roles. When you read the next word, the B’s will strike a pose and the A’s will mimic it.
  6. Choose words from the list below, or select others that you think will be fun and challenging:
  • Happy
  • A bunny
  • Sad
  • Brave
  • A pretzel
  • A bird
  • Soggy
  • Hot
  • Crisp
  • Cold
  • Excited
  • Friendly
  • Curious
  • Polite
  • Sleepy
  • Angry
  • A kitten

       7. After the first four or five rounds, have students change partners. Continue the process.

Wrap up the activity with a time of discussion. Which role was most difficult, inventing a pose or mirroring a pose? Which word(s) was the most difficult to portray? What did students learn about how we can communicate feelings without using words? This activity is a great way for students to learn to understand others’ feelings through their body language.

This activity is adapted from After-School Explorations: Fun, Ready-to-Use Activities for Kids Ages 5-12.