Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Harcourt Brace & Company: Orlando, FL

stellSimple Synopsis: In this delightful tale about a baby fruit bat that is separated from her mother and finds her way into a nest of birds, little Stellaluna learns many lessons about the customs and rituals of birds as she adapts to her new family. From the frustration of having eat give up fruit for bugs to the embarrassment of learning to land gracefully on a branch, our book’s hero learns to respect the bird behavior, rituals, traditions and culture. Flitter, Stellaluna’s adopted bird brother, beautifully summarizes the book’s theme when he asks, “How can we be so different and feel so much alike?”

Read aloud being sure to share the brilliant illustrations. Use the following or similar questions to discuss after sharing the story:

1. In what ways did Stellaluna’s mother act responsibly to care for her baby?
2. How is Stellaluna forced to be open-minded?
3. In what ways could Mama Bird be more open-minded?
4. What does perseverance mean? Tell how Stellaluna showed perseverance.
5. Why did Stellaluna have to promise to abide by the rules?
6. Give an example of loyalty in this story.
7. How do you think it felt when Stellaluna realized that she was hanging upside down? Does it ever seem like her whole world has turned upside down?
8. Do you think it’s important to respect the ways of others even if they’re different from yours? Why?
9. Despite many differences, Stellaluna came to really care about her bird family. What can we learn from her about acceptance and respect?
10. What do you think it means to “agree to disagree?”
11. Do you have friends that are different from you in some way? Have your differences ever caused problems? How did you resolve such problems?
12. Are there some people that you don’t know well but that you assume you could never be friends with? Why?
13. Have there been times when you’ve done something just because everyone else was doing it? Does going with the crowd and blending in make life easier?
14. Have there been times when you felt you had to go against the crowd and do things your own way? What happened?
15. Encourage students to write a reflective point-of-view essay with a prompt that goes something like this:

Stellaluna learns a great deal about being a bird through this sweet little tale. Have your students imagine that they are Stellaluna. What must it really have been like? From the loss of her mother to her abrupt introduction into the world of her feathered friends, Stellaluna has a lot of adjusting to do. As Stellaluna, your students will write a first-person essay, detailing their experiences crossing cultures and describing their reactions to and feelings about their journey.

Can I Quote You?

The book Stellaluna concludes with a simple yet profound thought when Stellaluna’s adopted bird brother asks, “How can we be so different and feel so much alike?” Like this little bird Flitter, children are so full of curious wisdom.

frameIn this activity, you will capture their thoughts about respect by making a picture frame to preserve and display them. Prompt students to talk about respect by asking things like, “What does respect mean to you?” or “How does respect sound?” or “What does respect feel like?” Have them answer aloud and, as they come up with something solid, repeat it back to them. Have them copy their quote on a piece of notebook paper or into their journal. They can display their quotes using a hand-made picture frame.

To create a picture frame, you will need:

6 craft sticks, glue, magnetic strips, a sharpee marker, colored paper (cut into squares the size of your craft sticks)

Have the students write their quotes on the squares of paper. Glue 2 craft sticks on the left and right sides of the quote paper to start a frame. Take 2 more sticks and glue those on top of the two sticks to complete the square frame. Add a thin strip of magnet to the right and left craft sticks to display frames on the refrigerator or a filing cabinet.

Using the Sharpee, have the child (with teacher assistance as needed) write the six pillar words on their craft sticks. If you have colored sticks, you can use them to match up the pillars with the corresponding color (note that responsibilty and citizenship are switched on the attached student sample).

Brush Up On Respect

For this activity, you will need a tube of toothpaste, a 4X6 index card, a popsicle stick, and a toothpick.

Draw a big black “R” on the 4X6 card.  Ask students what the R might stand for and they’ll eventually say RESPECT.

So we talk about what respect sounds and looks like when it comes out of our mouths: the words, the tone, the facial expressions, the body language. Tell students we’re going to brush up on our respect by covering that R with toothpaste. A volunteer takes the tube and squeezes paste out of it to completely cover (as if to paint) the R. As they’re covering it, make a connection to fresh breath and speaking good words, using good manners, using a respectful tone of voice.

After the student has hidden the R under the paste. say that you’ve made a terrible mistake, that this black R actually stands for RUDE, so your volunteer needs to take it back by putting the toothpaste back into the tube. They’ll try, but it won’t work. Offer them a popsicle stick or toothpick to keep trying, all the while discussing how it’s impossible to take disrespectful, hurtful rude words back.  Follow up by discussing the steps you could take to fix RUDENESS if it happens and role play how to give a genuine apology. (This idea is adapted from a Tom Jackson Activities That Teach book).

This activity also lends itself to teaching “I” statements as a strategy for when someone is rude or disrespectful to us. Have the students practice using this formula: I feel ________ when you _____________. I need ________________. It’s very empowering, for example, when a child is able to look someone in the eye and say, “I feel hurt when you call me names. I need you to stop.”

Be A Buddy, Not a Bully

tchartAs we leave our Trustworthiness Pillar and march on to the Respect Pillar, students will come to my office for a guidance lesson that will actually combine the two. The lesson, entitled “Buddy, Bully or Bystander?” will start by asking the students to tell me about a time they’ve been a buddy, followed by a time they might have been a bully.

We will then make a T-chart to visually categorize buddy behaviors and bullying behaviors. After hearing in their own words what students think constitutes bullying, we’ll also talk through the role of the bystander and role play what we might do differently the next time an opportunity to intervene and be a buddy rather than a bystander presents itself.

I’m so excited about this opportunity to empower our students to process their feelings, think through their behaviors, and Be A Buddy, Not A Bully.




Quote of the Month

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. – Johann Wolfgang


Building Character by the Book
An engaging illustrated picture book can go a long way in enriching your character-building efforts.  Check out this book to teach respect and tolerance to children of any age.

Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose
Tricycle Press:  Berkeley, CA

littleantSimple Synopsis:  The story begins when a Child threatens to step on an Ant, citing its insignificance in the Child’s world.  Before squishing it, however, the Child allows the Ant it plead its case, giving the reader a chance to hear both sides so that an impartial decision can be made.  Through a clever dialogue, the Child and the Ant negotiate their differences.  The open-ended story line challenges children to decide for themselves the Ant’s fate.

To simply read Hey, Little Ant aloud would be an injustice to this clever masterpiece.  It lends itself so nicely to acting that it can so easily be brought to life in a classroom or in a family room.  Solicit a child to volunteer to be the Ant and lie on the ground.  Get another child to play the Child’s role and simply stand over the Ant with his shoe raised as if to squish it.  Then read the book aloud using a know-it-all voice to portray the Kid and a smaller voice for the Ant’s part.  (With the musical notations in the back of the book, you can also sing the words if you’d like.)

Following the reading, begin a discussion of the book with the following questions:

1.  Are the Child and the Ant equal?  Why or why not?
2.  Would it be fair for the Child to squish the Ant?
3.  If they were to trade places, would the Ant squish the Child?  Why or why not?
4.  Are there people in your life that might treat you like a little Ant?
5.  Can you share a time when that might have happened?  What did you do?
6.  What can you do when someone tries to make you feel smaller than they are?
7.  What can you do to make sure that you do not treat others like little Ants?
8.  Do you think that the Kid should squish the Ant?
9.  What if the Ant were a Mosquito?  Bumble Bee?  Snake?  Other insect or animal?

Ask for additional questions or comments before using the following activities for follow-up and enrichment:

1.  From Whose Point of View?

Every one has an opinion that is his/her point of view.  This book can serve as an excellent opportunity to teach children about their point of view and where opinions and points of view come from.  It can also springboard a lesson to guide children to base their opinions or points of view on the Six Pillars of Character.

Divide your students by viewpoint – one group for students who can see and share the Kid’s point of view and the other group for students who can see and share the Ant’s point of view.  Ask the following questions to facilitate a debate:

1.  Why do you think that the Child should squish the Ant?
2.  Why do you think that the Child should not squish the Ant?
3.  If the Child does squish the Ant, what might happen next?
4.  If the Child lets the Ant go, then what might happen?
5.  Could the Child actually be friends with the Ant?  How?

Using the Six Pillars of Character as a guide, help students share their points of view on other topics.  Use recycling, for example, or volunteering.  Give them a statement like “Everybody should recycle” and have them share their opinions.  Prompt their responses by asking questions about citizenship, responsibility, and caring.  To further illustrate point of view, have the students draw something from different points of view.  For example, how would a pencil look if you were an Ant?  What does your town look like to a bird?  You could also have them draw three views of their toothbrush.

2.  What Happens Next? Writing Activity

Individually or in small groups of 3 or 4, have the children continue the dialogue between the Child and the Ant by writing the next two verses.  This will allow them to take a look at their sense of justice, fairness, and equality as they decide in which direction the ending should go.  Help them with the rhyme as needed.

3.  Decisions, Decisions

Using the chalkboard or large flip-chart paper, make two columns for the group to see.  Write the word Squish at the top of the left-hand column and Don’t Squish at the top of the right-hand column.  Using the book, ask the students to help review the arguments that the Child and the Ant used.  For example, the Child was powerful or bigger, so you write big/powerful in the Squish column. The Ant contends that, while he might be small, for an Ant, he’s important to his community, so write important in the Don’t Squish column.

Continue this until you have listed all of the points they make.  Then have the children assign a smiley face to points that they see as important or good (pros) and a frowny face to points that they deem unimportant (cons).  Encourage students to discuss and negotiate for each smile or frown.  For example – some might think that being powerful is important while others might not share that opinion.  Allow students to explain why they think powerful is or isn?t worth a smiley face. Prompt them to think about their decisions using the Six Pillars of Character as a guide:  Is it fair to use your size to take advantage of someone who is smaller or weaker? When they list that all of the Kid’s friends are doing it, ask questions like:  should we allow our friends to pressure us into doing something, or is it better to stand up for what we believe?  Does the Kid should integrity if he allows peer pressure from his friends to help him make his decision?  When they list the fact that the Ant is needed to help feed nest mates, ask what does the Ant’s argument say about its loyalty to family and its part as a citizen of the Ant community?  Try to get a consensus or take a vote as this will show the students visually how to make solid decisions as a team.

At the end of the brainstorming session, look at the smiley faces for what seems important or good.  Whichever column has the most smiley faces is usually the better choice.

Explain that sometimes with decisions there is not a simple answer or clear choice.  This strategy can be a useful way to try to make decisions clearer and easier.  To extend this lesson, have the students think of a time that they had a tough decision to make and have them sketch out on their papers what the two sides were and what the smiley faces and frowny faces about the two sides were.  Have them share with the class or a partner.

4.  Bully Busters

In the Ant’s world, the Kid would be considered a bully.  Bullies tease and threaten other people because of their differences like size, accent, skin color, nationality, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, intelligence, or even their character and the values that they hold dear.  People of character stand up for who they are and what they believe it and wear their character like a badge of honor with pride.  Use this opportunity for a discussion about bullying with questions like these:

1.  Have you ever bullied anyone?  Can you explain when and what happened?
2.  Talk about a time you were bullied.  Was the bully bigger than you?  Older?
3.  What are some differences that bullies target?
4.  What can you do if you are being bullied?
5.  Would it be considered tattling if you reported bullying to an adult?  Would this help?
6.  What is it about our differences that can be so scary?
7.  What can you do to make someone?s differences less frightening?

Reinforce the Golden Rule and remind students how the Ant used it to plead for its life.  Encourage them to adopt the Golden Rule as their personal motto.  Teach them that people ought to judge others by what’s on the inside (their character) rather than by what they see on the outside (weight, skin color) and that we should value and honor all people from all walks of life.

A Bad Case of Stripes
A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
Scholastic, Inc.: New York, New York

Simple Synopsis: Camilla Cream wants so desperately to fit in that she is willing to deny herself what she craves – lima beans, for example, – in order to conform. Her attempt to be popular and to please others backfires when she breaks out in a bad case of Stripes, Stars, and Purple Polka Dots. Baffling doctors and sending the media into a frenzy, Camilla’s weird disease becomes so extreme that she finally blends into the walls of her room. Will lima beans save her?

stripesThere is so much depth in this colorful little story about Camilla Cream. Before you read, you might brainstorm types of foods that students like and make a list to show the variety of likes among the class. Process with them how different each of our tastes are. Does everyone like all of the food on the list? Find out if they like lima beans, then ask if they would be willing to try them. You might even want to have lima beans as a visual that you could have each child plant after the lesson.

The story may need to be read aloud two or three times in order to completely grasp its genius.

Following the reading(s), discuss using probes like these:

1. What might make someone worry about what other people thought of him/her?
2. Why did Camilla try on 42 outfits on the first day of school? Tell about a time when you just couldn’t decide what to wear. What were you thinking and feeling?
3. What does saying the Pledge of Allegiance have to do with respect?
4. What would you do if you saw Camilla Cream come to school in Stripes?
5. If you were the principal, would you ask Camilla to stay home? What would you do instead?
6. If you were the teacher, what could you do to help Camilla? What could you do to help the other students understand and accept?
7. Were the students bullying Camilla? Explain your answer.
8. Why won’t Camilla just ask her dad for some lima beans?
9. Why couldn’t the Experts and Specialists help Camilla?
10. Why did Camilla lie to the Old Lady about not liking lima beans at first? Is it ever okay to lie?
11. What did Camilla learn after she found her real self?
12. What do you think the author is trying to say to the reader in this story?

Use these suggestions for follow-up and enrichment:

1. Let’s Define Popular

Ask students in a large group to define the word popular. Write their definitions on the chalkboard. Have a student check a dictionary and see what it has to say. Then make a list of the characteristics or traits that they think makes someone popular. The teacher can ask for volunteers to share ways in which they personally may or may not fit into this list. Discuss the pros and cons – or benefits and burdens – of being popular. Ask them if someone needs to be popular to fit in at your school. Ask them if popular people always make good leaders.

2. A Character Quilt

You will need:

Crayons, markers, gel pens, or paints
A sheet of paper or card stock

Camilla’s stripes set her apart despite her desperate need to fit in. How are your students unique? Have you students illustrate a picture that shows an aspect of them – a gift, a talent, an activity – that sets them apart from the masses and makes them unique. As they are drawing, review aloud the Six Pillars of Character and remind them of their right and duty to stand up for what they believe regardless of the price. Allow students to share their work aloud before displaying them to reinforce the concept of respect for autonomy. Put them all together like patchwork on the wall to make a Character Quilt to represent your class.

3. Rappin’ Review

Let’s review the story with a rap. Have the students set the beat with a pat on the left leg, a pat on the right leg, and a clap to get a boom, boom, ching rhythm going. Students should be given a copy of the rap and can repeat after the teacher line by line once through, then everyone can perform the rap in unison.

The Respect Yourself Rap

Camilla Cream loved lima beans,
but no one else did, if ya know what I mean.
She wanted to be popular in class and so
Camilla Cream chose to just say no.

She looked at herself on that first day of school,
’cause she really really wanted to be cool.
She screamed at what she saw – Oh, YIKES!
Her body was covered with colorful stripes.

The kids at school got quite a laugh,
then the Stripes became Stars on their behalf.
The Experts just couldn’t figure it out
and a media frenzy came about.

Camilla’s parents didn’t know what to do,
and even the Doctors didn’t have a clue.
But a kind old lady came Camilla’s way
and hoped that she could save the day.

She gave Camilla some lima beans.
She first said no, if ya know what I mean.
But when she finally ate ’em, it felt oh so good.
She didn’t care if they teased her like she feared they would.

So the point of the story is this, you see:
Respect your individuality.
Just take a stand, to yourself be true –
so others will trust and respect you, too.

If students like this activity, have them test their creativity by writing a rap of their own. Encourage them to write about something with a character theme, using the Six Pillars of Character as a guide.

Power Line
This interactive survey activity from Vicki Hannah Lein focuses on realizing and accepting others’ differences as well as being content with our own opinions. Students will be asked to get up and find their spot in the Power Line after you explain the directions.

You will need a space where all students can stand up and make a straight line from one end of the room to the other.

One end of the room represents “I love it!” and the other side stands for “I strongly dislike it!” Any area in-between is that degree of like or dislike toward the survey item.  Start with some easy prompts like:  broccoli, rollerblading, thunder storms.  With each new survey item, kids are moving up and down the Power Line.  As they move toward the side which best describes how they feel about that item, they have to discuss with the people around them to find out if that’s exactly where they fit. For example, someone who loves broccoli might move to the other end of the room when thunder storms are surveyed.  Then they talk to the people around them to see which of them dislikes thunder storms more so they can see if they should stand to their right or their left. Another student whose opinions aren’t as strong might stay close to the middle for all of the initial things surveyed.

After each survey, ask one student toward the “love it” part of the line to explain why they love that thing.  The whole class should listen to what that person says.  Before going on to the next survey, choose someone who is standing in the “dislike it” spot and find out what their story is.  And then someone in the middle if time permits. Students start to realize that they all have different background experiences that form their opinions.  They will also see that they are indeed different from one another and no one stays in any one spot for very long – not even best friends!

Next, move the survey items up a notch.  Try items like: willing to sing a cappella right now, would give all of his lunch money to someone who forgot theirs, would run for student council.  These survey questions can be modified to fit the needs of your classroom.  If you’re studying the Civil War, for example, you might say, “if you see yourself siding with the north go to the right and if you are more likely to have sided with the south go to the other end.”  Then discuss, making sure that no judgements are put on the students’ opinions.

After you feel that enough surveys have been taken, settle students back into their seats and steer them through a discussion about what they learned while taking the Power Line surveys.  Be sure they come to the conclusion that one’s spot in the line changes depending on the different surveys taken.  Remind students that just because someone doesn’t agree with them doesn’t mean that they are wrong.  Everyone has a story and consequently a reason to feel what they feel. This gives them a right to their opinions, not good or bad, just different! Power Line is a great way to find out more about your students and help them get to know and appreciate one another better.