Questions and Activities for When Sophie Gets Angry...
When I read this book to children, I usually begin by telling them that we all get angry, and we all have ways of dealing with it, and this is a book about a girl who got very, very angry, and what she did. After I've read the book, I ask three questions:
- What makes you really, really angry?
- How do you know when you're angry? How does your body feel?
- What do you do when you get really, really angry?
I listen to everyone's response, just listen and nod. Then I go over the various steps in Sophie's anger: screaming and roaring, shaking, stomping and kicking, wanting to smash the world to smithereens, running until she was worn out, crying, climbing a tree and letting the "wide world comfort her." I ask them if they think what she did was helpful in getting rid of her anger, and what they might do instead. Is there anything her sister or Mom might have done instead?
For me, the basic question is: How can we express our anger without causing harm to ourselves, to others, or to any thing?
I think one of the great things about anger is what an impetus it can be for making art. And one of the great things about art is how it channels our feelings into something that gives us solace. Different children relate more or less to different arts, but I've found the following three activities both fun and helpful for everybody:
- Give each child some sort of noisemaker. As you read the story, have the children "help" by beating or shaking or stomping or clapping or blowing very loudly for the anger, building to full force when she slams the door as she runs outside, then getting softer and fast as she runs, becoming softer, halting and very slow as she cries, then very very soft as she sits there, letting the breeze and the ocean calm her down, and then a bit stronger and with a stable rhythm thats different from any so far as she walks home, and then various harmonious rhythms as the family works on the puzzle together and then as each person goes about their own task. This takes some repetition to work out, but it helps children see how rhythm and sound express emotions, and it can be a lead-in to making music.
- This usually takes two sessions for the whole class to really "get" what's going on, but again, it gives them a real understanding for art, especially abstract art:
Find three examples of abstract paintings that show three very different moods, for example a Franz Kline painting of thick, straight black strokes against a stark white background, a Sonia Delaunay painting of curved brightly-colored stripes with soft edges all interlacing with each other, a Willem de Kooning painting full of wild slashes of reds, or a Morris Louis canvas of soft blues, or a Helen Frankenthaler abstract of translucent mysterious shapes. Show the paintings one by one and ask the children how each picture makes them feel. Do not correct their responses. Whatever they say is correct for them. As each child answers, ask if they can figure out what it is about the colors or shapes or how the paint is used that make them feel this way. After they have looked at them one by one, line up the three pictures in a row and again ask if they can see a difference in feeling. What is clear is that different pictures make us feel very different, just because of the shapes and colors.
Brainstorm as many feelings as you can and write them on the board. Have each child silently choose a feeling, but they cant tell anybody what it is. Give each child a piece of white paper, and have them write the feeling very small on the back. Then have them choose TWO magic markers that they think will best express this feeling. Have them draw shapes or lines or patterns that also show this feeling. One rule: You may not draw anything that looks like anything. No tears or hearts or swords or anything that looks like them. After about five minutes, have the children put their pictures on the floor and ask them to pick out three or four that they think really show a strong feeling. Ask them what feeling they think it is, and what about the picture gives that feeling: the colors, the shapes, the lines, how sharp or curved or irregular they are. After discussing these three or four pictures — or five or seven or eight — tell the children they can either continue to finish the picture they’ve started, or they can change the feeling they’ve put on the back to make it go better with the picture, or they can begin again with a new picture but the same feeling.
The final part of the game is for everybody to put their pictures on the floor and to go one by one having the class guess the feeling, then turn the picture over and see if they were right. It takes time to figure out how this works, and children will need quite a bit of getting used to it. Most understand what's going on after this first review. A second full lesson will end with most of the class having pictures that are at least related to the feeling they've pencilled on the back. Most of all, they can see how feelings can get turned into art, and they can see how they might want to make pictures when they’re angry — even pictures that show "reality" like battle scenes or monsters or big explosions — rather than do something else.
- This works better with fourth graders and up.
Give each child a piece of clay about the size of their fist. Have them look at the pictures of Sophie and see how she stands when shes having different feelings. Look at other pictures of people whose whole body expresses a strong emotion. Take various poses yourself showing triumph, sadness, joy, fear, aggression, or have children do it. Then have each child choose an emotion and have them make a clay figure of a person showing that emotion.
When they are done, have the children silently walk around the class looking at all the figures. Have them choose a figure, not their own, and have them decide what emotion the person is expressing. (They aren't supposed to tell anyone else which figure they are choosing, so several people might choose the same one.) Have them write a story about that person and how they came to feel that feeling, then share the stories with the class, identifying the figure when it is their turn to read.
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copyright 2016 by Molly Bang