Body Language and Tone of Voice Lesson Plan

Another new 4th grade lesson, another set of challenges and reiterations until I got it just right. Our August B lesson in 4th grade continued our positive communication unit with a focus on body language and tone of voice.

We started off with reviewing the questions we need to ask ourselves when we THINK before we speak. I was pleasantly surprised with how they did – win! Then we watched the Pixar Short “For the Birds“.

I asked them:

  • At the beginning, what were the little birds thinking and feeling about the big bird?
  • What was the big bird thinking and feeling about the little birds?
  • At the end, what were the little birds feeling, after they’d lost their feathers?
  • We don’t know what words they were saying in the video, so how do we know all those things about what they were thinking and feeling? Body language
    and tone of voice!
  • Today that’s what we’re going to talk about, body language and tone of voice. (I had my  kiddos repeat both of these because they were new phrases to many of them)

Next was specifically discussing body language and practicing “reading” it. I had different student volunteers come to the front for role plays with me. I also assigned a “director” to call “action” for each skit to get more in on the fun. Depending on the abilities of the class, you could have student volunteers be sending the body language message instead of you but mine weren’t ready for this just yet.

School counselor and student role played examples of what body language means.


  • Role Play #1: Student was asked to tell me aaallll about their family. While they did, I tapped my foot, looked at my watch, sighed, turned side to side, and avoided eye contact. (this is what you see us doing above – on a casual Friday – with my baby bump on display)
  • Role Play #2: Student was asked to tell me what happens in their favorite movie. I leaned forward, kept a still body, used comfortable eye contact, and nodded.
  • Role Play #3: Student was asked to give me a long list of excuses as to why they didn’t do their homework. I put my hands on my hips, pointed, rolled my eyes, shook my head, and had tense muscles.
  • Role Play #4: Student was asked to tell me about the big birthday party they were about to have. I hunched over, looked
    down, avoided eye contact, and fiddled my hand

After each of those acts, I asked the class to describe what I was thinking and feeling; what message I was sending. Then they gave me specific “clues” based off of my body and face.

After my first year of doing this lesson, I realized that I needed to make a WHOLE lesson focused on just body language. When I started doing that, I added on an activity where students played “Pick-A-Card” with task cards to answer discussion questions about body language and also to do some more practicing with identifying and modeling:

activity for teaching about body language

In my original “teach it all at once” lesson, we then moved onto the rug and sat in a circle, with students finding a partner to sit next to on their way over. I asked them:

  • What does tone of voice mean?
  • Put both hands up if someone has ever told you to watch your tone of voice.
  • Pull your ears if you’ve ever been talking to someone and their words were ok but you wished they had used a different tone of voice.
  • Push your nose if you’ve ever said something and then thought you should have used a different tone of voice.

Next up was giving each pair a card with a scenario and a line of dialogue on it. They were instructed to: 1) read the situation, 2) discuss what would happen if they used the wrong tone of voice, 3) each take a turn practicing saying the words/line/dialogue using the correct tone of voice. Before we started, we talked about the importance of only practicing the correct way to say it so that the wrong way didn’t get stuck in our brains. I also added in some discussion questions related to tone of voice.

activity for teaching tone of voice

We finished up with a quick exit ticket on a post-it. I asked the kiddos to identify a situation or scenario (pulling from the examples we used as a class if needed) that they have trouble using the correct tone of voice in and need to work on. Most of them said it was when their mom was trying to get them to do something, and a few acknowledged they have trouble using a kind tone of voice when someone using a mean tone of voice with them first.

Ready to Go Lessons for These Topics:

Teaching Students About Body Language

Teaching Students About Tone of Voice

10 Responses

  1. Thank you for this lesson! I am working on zoom classes for my students that I work with on prevocational skills & this was the best resource. I love the use of the Pixar short!

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