An Unlikely Match
bigwolflittlewolfBig Wolf & Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme is a story of caring and compassion that you won’t want to miss. Big Wolf lives alone under a tree and he’s just fine with his solitude – or is he? Not so sure what to make of the little “dot” that he sees approaching his tree one day, he watches cautiously as it approaches. Instead of keeping it at bay, however, Big Wolf lets the little wolf approach and, in fact, not only tolerates him, but slowly grows quite fond of the little fella. But even Big Wolf doesn’t know how fond he is of his new companion until little wolf disappears and the worry sets in. My favorite part is when Big Wolf realizes that, “. . . a little one, indeed a very little one, had taken up space in his heart. A lot of space.”

Talk about what worry looks like and feels like. What besides the worry tells the reader that Big Wolf cares about little wolf? Find out if anything like this has ever happened to your students. This treasure about a pair of friends who come to realize that their big differences don’t really matter one little bit has incredible potential for a discussion and/or reflective writing about caring. In the book, Big Wolf’s heart leaps with joy upon seeing his friend. Ask students to tell or write about what makes their hearts leap with joy. Have students brainstorm extension activities that their caring thoughts could ignite. If this gem leaves your students wanting more, why not check out the sequel Big Wolf & Little Wolf – The Little Leaf That Wouldn’t Fall. For more ideas on how to help students experience how contagious kindness can be, visit the Acts of Kindness lesson-plan bank.

Giving Thanks by Giving Back

thanks-givingCaring is all about thinking with your heart; it’s an action, then, more than a feeling. Teaching our children to express their gratitude through caring acts is a great way to help them learn to give back. Lots of times our kids are willing to serve, and all they need is a ride. Help them brainstorm whom they might want their acts of kindness to go to. They could remember the elderly. Often times, these older people no longer have family or friends that visit. Joshua’s piano teacher regularly schedules mini-concerts at the retirement centers and nursing homes. It’s gratifying to watch faces light up when the residents see a younger person making music at the piano and it’s often clear that it’s sparking a memory or two for them. What a precious gift!

Students can also help by donating toys that they no longer play with or clothing that they no longer wear to shelters or organizations like Good Will or Purple Heart. Some places can only accept new items; a few of our FHS soccer girls are collecting new stuffed animals that will be given to children in Harris County when they’re adopted. Could your kids do some extra chores around the house or neighborhood to earn the money to buy a stuffed toy and help in that way?

Families can also help at local soup kitchens are homeless shelters, though sometimes there are age restrictions, so call ahead to make sure. For older teens, I know that Kaitlyn really enjoyed helping build bikes last holiday season with Elves & More. Their goal is Changing Lives – One Bike At A Time. We also really enjoy adopting children from the Christmas Tree at church and stretching their money as they try to fill as many of their wishes as they can. Interfaith Caring Ministries locally has a Christmas Store which provides new toys and gifts to families in need; why not consider donating to that worthy organization.

Whatever you decide to do, even if it’s as simple as sharing your holiday baked goods with the family next door, there are many wonderful ways to teach your children to give back, not only during the holidays, but all year long.

Caring Chains

It’s that time of year again when we make the colored paper chains to use as we count down the days from now until the holidays. Why not turn that holiday chain into a Caring Chain? Cut pieces of paper that students can use to write things that they do (or could do) to show caring. Small things like, “smile and say hi” or “help my mom.” Or bigger things like, “help dad with the yard work” or “take out the garbage.” Then, as they staple them together, ask students to share the caring act out loud with a partner or the whole class. Finally, challenge them as they remove a link every day between December 1st and Christmas (or Hannakuh) to carry out that act of kindness.

Pass On The Gift

logo_heifer_newIf you’re looking for an animal service-learning project for your classroom, Heifer International would be the perfect complement to your unit of study on the farm.

When you purchase an animal through Heifer for a family in need, the gift keeps on giving because it teaches the recipients how to obtain sustainable sources of food and income. Click here to read all about it.

Character Cookies

cookiesMeet Amy Rosenthal, author of Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons, who has created two additional tasty morsels, all three of which can assist in your character-building efforts while reinforcing the CARING pillar. The three illustrated picture books in this triology are mini-dictionaries of character words and their meanings, all connected back to teamwork in the kitchen. You’re probably way ahead of me here as you plan to read the book aloud, then head in to the kitchen to whip up a batch of your favorite cookies. But that’s just a start.

Brainstorm with your child(ren) about whom you might share these cookies with and what the little notes that you could attach would say. In the Sugar Cookies version, the authors give the reader “Sweet Little Lessons On Love.” The third in this series, entitled Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons, stirs in holiday words like joy, faith, and believe, giving them hands-on, practical, real-life definitions, straight from the oven.

Why not cook on this idea: Host a cookie exchange and have your little bakers write the invitations. Buy inexpensive oven mitts to give to your guests as they leave with a tray of freshly-baked cookies. Or pack the cookies into those fun little Chinese-food rice containers and take them, along with a handwritten note and mini-spatula or whisk, to people in the community who are accustomed to serving rather than receiving. Any way it crumbles, this Cookies project promises to warm your kitchen while it warms your heart.

A Sweet Treat

sweetIn a special twist to give rather than receive, Westwood’s first graders headed into the community with their trick-or-treat candy to say thanks to people in service jobs. Prior to the field trip, students talked with their teachers about giving back and then brainstormed the places where they’d like to stop and the people with whom they’d like to share: Police Department, Fire Station, FISD Bus Barn, FISD Administration Office, FISD Custodial Department and Print Shop, Friendship Haven Nursing Home, Post Office, Library, Animal Control, and the Chamber of Commerce. Students had age-appropriate questions about giving away their candy – Do we give them the stuff we don’t want? – which made for wonderful reflective discussions in morning meetings prior to the outing. Then the candy started coming in. Mounds and mounds of candy. Good stuff like Snickers, M & Ms, and Milk Duds.

With their sweets nicely packaged into hand-colored gift bags and accompanied by homemade thank-you cards, students spread a lot of sunshine by sharing their stash. When they returned to school, they wrote their reflections answering the question, “How did it feel to give your candy away?” One of our first graders admitted in her reflective essay that it was really hard because she didn’t want to give her candy away, so she actually gave away her brother’s candy instead. She finished her paper by saying that next time she’s going to bring her own candy because it felt really good inside to share and see the people smile. What a sweet treat! How will your students put CARING into action?

Will You Forgive Me?

forgiveIn Will You Forgive Me? by Sally Grindley and Penny Dann, Figgy Twosocks has lost Jefferson Bear’s favorite scratching stick, and she’s too scared to tell him. What if he doesn’t want to be her friend anymore? After some serious reflection and problem solving of her own, Figgy learns that if you’re truly sorry, friends will forgive and forget. Use this story to talk about the forgiveness “peace” of the CARING pillar. When someone apologizes, what do you say? Though we’re tempted to accept apologies with, “it’s okay,” I think it’s important to work through apologies and move toward forgiveness.

Instead of “it’s okay,” challenge your children to respond to an apology with “I forgive you.” Find out if students think that it’s easy to forgive. How about to forget? Why or why not? For those students who want to share, ask them to tell about a time that they found it difficult to forgive and/or forget. Though this illustrated picture book is marketed at children ages one to six, you may be surprised at how willing even your intermediate grades are to use this tale as a springboard for a riveting discussion about friendship and forgiveness.