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Face, Emotion, Mood
Corey Stixrud
Oregon Writing Project Presentation

Opener (5 minutes): Guess the emotion. “When I feel _______ I look like this.”

Used to introduce students to the concept of visualization or creating mind movies when reading. Translates well to writing activities such as “show, don’t tell prompts, encouraging students to create vivid pictures in their readers’ minds.

Free Write (10 minutes): Encourage participants to dredge up some lurking emotions. How are you feeling right now? What baggage did you bring to class? Have everyone share a face that reflects their mood.

Description Critique (10 minutes): Share various written descriptions of faces (attached). Have participants underline particularly vivid images that impress (or distract) from the descriptions. Exchange views with a partner.

Photograph Prompts (30 minutes): Hand out photographs of people: one to each participant. Have participants first write a description of the person (physical and/or psychological) using the third person (He/She) (10 minutes). Next, have participants write from the perspective of the person in the picture (10 minutes). Share as a group.

Optional: Collect some background information about the people in the photographs, and share this information afterwards.

In lieu of photographs, have participants pick an acquaintance and perform the same exercises.

Mirrors (35 minutes): Have participants reflect (Ha, ha, reflect: get it?) on their images using one or more of the prompts on the attached page. Invite participants to share their writing.







Mirror Prompts

  1. Describe your face, or, describe the emotions that lurk just below the surface.

  2. Scientists now tell us that complete face transplants are feasible. In fact, Nike bought the rights to your face when you were born. You have just been told that marketing gurus no longer consider your face compatible with their products. You have 20 minutes to say goodbye to your face, and thus your outward identity. Ready? Just do it®.

  3. There is often a divergence between what we feel inside and the expressions that others perceive on our face. For instance, others may think we’re scowling when in fact we’re experiencing joy. Looking at your face in the mirror, reflect on what you want your face to reveal about the “real” you.

  4. Read the following poem and reflect on the demons you see in your mirror. (This is a good time to exorcize them. Demons need exorcize too.)

An Old Song

How loyal our childhood demons are,
growing old with us in the same house
like servants who season the meat
with bitterness, like jailers
who rattle the keys
that lock us in or lock us out.

Though we go on with our lives,
though the years pile up
like snow against the door, still our demons stare at us
from the depths of mirrors
or from the new faces across the table.

And no matter what voice they choose,
what language they speak,
the message is always the same.
They ask “Why can’t you do
anything right?” They say
“We just don’t love you anymore.”

Linda Pastan
From Heroes in Disguise, Norton, 1991


  • Write a love poem to your face or to yourself in general. (“I celebrate myself…”)
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