Developing Expressions and Body Language

Try this visualization exercise to work toward developing facial expressions and body language. The following signs have been previously shown to you in earlier chapters. Now you're going to sign while adding the elements of facial and body language. This time, there are no photo illustrations to guide you. Instead, you will find only the word, followed by the appropriate facial expression and body language.

As you know, facial expressions and body language are very important parts of sign language. Remember, they add an element of clarity and comprehension. The chart on the facing page will assist you in developing and enhancing these important elements. You will need to take a moment to look at the word and visualize what you see.

Building all the required elements into your signing requires some talent in the area of multitasking. Don't become frustrated at the beginning if you can't do it all. Instead, slowly learn to take on the character and posture of what it is you are trying to express or convey. Simply explained, you need to have a smile when you sign “happy,” not wear a frown. The same is true in reverse. If you are signing “angry,” show the appropriate facial. Start slowly, and practice the facial and body language described in the chart.

Continue practicing until you become comfortable with these postures. Before you even realize it, adding the appropriate facial expressions and body language will become second nature.


Facial Expression

Body Language


Rolling eyes, tongue out

Side-to-side head movement


Eyes down, looking studious

Turn slightly left from the waist up


Bright-eyed and pleased

Smell the fragrance, head tilts, shoulders up


Large, bright-eyed smile

Loose and relaxed neck and head


Fierce look, furrowed brows, focused eyes

Proud, powerful posture


Admiring look

Head tilts side to side, chin up slightly



Body forward, head down slightly, hands gripped


Proper look, lips tightly together

Chin up, head tilted back slightly


Smiling, smug look, lips together

Shoulders back, chest out, chin up


Lips pursed as in kissing

Chin up, right shoulder rolls

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