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Tag Archives | Jacqueline Woodson

Creating a Curriculum and Culture of Kindness in the Classroom

bk_wonder_140by Mau­r­na Rome

When giv­en the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” ― R.J. Pala­cio, Won­der

Wouldn’t our class­rooms be grand if stu­dents were giv­en oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn about and expe­ri­ence what being kind looks like, sounds like and feels like on a dai­ly basis? Wouldn’t life be grand if we could all sim­ply choose true col­lab­o­ra­tion with our teach­ing col­leagues to pro­mote kind­ness? Wouldn’t our schools be grand if our dis­tricts would invest in kind­ness? My answer is a resound­ing “YES!” to these ques­tions, and I hope oth­er teach­ers would agree on all counts.

True, we are faced with con­stant pres­sure to pre­pare stu­dents for “those tests.” You know, the ones that are used to deter­mine just how accom­plished we teach­ers and our stu­dents are. Many of us still feel the urge to just close the door and do what we do in iso­la­tion. And yes, in many dis­tricts, sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing is being used to buy new and com­pre­hen­sive “core” read­ing pro­grams (remem­ber those test scores). Yet what about the con­tent of our stu­dents’ char­ac­ter? What about their cur­rent lev­el of engage­ment and future hap­pi­ness? Could the answer be the pur­suit of kind­ness and uti­liz­ing authen­tic lit­er­a­ture in our class­rooms? Do books real­ly have the pow­er to change lives? Again, my answer is a resound­ing “YES!”

from Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s “Thought Bub­ble on Kind­ness”

Despite the chal­lenges, my incred­i­ble col­leagues and I have sought out an inten­tion­al approach to weave kind­ness into our teach­ing. As “human­i­ties” teach­ers, it seems only fit­ting that along with lessons on parts of speech, com­pre­hen­sion strate­gies and writ­ing lit­er­ary essays, we include a com­mit­ment to teach­ing kind­ness. It is after all, an inte­gral aspect of belong­ing to this thing we call humankind.

Smart teach­ers know there is a sense of urgency in our class­rooms. Time is always in short sup­ply while meet­ings, les­son plan­ning, paper cor­rect­ing, and grad­ing are a con­stant demand. It helps to have a team like the one I work with. The strong lev­els of trust, mutu­al respect and shared enthu­si­asm for what we do is invig­o­rat­ing. We encour­age each oth­er to want to be the best teach­ers we can be. We con­tin­u­al­ly brain­storm, test, suc­ceed, fail, and try again, as we share our ideas, resources and instruc­tion­al strate­gies with one anoth­er. This is a recipe for pro­fes­sion­al kind­ness that works. If you want to teach kind­ness in your class­room, it is much eas­i­er if you have cama­raderie among your col­leagues.

12_1Glow-Ball-Read-Dahl-Loud-Kindness-Day550

Glob­al Read Aloud (aka Glow Ball Read Dahl Loud) day. Click to enlarge.

And kids seem to notice when their teach­ers love what they do. On Novem­ber 13th, class­rooms near and far par­tic­i­pat­ed in two simul­ta­ne­ous events: World Kind­ness Day and Glob­al Read Aloud (aka Glow Ball Read Dahl Loud). My team­mates and I wore our glow sticks and ball gowns, while read­ing poet­ry by Roald Dahl (loud­ly). We also shared the short film, Snack Attack, to pro­mote a mes­sage of kind­ness and gen­er­ate lots of dis­cus­sion. Our unusu­al attire and this award-win­ning movie with a twist were excel­lent ways to rein­force the con­cept of “Con­trasts and Con­tra­dic­tions” a sign­post from Notice and Note; Strate­gies for Close Read­ing by Kylene Beers and Robert Prob­st. 

It’s up to us teach­ers to work our mag­ic to carve out the time, to cre­ate an inte­grat­ed cur­ricu­lum and cul­ture of kind­ness. Kids who learn the impor­tance of kind­ness are kids who devel­op empa­thy and com­pas­sion. They are more apt to be selfless in a world where “self­ies” rule. Con­sid­er these “Words of the Wis­er” (anoth­er Notice and Note sign­post):

I think prob­a­bly kind­ness is my num­ber one attribute in a human being. I’ll put it before any of the things like courage or brav­ery or gen­eros­i­ty or any­thing else. Kindness—that sim­ple word. To be kind—it cov­ers every­thing, to my mind. If you’re kind that’s it.”  ―Roald Dahl

The fol­low­ing kind­ness resources have been field-test­ed and have earned a sol­id stamp of approval from dozens of wise (and kind) 6–11 year olds.

Film

 Children’s Pic­ture Books:

  • Each Kind­ness by Jacque­line Wood­son
  • Have You Filled a Buck­et Today by Car­ol McCloud
  • Last Stop on Mar­ket Street by Matt de la Pena
  • My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems
  • Those Shoes by Mari­beth Boelts

YA/Middle Grades Chap­ter Books:

  • The Mirac­u­lous Jour­ney of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamil­lo
  • The Mis­fits by James Howe
  • Sahara Spe­cial by Esme Raji Codell
  • The War That Saved My Life by Kim­ber­ly Brubak­er Bradley
  • Won­der by R.J. Pala­cio

In addi­tion to read­ing books to and with kids to teach kind­ness, these pro­fes­sion­al books are well worth the invest­ment of time and mon­ey:

  • Beyond Nice: Nur­tur­ing Kind­ness with Young Chil­dren by Stu­art L. Stotts
  • Bul­ly­ing Hurts, Teach­ing Kind­ness through Read Alouds and Guid­ed Con­ver­sa­tions
    by Lester Lam­i­nack
  • Secret Kind­ness Agents: How Small Acts of Kind­ness Real­ly Can Change the World
    by Fer­i­al Pear­son

Final­ly, if you are look­ing for ways to bring a kind­ness cam­paign to your class­room, con­sid­er these spe­cial events.

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Bookstorm™: Bulldozer’s Big Day

Bookstorm-Bulldozer-Visual_655

written by Candace Fleming  illustrated by Eric Rohmann  Atheneum, 2015

writ­ten by Can­dace Flem­ing 
illus­trat­ed by Eric Rohmann 
Atheneum, 2015

It’s Bulldozer’s big day—his birth­day! But around the con­struc­tion site, it seems like every­one is too busy to remem­ber. Bull­doz­er wheels around ask­ing his truck friends if they know what day it is, but they each only say it’s a work day. They go on scoop­ing, sift­ing, stir­ring, fill­ing, and lift­ing, and lit­tle Bull­doz­er grows more and more glum. But when the whis­tle blows at the end of the busy day, Bull­doz­er dis­cov­ers a con­struc­tion site sur­prise, espe­cial­ly for him!

An ide­al book for a read-aloud to that child sit­ting by you or to a class­room full of chil­dren or to a sto­ry­time group gath­ered togeth­er, Bulldozer’s Big Day is fun to read because of all the ono­matopoeia and the won­der­ful sur­prise end­ing.

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book. For Bulldozer’s Big Day, you’ll find books for a vari­ety of tastes and inter­ests. The book will be com­fort­ably read to ages 3 through 7. We’ve includ­ed pic­ture books, non­fic­tion, videos, web­sites, and des­ti­na­tions that com­ple­ment the book, all encour­ag­ing ear­ly lit­er­a­cy.

Build­ing Projects. There have been many fine books pub­lished about design­ing and con­struct­ing hous­es, cities, and dreams. We share a few books to encour­age and inspire your young dream­ers.

Con­struc­tion Equip­ment. Who can resist lis­ten­ing to and watch­ing the large vari­ety of vehi­cles used on a con­struc­tion project? You’ll find both books and links to videos.

Birth­day Par­ties. This is the oth­er large theme in Bulldozer’s Big Day and we sug­gest books such as Xander’s Pan­da Par­ty that offer oth­er approach­es to talk­ing about birth­days.

Dirt, Soil, Earth. STEM dis­cus­sions can be a part of ear­ly lit­er­a­cy, too. Get ready to dish the dirt! 

Lone­li­ness. Much like Bull­doz­er, chil­dren (and adults) can feel let down, ignored, left out … and books are a good way to start the dis­cus­sion about resilien­cy and cop­ing with these feel­ings.

Sur­pris­es. If you work with chil­dren, or have chil­dren of your own, you know how tricky sur­pris­es and expec­ta­tions can be. We’ve includ­ed books such as Wait­ing by Kevin Henkes and Handa’s Sur­prise by Eileen Browne.

Friend­ship. An ever-pop­u­lar theme in children’s books, we’ve select­ed a few of the very best, includ­ing A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by the Steads.

Let us know how you are mak­ing use of this Book­storm™. Share your ideas and any oth­er books you’d add to this Book­storm™.

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Creating a Classroom Community with 31 Letters

by Mau­r­na Rome

Long gone are the days of “Don’t do this or that or the oth­er thing” lists of class­room rules. At least I hope they are long gone… The influ­ence of “respon­sive class­room,” greater aware­ness of the pow­er of being pos­i­tive and much research on effec­tive class­room man­age­ment have ush­ered in a new approach to estab­lish­ing expec­ta­tions in our schools. Most edu­ca­tors know that in order to learn, there has to be order in the court. Most edu­ca­tors know that “buy in” from the kids is the short­est route to arrive at the des­ti­na­tion. Most edu­ca­tors know that it is a worth­while invest­ment of time and ener­gy to lay a sol­id foun­da­tion at the start of each school year that incud­es dis­cus­sion about goals, hopes and dreams (see First Six Weeks of School, Respon­sive Class­room). 

Yet after 24 years (this year marks the begin­ning of my 25th !) I have just recent­ly real­ized how much eas­i­er it will be to estab­lish and rein­force the shared class­room agree­ments we will be cre­at­ing using some of my favorite lit­er­ary trea­sures. My vision includes a fair amount of “guid­ed dis­cov­ery,” AKA, I know what I want the out­come to be but I want the kids to feel like they have come up with it on their own. Here’s my plan…

The 31 let­ters are scram­bled on the wall. This invi­ta­tion is post­ed above.

  Dear Stu­dents,

   Please think about the kind of class­room where cool kids make

   awe­some things hap­pen every day. A place where we are all mak­ing   

   our hopes and dreams come true. The type of envi­ron­ment where  

   learn­ing and look­ing out for each oth­er are the name of the game.

   Using the 31 let­ters below, can you help build the 9 words that will

   guide us as shared agree­ments on this won­der­ful jour­ney togeth­er?   

   Thanks!  Mrs. Rome

Rome_31Letters
My hope is that my stu­dents will think, dis­cuss and work togeth­er to take 31 let­ters and turn them into our class­room creed con­tain­ing just nine words. Nine pow­er­ful words that when com­bined become five sim­ple and short, yet pow­er­ful sen­tences. Just 31 let­ters that will guide us all year long as we design and nav­i­gate the roadmap to suc­cess in our 4th/5th grade Human­i­ties class­room.

Be safe. Be kind. Work hard. Have fun. Grow.

These nine pow­er­ful words encom­pass all that I hope to accom­plish with each one of my 50 schol­ars in the com­ing year. I am con­vinced that this mantra is some­thing we can all agree on. Bring­ing these words to life, mak­ing them a part of our dai­ly actions and most impor­tant­ly, what we feel com­pelled to do in our hearts, is anoth­er order of busi­ness. A tall order of busi­ness. Yet this IS my busi­ness… to keep kids safe, to help them be kind and devel­op a strong work eth­ic, to expe­ri­ence joy as often as pos­si­ble, and always, to cul­ti­vate their tal­ents so they can grow and devel­op.

ph_NineWords
As is most often the case, when I find myself search­ing for wis­dom from a reli­able friend, I turn to the vast col­lec­tion of books in our class­room library. As I begin my 25th year as an edu­ca­tor, I mar­vel at just how impor­tant my books and the lessons they pro­vide are. Allow me to share how my treasures—picture books and chap­ter books—will pave the way to cre­at­ing our class­room com­mu­ni­ty in Room 123.

I will begin by shar­ing some of my favorite pic­ture books, sto­ries that can be shared in the first week or two of the new school year to help us estab­lish the impor­tance of our 31 let­ters. I don’t hes­i­tate to read aloud these books that are usu­al­ly reserved for the younger crowd, because I know that the big kids ben­e­fit from pic­ture books just as much. The insights and dis­cus­sions that come from these ter­rif­ic titles help my stu­dents learn more about how our shared agree­ments will sup­port our learn­ing. The chap­ter books will unfold over days, weeks, months, yet again, the sto­ries will illus­trate how those 31 let­ters take our fic­tion­al friends through many life lessons.

At this very moment, edu­ca­tors all across the coun­try are care­ful­ly plan­ning or pre­sent­ing lessons that are designed to pro­mote enthu­si­asm for read­ing. At the same time, those ded­i­cat­ed indi­vid­u­als are work­ing on build­ing a pos­i­tive class­room com­mu­ni­ty. Most edu­ca­tors know that the right book in the hands of the right kid can make an enor­mous dif­fer­ence. Some of us even believe books have the abil­i­ty to changes lives. I am grate­ful to know, love, and share these books with my col­leagues.

Rome_stripBe Safe

The Huge Bag of Wor­ries by Vir­ginia Iron­side

The War That Saved My Life by Kim­ber­ly Brubak­er Bradley

Be Kind

Each Kind­ness by Jacque­line Wood­son

The One and Only Ivan by Kather­ine Apple­gate

Work Hard

Amaz­ing Grace by Mary Hoff­man and Thank You Mr. Falk­er by Patri­cia Polac­co

Long Walk to Water by Lin­da Sue Park

Have Fun

Wum­bers (or any­thing by Amy Krause Rosen­thal)

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Christo­pher Graben­stein

Grow

Beau­ti­ful Oops by Bar­ney Saltzberg and Beau­ti­ful Hands by Kathryn Oto­shi

Won­der by RJ Pala­cio

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Bookstorm™: Chasing Freedom

Bookstorm Chasing FreedomIn this Bookstorm™:

Chasing FreedomChasing Freedom

The Life Jour­neys of Har­ri­et Tub­man and Susan B. Antho­ny, Inspired by His­tor­i­cal Facts
writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
illus­trat­ed by Michele Wood
Orchard Books, 2015

As Nik­ki Grimes writes in her author’s note for this book, “His­to­ry is often taught in bits and pieces, and stu­dents rarely get the notion that these bits and pieces are con­nect­ed.” Bookol­o­gy want­ed to look at this book for a num­ber of rea­sons. We hope that you will con­sid­er the remark­able sto­ries of free­dom fight­ers Har­ri­et Tub­man and Susan B. Antho­ny and the moments in his­to­ry that the author reveals. We hope that you will study the illus­tra­tions by Michele Wood and dis­cuss how each spread in the book makes you feel, how African motifs and quilt pat­terns are made an inte­gral part of the book’s design, and how the col­or palette brings strength to the con­ver­sa­tion between these two women. 

This con­ver­sa­tion between these two women nev­er took place. The sub­ti­tle reads “inspired by his­tor­i­cal facts.” Nik­ki Grimes imag­ines a con­ver­sa­tion that could have tak­en place between these two women, solid­ly drawn from the facts of their lives. Is this a new form of fic­tion? Non­fic­tion? You’ll have a mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sion about the dif­fer­ences between fact, fic­tion, infor­ma­tion text, non­fic­tion, and sto­ry­telling when you dis­cuss this with your class­room or book club.

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book. For Chas­ing Free­dom, you’ll find books for a vari­ety of tastes, inter­ests, and read­ing abil­i­ties. The book will be com­fort­ably read by ages 7 through 12. We’ve includ­ed pic­ture books, non­fic­tion, videos, web­sites, and des­ti­na­tions for the pletho­ra of pur­pos­es you might have. There are many fine books that fall out­side of these para­me­ters, but we chose to nar­row the selec­tion of books this time to those that fol­lowed the fight for women’s right to vote from the 1840s to 1920 and those that fol­lowed slav­ery in Amer­i­ca until the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion and a few years beyond. These are the major con­cerns behind the work of Har­ri­et Tub­man and Susan B. Antho­ny.

AFRICAN AMERICANSRIGHT TO BE FREE

Cel­e­brat­ing Free­dom. Two recent books are includ­ed, one deal­ing with the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion and the oth­er with how freed peo­ple lived in New York City in Seneca Vil­lage, which would even­tu­al­ly become Cen­tral Park.

Har­ri­et Tub­man. We’ve cho­sen a few of the many good books about this free­dom fight­er, trail blaz­er, and spir­i­tu­al­ly moti­vat­ed woman.

His­to­ry. From Book­er T. Washington’s auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal Up from Slav­ery to Julius Lester’s To Be a Slave through to Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul: the Sto­ry of Amer­i­ca and African Amer­i­cans, you’ll find a num­ber of books that will fas­ci­nate your stu­dents and make fine choic­es for book club dis­cus­sions.

Under­ground Rail­road. One of our tru­ly hero­ic move­ments in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, we’ve select­ed books that chron­i­cle the work, the dan­ger, and the vic­to­ries of these free­dom fight­ers, of which Har­ri­et Tub­man was a strong, ded­i­cat­ed mem­ber. 

WOMEN’S RIGHT TO VOTE

Susan B. Antho­ny. Often writ­ten about, we’ve select­ed just a few of the many books about this woman who under­stood the hard­ships women faced and the neces­si­ty for them to be able to vote, to have a voice in gov­ern­ment.

More Suf­frag­ists. Many women around the globe fought for their right to vote and the fight con­tin­ues in many coun­tries. We’ve select­ed sev­er­al books that fall with­in our time frame.

Let us know how you are mak­ing use of this Book­storm™. Share your dis­cus­sions, class­room inclu­sion, or send us a pho­to of your library dis­play.

(Thanks to Mar­sha Qua­ley and Claire Rudolf Mur­phy for shar­ing their con­sid­er­able knowl­edge and insight about books for this Book­storm™.)

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Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming

There is a sil­ly debate tak­ing place about whether adults who read children’s books, includ­ing young adult books, are infan­tile and should have their driver’s licens­es revoked because they’re obvi­ous­ly not mature enough to play dodge ‘em cars on the free­way and text while their two thou­sand pound vehi­cle hur­tles down the road. Grown up, […]

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