Establishing a Kind Classroom Using Picture Books - Queen of the First Grade Jungle

Establishing a Kind Classroom Using Picture Books

About 12 or 13 years ago I remember sitting in a college psychology and learning about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  I hope I didn't lose you out of boredom with that first sentence.  Really, I promise it is relevant.  It has always stuck with me through my teaching (because of that pyramid and the discussion with our professor) that my students needed to feel loved and accepted long before they can worry about learning anything.  As teachers we know and see it every day, kids that are bullied on the bus or have a stressful home life struggle focusing or act out in your classroom.  

While we may feel helpless sometimes about what goes on outside the four walls of our classroom, we CAN make an impact.  We can teach those kids in our own class to stick up for each other. We can teach them to stop a bully and to not be a bystander.  We can teach our students that exclusion can be as hurtful as mean words.  

We can do all that with the help of picture books.  We don't have to have all the answers.  Kids will see how to act based on the author's words and the illustrator's drawings.  It is just our job to help them flesh it out with classroom discussion and reflection on paper.  That is what Amy and I tried to do in our August edition of Rooted and Reading.  We thought it was extremely important to choose books that set the tone for the entire year. 

I wanted to give a quick run down on each of the four books in our unit and how it will help you establish the class atmosphere you desire!

One of my teammates introduced me to The Invisible Boy this past school year.  I am so glad I read it in a dark classroom while my students were at specials because y'all I melted into a puddle of tears right there on my horseshoe table.  One of my favorite Christian writers, Glennon Melton, wrote a beautiful blog post about how her son's teacher identifies lonely children.  If you haven't read it before, please do!  Imagine how much better the world would be if we were able to help the excluded children find connections and relationships!  This book is the PERFECT tool for having those discussions with your students.   To accompany every book in our unit, Amy and I include questioning cards that guide your discussion with your students.  We also include follow-up activities that ask your students to reflect about when they have ever felt like the character in the book.  

Amy also includes these darling crafts that help your students write and talk about their feelings and connections!

Next up we have two of my absolute FAVORITE Kevin Henkes books.  

Now I know many of you will use Chrysanthemum the first week of school, but we wanted you to explore two of his other fantastic books!  Chester's Way and Sheila Rae, the Brave will allow you and your students explore some big ideas.  Chester's Way is the perfect book to talk about enjoying those friendships from previous school years, but also allowing the growth of new friendships to start blossoming!  I always think of the song my first grade teacher taught us about "Making new friends, one is silver and the other in gold."  Anyone else know that one?  Sheila Rae offers opportunity to talk about being brave and learning to depend on each other.  One of the Common Core standards that we chose to address in this week's lessons is the idea of comparing two works by the same author.  Here is an picture of the printable we included. 

And also because I am ALWAYS looking for ways to talk about the craft of writing, check out this question included in our questioning cards.  What a great way to talk about the author "showing and not telling!"

A Bad Case of Stripes was new to me when I started teaching 2nd grade three years ago, but now I love it so much!

People in general (NOT just kids) are weary about things that are different.  This book will help you and your class talk about how awesome it is to have a variety of interests, skin colors, types of family, etc.  A great chance to set firmly the idea that different is beautiful and accepted.  You can also explore the idea of peer pressure in conjunction to how Camilla won't eat lima beans because the other kids would make fun of her! We also learn how to start exploring character traits in one of our follow up activities!

And how fun is this directed drawing where you can have your students write about Camilla as a character or the lesson that she learned in the book!

The last book for August is of course, another one of my favorites :)   You DO NOT need Edwina the Emu, but I wanted you to be aware there is a second book because I guarantee your students will be begging for more after reading Edward the Emu.  Besides the fact that the illustrations in this book are phenomenal, it is also a great opportunity for students to talk about being who they are and not trying to "fit in."  Many of your students will naturally make connections to Edward acting like Camilla Cream and how they try to fit in to the crowd!

I think it is fair to say that children who are more aware of how they feel and WHY they feel that way, tend to be more understanding and kinder to their classmates.  In Edward the Emu you can lead thoughtful discussions about why Edward acts the way he does.  

The first month of school is the absolute BEST time to be focusing on your students being kind and compassionate to their classmates. I hope these books will allow you to do that in your classroom!

Just in case you need to see MORE, here is the preview for all four weeks of unit plans:

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