I thought it was interesting that one of the main tools the teachers used for helping children read body language and understand facial expressions was to have them watch segments of Soap Operas and Situation Comedies. A clip was shown and played without sound, and the children were to watch the actors' body language and facial expressions. They were to explain the actions and emotions the actors portrayed and make predictions of what would happen next. Some of the situations were very basic such as predicting when people were HAPPY or SAD or ANGRY or PLEASED. Other situations were more difficult to predict such as when the actors were portraying CONFUSION in making a decision, or being IRRITATED when someone makes them feel uncomfortable, or being BRAVE in a tough situation, or trying to give COMFORT to someone. Many of these children had trouble understanding how one's own actions affect other people. Watching these video clips really helped the children learn to understand the cause and effect of human EMOTIONS and body language.
In Children's Theater, we work with the kids to help them explore EMOTIONS and how to portray them on stage. Because in live theater, the audience is usually quite far from the stage, the actors need to "play it big." Any facial expression also needs to be accompanied by a large body attitude or gesture to help it "read" better. On film this would look ridiculous, but for stage work, large facial expressions and movements are a must. To be successful on stage, the actor must use his entire body to make EMOTIONS readable for the audience.
EMOTIONS ACTING GAME: The basic human emotions are all forms of LOVE, RAGE or FEAR, but beyond these are many sub categories. Write a selection of emotions or human attitudes onto notecards and have each child take a turn interpreting that emotion or attitude. Possible choices: HAPPY, ANGRY, SAD, CONFUSED, IRRITATED, EXCITED, LONGING, SATISFIED, WORRIED, HUNGRY, FLIRTY, GRUMPY, INTENSE CONCENTRATION, HAUGHTY, KIND, FLAMBOYANT, STRONG, WEAK, NERVOUS, BRAVE, CHEERFUL, EXUBERANT, SICK, GOOFY, NERDY, and the list could go on. In my experience you do not want to give license for kids to be BORED or TIRED or AMBIVALENT, so do not give those as options under any circumstance! If you do, you will be SORRY!