Smiles and Frowns Catch Attention

Try it on paper!

A smile is a frown turned upside down

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Is it just me or have there been a frightening number of major natural disasters in a relatively short period of time around the world? If we adults are feeling overwhelmed by the wild whims of “Mother Nature,” imagine the anxiety brewing beneath the surface if not boiling over in children!

Enter opportunities to, in simple language, “cheer up children,” K – 5 students who are besieged and befuddled by bits of news they collect from 24/7 coverage of catastrophes. As I wrote in an earlier blog, young children may not have the wherewithal to access and interpret different news venues, but their young ears hear better than those older and children surely pick up on “negative vibes!”

So, here’s a new attention-ology trick that’s tailor-made for troublesome times. I included this tool in a book I wrote for the K-5 curriculum titled, “Rub Your Worries Away!” I wrote the book in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, but the parts of the book that are designed to relieve anxiety seem also well-suited to 2011.

This week’s featured tool/trick is nothing more than a poem and a piece of bright pink cardstock (paper). On one side of the paper in dark black marker is a half circle that forms a smile when the paper is held upright to show it.

On the other paper side in dark black marker is a half circle turned “upside down” to form a frown.

I introduce this tool/trick to my classes when students seem a bit “down in the dumps.” Before reading the poem, An Upside Down Smile, (see below) to the kids, I explain that I recently wrote something that expresses the happiness I believe we all like to feel inside. Depending on their grade level, I ask students if they’ve ever noticed that a frown is an upside down smile and vice versa.

Then with a little bit of improvised fanfare (a voice-simulated trumpet or drum) to catch and keep students’ attention, I hold the poem page out to one side with my left hand and I hold the bright pink page with the drawn smile and frown in my right hand so that I can easily flip the page. (I’m right-handed.)

I begin by reading the title…AN UPSIDE DOWN SMILE…and read on…

Think about this…

A smile is frown

turned upside down;

if you don’t believe me,

try it on paper!

Make a curved line

to look like a smile, (gesture to the smile side of the pink page)

then turn the paper

upside down (flip the pink page to show the frown side)

and, sure enough,

you’ll see a frown.

Now, if a smile is a frown

turned upside down,

like a cake whose top

was on the bottom

when it baked,

then we can flip a frown

like we flip a cake,

and turn the  frown

upside down (flip the pink paper back to the smile side)

to make a smile

that needs no frosting.

Smiles, after all,

are delicious just as they are!

Children in early grades love the animation of the smiling and frowning sides of the pink paper and the rhythmic beat of the poem. Kids in intermediate classes respond to the puzzle-like challenge of the poetic writing, the “think about this” aspect of “An Upside Down Smile.” As always, much of the success in implementing this (and any other) tool/trick to catch and keep K – 5 students’ attention is dependent on the teacher’s delivery of it. Deliver with confidence and genuine care for your class and you’ll find yourself smiling more than frowning through the day.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

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Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
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