Lesson 1: Reading the visual – preparing to read the text - I can 'read' faces

Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English

Discuss how authors create characters using language and images (Content description VCELT205)

Understand the use of vocabulary about familiar and new topics and experiment with and begin to make conscious choices of vocabulary to suit audience and purpose (Content description VCELA237)

Identify visual representations of characters' actions, reactions, speech and thought processes in narratives, and consider how these images add to or contradict or multiply the meaning of accompanying words (Content description VCELA215)

Explore different ways of expressing emotions, including verbal, visual, body language and facial expressions (Content description VCELA201)

Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English as an Additional Language (EAL)

Pathway A

Reading and viewing

Level A1:

  • Identify familiar words and simple sentences and match them to images (VCEALC032)
  • Recognise some familiar words in context (VCEALL048)

Level A2:

  • Use knowledge of context, text structure and language to understand literal and inferred meanings (VCEALC114)
  • Use some curriculum or content area vocabulary (VCEALL156)

Theory/practice connections

The interplay between image and word helps us to make meaning. Teachers need to make explicit the meaning making strategies used to understand visual texts (Callow, 2012). Lesson 1 prepares students for the relationship they will build with the gorilla, in Little Beauty, through the use of the gorilla's gaze and the emotions shown in the gorilla's facial expressions.

Additional resources

An internet search on feeling words and images.

The book Faces, by Zoe Miller and David Goodman, can be used to inspire creative designs of faces.

Learning intentions

We are learning that the pictures in picture storybooks can give us information about a character's feelings.

We are learning that faces can tell us about feelings.

Success criteria

I can name a feeling to match a facial expression.

Role of the reader

Text decoder – reading visual cues in faces.

Group size

Whole class, paired activity, and opportunity for teacher to work one-to-one with students.

Lesson sequence

  1. Clearly articulate the learning intention. Today we are going to learn about reading expressions on faces. There are different ways that we can find out how people feel. They can tell us or we can find out by using the messages their faces tell us. Today we will all show feelings using our faces, and we will 'read' the messages other people's faces give us. Reading faces is an important skill for reading picture books, as these pictures give us information about the story.
  2. Show students a box and ask them to think about the expression on the teacher's face, when the box is opened. Model facial expressions including happy, disappointed, excited, angry.
  3. Ask students what might be in the box to make you feel happy, disappointed, excited, angry, scared, or shocked. Model and recycle a complex sentence structure – If a snake was in the box, I would feel scared.
  4. Collate feeling words, with the students and write these on flashcards, to display on the pin board.
  5. Children work in pairs to show each other emotions. Encourage them to look at the shape of the eyes, the eyebrows, the position of the head and the shape of the mouth. Using small cards, students sketch what they see.
  6. Assessment during the partner task, take photos of students' faces to add to the flashcard display. This will provide the opportunity to individually assess students and determine their vocabulary range about feelings.
  7. Students work in small groups finding evidence of different emotions in picture storybooks. They may use the flashcard with feeling vocabulary listed. Books by Anthony Browne would be suitable. Remind students about the learning intention and success criteria. Students can self-check the success criteria.
  8. Look at the front cover of Little Beauty, what can we read on the faces of the gorilla and kitten.


Students will require different levels of support around nuances in language. Microscaffolding (helping students at their point of need) can occur during step 6 and 7, where students can be introduced and encouraged to use more complex feeling words. An internet search on feeling words will provide illustrated posters of feelings, these can be used to reference feelings and reinforce vocabulary.

Links across the curriculum

Personal and Social Capability 

Develop a vocabulary and practise the expression of emotions to describe how they feel in different familiar situations (Content description VCPSCSE001)

Visual Arts 

Explore ideas, experiences, observations and imagination and express them through subject matter in visual artworks they create (Content description VCAVAE021)