The Heart Story
This activity, which can be adapted for children from Kindergarten through ?, encourages students to consider the effect of "put-downs" and to think about how to express "put-ups."
About Put-Ups and Put-Downs
Before you begin the activity, have a discussion with students about "put-ups" and "put-downs."
Explain that a put-down is a negative comment about a person. Elicit examples of put-downs from the story or from life (but don't write them down so as not to reinforce them). Ask the children what they think a put-up is. Elicit examples of put-ups. Make a chart of put-ups. Explain that in our classroom, put-downs are not allowed. Put-ups are welcome. When you and the students hear people using put-ups, you can acknowledge them and add them to the chart.
The Heart Story
Make two hearts from construction paper. Explain that our feelings and our classroom community are greatly affected by how we talk to each other. This exercise illustrates the effects of put-downs.
Tape one of the hearts to your chest. Tell the children a story like the one below, tailored to their age and experience. Each time the child in the story experiences a put-down, rip off a piece of the heart and let it fall to the floor. By the end of the story, the heart will be in pieces. Discuss: How is ____________ feeling? Have you ever had a day like this?
Now tape the second heart on your chest and retell the story with the children supplying put-ups instead of put-downs. When the child receives put-ups, color in the heart with crayons or markers of various colors. Discuss: How is ______________ feeling now? What does this exercise suggest for our classroom?
Jane* had not slept well, and when her father called, she didn't get up. A few minutes later, her father shouted, "Get up, lazybones!"
When Jane went into the kitchen for breakfast, her brother was just pouring the last of the cereal into his bowl. "That's what you get for oversleeping," he teased.
Jane dressed in a new combination she thought looked cool, but when her sister saw her, she laughed. "That looks stupid," she said.
Jane changed clothes, grabbed her book bag, and ran out the door to school. She decided to take a short cut. "Hey, what are you doing around this block?" some boy called to her. "We don't like your type around here."
"You're late!" the teacher said when she came into her classroom. He wrote her name on the board. Later, the teacher asked her to read aloud. When she said one of the words wrong, some of the kids laughed.
At lunch, when Jane went to sit down with some girls, they said, "No room here. You'll have to sit over there."
On the way home from school, Jane was running along and tripped over a crack in the pavement. She went sprawling down on the street and ripped a hole in her pants. When her mother saw Jane, she saw the hole before she saw the rest of her. "You ruined your pants," she said. "I can't keep you in decent clothes!"
* Substitute a name for Jane that is not the name of anyone in your class.
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