We read many things in Lower El. Students and teachers read for information and entertainment. We also read to open conversations about topics that are relevant to our classroom life. Being read to is a great pleasure for children and the guides make opportunities for read-alouds that serve many purposes, including conversation starters about these topics. We read stories that open conversations about friendship, mistakes, fears, and timely things like–THUNDERSTORMS!
Chrysanthemum and Wemberly Worried are by Kevin Henkes and are great conversation starters for talking about friendship and worries. Students in Lower El spend a lot of their time navigating friendship, kindness, compromise, and self advocacy. The author’s language in which he states, “Chrysanthemum wilted” to describe the characters hurt feelings lends itself perfectly to a classroom community building activity known as “Wrinkled Wanda”. A paper cut out of Wanda wilts and is wrinkled each time her feelings are hurt and then is smoothed back out as her feelings are considered and spirits are lifted. Our point in this activity is that while a person’s feelings can be lifted by compliments, they don’t completely forget things that hurt their feelings–much as “Paper Wanda’s wrinkles” are still visible. As we help these processes along, books that start conversations about these topics are part of our toolbox.
Early in the school year we read Regina’s Big Mistake by Marissa Moss to talk about our expectation that students doing the right level of work will make mistakes. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn and are part of the process of stretching your knowledge and challenging yourself. The book also talks about copying someone else’s work. We use this as an opening to have a conversation about using someone’s good ideas and standing on their shoulders to improve upon or expand those ideas–it isn’t copying if you make it your own!
Thunder Cake seemed like the perfect book to read last week as thunder rolled outside our classroom windows. Some children worry about thunder. The girl in this book by Patricia Polacco does, and she has to overcome several of her fears (with her grandmother offering encouragement) on the way to gathering the ingredients for, and baking a “thunder cake”. We were able to bake thunder cake the next day in our classroom–a great experience in separating eggs, measuring, mixing, and EATING!