Part 1: Expressing Emotion

Children will explore emotions.

Lesson Objective

Children will learn about emotions using an expressive sculpture.


What You'll Need

  • Child-safe mirrors – 1 per child
  • Pictures of a variety of facial expressions (happy, angry, surprised, excited, scared, tired, etc.)
  • A large, color reproduction or digital image of Monumental Head of Pierre de Wissant by Auguste Rodin - from the North Carolina Museum of Art website

What To Do

Note: This is PART 1 of a two-part lesson. It should be taught BEFORE the lesson, Part 2: Expressive Sculptures, found on this website.

  1. In a large group, have the children sing together, “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands”; repeat several times using a new emotion each time (see Lesson Tips).
  2. Show the children pictures of various facial expressions, and have children name each emotion (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  3. After directing the children back to their seats, distribute mirrors and have the children examine their own facial expressions.
  4. Call out an emotion (such as happy, sad, surprised, tired, etc.), and have children make that emotion in their mirrors.
  5. Discuss what happens to our face and facial features (eyes, mouth, cheeks) when we make each emotion.
  6. Introduce Monumental Head of Pierre de Wissant by Auguste Rodin. Guide the children in a discussion of the image and the figure’s facial expression. Encourage the children to guess what emotion the sculpture might be showing (see Guiding Student Inquiry).

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Explain how you know this face is . . . (happy, sad, surprised, angry, scared, excited, etc.).
  • Describe some things that make you . . . (happy, sad, surprised, angry, scared, excited, etc.).
  • Describe how the facial features (mouth, eyes, cheeks) change with different expressions.
  • Tell which emotion you think the sculpture is showing and the reason you think that.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • With the children, read the digital storybook, Grover’s Underwater Hugs. In the story, Grover is feeling sad. As Elmo shares a hug with Grover, he convinces Grover to get in a submarine to search for a special underwater hugger. Go to Reading Adventures, a series of five Sesame Street digital storybooks focused on vocabulary development and choose Grover’s Underwater Hugs.
  • Discuss the scale of the sculpture compared to the size of the children’s heads. Have the children look for things that are very large and very small. Have them use words to describe their sizes. Draw pictures based on these descriptive words about size; for instance, have them draw pictures of themselves as giants.
  • Have the children look for art at school, and see if they can explain the different expressions they see.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children express a variety of emotions using their facial expressions?
  • Could children explain the changes in facial features with different emotions?
  • Could children describe the emotions depicted in the sculpture?


Did You Know

Before cameras were invented, many people had artists create portraits of themselves and their families. When an artist creates an image of a person (as Rodin did in his Pierre de Wissant sculpture), it is called a portrait. Portraits can be paintings, photographs, drawings, sculptures, or any other art medium. Portraits usually tell us something about the person. For instance, the clothes a person is wearing can give you clues about their job or that time in history. A facial expression in the portrait can give you clues about how the person was feeling at the time. 

Auguste Rodin was a famous artist from France. His artwork includes illustrations and paintings; however, he is most well-known for his sculptures. In fact, Rodin is considered to be one of the most important sculptors of his time (1840–1917). During the time in which Rodin created this sculpture, art was very dramatic, so artists used light and dark to create intense emotion. Rodin is best known for his piece, The Thinker, which is among the most recognizable sculptures in the world. 

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • expression – the way someone’s face looks at a particular moment that shows how he or she feels.
  • emotion – a strong feeling, such as love, sadness, or fear.
  • examine – to look at in a close, thorough way.
  • facial feature – a quality of the part of the head containing the eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • portrait – a descriptive representation of a person or animal, especially a painting.
  • sculpture – the art of making statues by carving, chiseling, or molding.

Lesson Tips

  • Song: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”:
    • If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap)
    • If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap)
    • If you’re happy and you know it, then you really ought to show it,
    • If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap)


  • Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ed Emberley and Anne Miranda
  • The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
  • The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
  • Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS