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Print out the differing perceptions worksheet linked above, one for each child/person in your class. (This worksheet can be done by adults as well as children.) Have them fill it out on their own–either assign it as homework or have them complete it like a test without talking to one another.

After kids have completed this worksheet, conduct a group time discussion to talk about their answers. Call on various kids to tell you the words they came up with for different numbers, and then see if others had a different answer. For example, on #1, did they write grass, or gross? On #2, did they write bad, sad, mad, or dad? On #6, was it lovely or lonely?

This exercise has two purposes. First, it’s an illustration of differing perspectives — how each of us can look at the exact same thing and interpret it in two completely different ways, depending on our frame of mind.

Second, since the words kids come up with will be a product of the thoughts and ideas that are running through their head at the moment, it’s an example of how mood alters perspective, and can actually be used as a psychological tool to gauge someone’s mood. Kids who are feeling down or defeated are more likely to fill in the blanks with words that have a negative connotation, such as bad, hard, gross, lonely, fight, pound, small, and so forth, whereas those in a more upbeat mood will tend to fill in the same spaces with positive or neutral words: Dad, head, grass, lovely, right, found, smile, etc.

In fact, if you really want to get sophisticated with this activity, you can prime them first by telling them a story about a naughty child who does bad things and is always fighting or being punished. Wait a few weeks, and then give them the test again, only this time, first tell them a story about a happy child in a loving home who is treasured, valued and cherished by those around her. Then compare the answers given after the first story compared to the second. The answers for the former are apt to be comparatively darker than those given after the more uplifting story.

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