Music can be a powerful vehicle for teaching caring, tolerance, self-respect and conflict resolution. The familiar children’s tune “If You’re Happy and You Know It” can take on a pro-social dimension if you change the lyrics. Singing “If you’re angry and you know it” provides an opportunity to explore appropriate responses to anger, such as “talk it over,” “count to ten,” “stop and think” and “just relax.” Changing the third line of the song to “If you’re angry and you know it, that’s OK, you can control it” reminds children that they can choose how to respond to their anger.
Begin by asking the class, “Is it OK to be angry?” You may get loud responses of “No!” Explain to students that when an adult tells them not to be angry, that person is most likely saying that it is not OK to be mean or hurt someone when you’re angry. Emphasize the importance of “owning” anger and finding constructive ways to control it.
Next, have students brainstorm (without using any names) what they’ve done or seen other people do when angry. This could include situations at home, at school or on TV, or incidents they’ve heard others describe. Distinguish between behaviors they have seen help and hurt in the heat of the moment. Record these reactions in two separate lists.
Once you have your lists of helpful and hurtful reactions, introduce the adapted version of the song. Have students act out the lyrics with dramatic body language and gestures, using scenarios from both lists. Discuss the value of each alternative action. Stress the importance of addressing the problems that lead to anger. Invite students to create additional helpful reactions to include in the song.
This activity can be extended to cover other uncomfortable emotions such as “If you’re [nervous/scared/lonely/embarrassed].” Encourage your students to exercise their helpful reactions in their everyday lives, using the song as a reminder.