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Speaking Without Words

Using body language

by Rebecca Parkinson (revised, originally published in 2008)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider that we can give messages to other people by what we do, not just by what we say.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need some small pieces of paper that have various words or messages written on them for individual children to act out using gestures only. Examples could include ‘Goodbye’, ‘Stop’, ‘I’m sorry’, ‘Come with me’, ‘Go away’, ‘I’m bored’ and ‘I’m cross’.

  • You will also need some small pieces of paper that have various actions or situations written on them for pairs of children to act out using gestures only. Examples could include ‘Having an argument’, ‘Best friends’, ‘I don’t like you’ and ‘I’ll look after you’.


  1. Ask the children whether they can tell you what a gesture is. Read out the dictionary definition: ‘a movement of part of the body to express an idea or meaning. An action performed to convey a feeling or intention.’

    Explain that you would like a few of the children to use gestures to act out the messages that are written on the pieces of paper. Choose your volunteers and ask them to come to the front.

  2. Show the first child one of the pieces of paper.

    As they act out the message on the piece of paper, ask the watching children to guess what message their gestures convey. Repeat until all of the messages have been guessed correctly.

  3. Explain that you need pairs of children for the next few pieces of paper because they are going to act out a situation between two people. Ask the watching children to explain what the situation is.

  4. When all of the situations have been guessed correctly, ask the children how they knew that one pair of children were having an argument whereas another pair were showing that they were good friends.

    Draw out the fact that the way in which we position our bodies and the looks that we have on our faces make a big difference to the way in which others see us.

  5. Ask all of the children to pull various faces and perform accompanying gestures for different moods such as happy, sad, angry, cross and bored.

  6. Discuss how the children feel if someone looks at them angrily, if someone turns their back on them when they are talking or if someone pulls a horrible face.

  7. Ask the children to make a special effort today to make gestures to one another that are helpful and encouraging rather than hurtful and unkind.

Time for reflection

Ask the children to close their eyes for a moment and think about what gestures they make to people.

Ask the children, ‘Can you think of gestures that you could make today that will make other people feel good about themselves?’

Pause to allow time for thought.

Dear God,
Please help us today to think about the messages that we send:
Not just the things that we say, but the way in which we behave.
Help us not to be rude or hurtful, but to show love and concern for each other.


‘When I needed a neighbour’ (Come and Praise, 65)

Publication date: July 2019   (Vol.21 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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