My Special Shield

crestHave students take an introspective self-inventory by starting with the question, “What makes you special?”  Expect responses like: I like to read or I’m good at sports and I’m smart or I have a twin sister. Talk about how we are all unique for different reasons and those very things make us special.  See if students can go deeper and arrive at values that they have as well: I am trustworthy. I am loyal. I keep my promises. Then discuss the tradition of the Family Coat of Arms – how families used to have a Crest or Shield which had a picture or symbol to represent and honor their family name.  Why a Shield?  What are Shields made of?  What is their purpose?  What might your own family Crest or Shield look like?

Students then design their very own Special Shield, using pictures and words to show what makes them unique, the positives that they have to offer, the things that set them apart, that bring them honor and respect.  As they draw, discuss the benefits of getting to know ourselves by a creating a shield like this. What does it say about who we are and what we have to offer in a friendship? What are we looking for in a friend and how do these qualities empower us when we’re choosing our friends?

WANTED: A Friend

What are your students looking for in a friend? Find out by asking them to create an advertisement for the Want Ads. Provide sample ads from the newspaper or magazines. Help students brainstorm, list, and define descriptors like honest, reliable, loyal, trustworthy. Have them decide what traits are desirable, then, as they edit for space, what qualities are non-negotiable in their search for the perfect friend.

Knit Together

woolRed Berry Wool by Robyn Eversole doesn’t necessarily teach a lesson or have a pillar theme. But the connection between a Boy in a berry-colored sweater and Lalo, his observant lamb will undoubtedly warm your heart and keep you yearning for more. If you’re looking for a book to complement your farm unit, then this cute homespun tale about a persistent little lamb who’s eager to do whatever it takes to be like his friend is for you. But be warned – lesson or not, you’re sure to unravel some interesting thoughts about problem-solving, perseverance, and pride.



Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes

sandalsPart of Trustworthiness, the one we call the Friendship Pillar, is sensitivity, being able to put yourselves in someone else’s shoes. True friends are readily able to do that, figuratively. But what about literally? In the story Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Williams and Khandra Mohammed, a friendship between two girls literally forms because of another’s shoes, well, sandals to be exact. A donation of some used clothing comes to the Refugee Camp in Pakistan where ten-year-old Lina lives. In the mayhem of the delivery, Lina finds one beautiful sandal that fits her foot, which hasn’t had shoes on it for two years, perfectly. But where is its mate? When Lina sees another girl wearing it, she greets her with “Peace be with you,” only to watch that girl walk off with the other sandal on her foot. The next day, that girl, whose name we find out is Feroza, seeks Lina out to give her the sandal because her “Grandma says it is stupid to wear only one,” but Lina returns the gift by suggesting they take turns wearing the sandals. As the story unfolds, the two girls find a “sole” mate in one another until it’s time for Lina to leave the Camp en route to America. Now what will happen to the sandals as one girl leaves the other behind? This emotional tale will ignite discussions about friendship for sure, but also offers nuggets for extension about history and traditions, geography and culture, loss and hope. For specific ways in which to use this book to enrich its value, download the teacher’s guide from the Williams Writes website.

Friendship Treasure Hunt

A good friendship is a real treasure. Ask your students this question: If you were to head out on a treasure hunt looking for items that represent the friendships, what would you bring back? Challenge students to brainstorm with a buddy a list of things that represent the trademarks of friendship that works. Then, they can compare and contrast their list to the following. Finally, have them come up with some reasonable connections between a healthy friendship and the items on my list. What do the following “treasures” have to do with friendship?

1. A mirror
2. A ruler
3. A puppy
4. Glue
5. Headphones
6. A candle
7. Keys
8. A stick of gum
9. A river rock
10. A fishing pole
11. Coffee beans
12. A goldfish net
13. A packet of seeds
14. Toothpaste
15. A postage stamp

Friendship Matters

The trustworthiness pillar, also known to us as the friendship pillar, holds us accountable for our choices. But do kids still have a choice when anger chooses them? How do we teach them to deal with their anger so that it doesn’t interfere with or ruin their friendships? Teach your students some important anger-management skills using this poem, then practice those techniques with them when they’re not angry so they’ll be readily available to them when they are. Encourage your students in small groups or individually to change verse three by putting in the strategies that work for them. As a follow up, ask them to write their own version of the entire rockin’ rap.

The Anger Buster Rap
by Barbara Gruener

When anger chooses me,
here’s an important fact:
I always get to choose
exactly how I’ll react.

I don’t need to fight or
shout, pout and cry;
I have some healthy strategies
for management I try.

I write or draw or count to ten,
I talk it out or go outside to play.
I take deep breaths or exercise
until my anger goes away.

So when anger chooses you,
and it will, that’s a fact!
Why not try my healthy ways
to help you react.

***Use hand-jive motions to add movement.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf
wolfCleverly penned by author John Rocco, Wolf! Wolf! is an entertainingly whimsical spin-off of Aesop’s Fable about the Boy Who Cried Wolf. In this version, the aging, arthritic, and somewhat hearing-impaired Wolf hears the boy’s call – “Wolf! Wolf!” – as he’s tending his garden. He thinks he’s being summoned by someone he might know, so off he goes to investigate. He sees that it’s just a young boy playing a trick on some angry villagers. After three go-arounds, however, the crafty creature decides to trick the little prankster. They make a deal: if the boy ties the plumpest of the goats to a fence post in the Wolf’s garden, he’ll “spare” the rest of the flock. After all, the Wolf argues, the boy will be more believable if one goat is actually gone. Sure enough, the boy does as our Wolf asks, and, much to his surprise, Wolf finds that the goat has eaten all the weeds and left his now enormous vegetables, previously hidden by all of those weeds, untouched. As you might imagine, the Wolf and his goat become fast friends. Readers of every age are likely to enjoy this humorous version of an age-old tale.

In Wolf! Wolf!, the author creates a win-win situation; in other versions, not so much. This could generate an interesting Compare/Contrast lesson with Aesop’s version or other versions on the market. How are the versions alike? How are they different? How do all of the versions connect to the Trustworthiness Pillar? Is honesty always the best policy? Why or why not?

The idea of setting the story in Asia makes for an interesting twist. Students can now research whether or not drawings of the clothing, landscape, and the overall look of the story are accurate. What do students find as they study Eastern culture and philosophy that’s comparable to their lives? What are some notable differences?

This would also be a good opportunity to talk with students about gardening. The privilege of having a garden comes with it the responsibility of tending it. Watering and weeding are a big part of those duties. What would happen if you didn’t weed your garden? What if you didn’t water it? This is also a nice metaphor for life; ask kids what weeds do to flowers, for example. Then find out if they want their behavior to be that of a flower or a weed. You could make a T-chart, noting flower-like behaviors in one column and weed-like behaviors in the other.

Sharing is Caring

rabbitRabbit’s Gift by George Shannon re-tells an old fable about the power of giving. Urged on by the fact that winter’s coming, Rabbit sets out fo find food when two turnips turn up. What luck! As he plans to enjoy his “cozy meal,” thoughts of his friend donkey postpone his dinner and spur him into action. Guess what happens when Rabbit pays it forward with his extra turnip? This tale of generosity and compassion has many extension possibilities, one of which is a dance to the Bunny Hop. In the bunny hop, you hop two times kicking out your right leg, then two times kicking out your left leg, then hope forward once, back once, then hop three times forward. So turn on the music and teach your students this little ditty about the circular effect of planned acts of kindness:
Help someone in need and
it comes back indeed. So
Give some, get some, and
Pay It Forward.

After your moments with movement, ask students what the saying “What goes around comes around” means. Is it used to talk about good stuff or bad stuff? Or both? Have them share their thoughts aloud, then encourage them to illustrate a time when they found this adage to be true in their lives. For enrichment, research a need that students might fill in your community like Rabbit did in his. Then set some time aside to create an action plan to help meet that need. Finally, take one last picture walk through the book to notice the Chinese Characters on the left-hand side and the little yellow bird on certain pages. Have students figure out what those symbolize and discuss the significance of that artistic touch.

Friendship Bracelets

friendbraceletsAt Westwood, several classes have partnered with Pen-Pal classes from around the United States. Ms. Defibaugh’s third-grade class wrote to students in Minnesota, Mrs. Poole’s second-graders traded letters with friends in New Jersey, and Mrs. Quigley’s class corresponded with other first graders in Illinois. These letters not only gave our students someone to write to, they also gave them a glimpse into different lifestyles, traditions, climates, and cultures.

Mrs. Markley’s class not only wrote to their Pen Pals from Mercerville Elementary, they also traded friendship bracelets. Making friendship bracelets can be a fun hands-on activity with a meaningful outcome. Pictured here, our bracelets to them were made from colorful beads; theirs to us were more of a woven thread bracelet. Whatever the material, the value remains the same. When friends trade a symbol of their friendship that they can wear, it reminds them of a special bond with their pal so very far away. Another way to use friendship bracelets could be with Book Buddy classes. The older students paired with the younger could work together to decide what their bracelets will look like. What color beads will they use? What do certain colors symbolize for them? Will their bracelets be identical or different? Beads could be sorted by color and counted out to integrate some math into the activity. As a fun twist, the students could even make the bracelets together but then give them away instead of keeping them, maybe to a new “friend” at a local retirement home.

Strangers and Friends
tracingsI’ve heard it said, “a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.” Find out if your students agree with that statement. Why or why not? Using the beautifully written illustrated picture book, One Thousand Tracings by Lita Judge, ask students to predict what’s going to happen just based on the book’s title and front cover. Explore at the story’s subtitle: Healing The Wounds Of World War II. What is that little girl up to with the shoes? What might be on her mind? How is she feeling? Who needs help? How will she be able to help even though she’s just a child? Take a picture walk through the pages. Find out from your students if they’ve ever been able to help a stranger. If so, whom? Why did they do it? How did it feel?

Finally, read the book aloud, stopping to talk about the needs of people during war-time, the selflessness of Dr. Kramer, the generosity of the narrator and her Mama, the creativity of the neighbors as they joined forces to help. Find out why students think that the little girl wanted so desperately to help strangers on the other side of the world. Besides shoes, what other basic-need items did she send? What did the caring and compassion that she sent do for those “friends” who received her packages? How did the little girl help Eliza? How did her act of kindness make a difference in her own life as well as the life of her new friend?
Ask students to write the next chapter answering the question: What happens to the friendship between Eliza and the narrator after the story? Then visit the author’s website for activity suggestions to integrate math, history, and language arts into this moving story about hope and healing.

Fine Feathered Friends
bookcoverOr are they? In Duck & Goose by Tad Hills, these “friends” find themselves in conflict over the unlikeliest of objects, an egg. Actually, it’s a soccer ball, mistaken for an egg that they both decide to care for, much to the dismay of the other. And that’s what makes this clever tale so engaging. The birds of a feather have the same goal, but what’s it going to take to get them on the same team?

Read this treasure aloud, but beware – your little birders may be laughing too loudly to hear how it resolves itself. The perfect complement to your farm unit, the details of this tale will fit beautifully into a Venn Diagram. Or have students compare and contrast Duck and Goose. Document what they do that doesn’t work in a friendship as well as what they do that works. At what point in the story does their friendship take a positive turn? What was the catalyst? Give examples of ways in which they showed that they cared for one another in pursuit of their common goal.

Finally, have students take a look at body language. How can you tell when they aren’t friends? How can you tell when they are? Talk with students about nonverbal cues which can help or hurt friendships. Using photos from magazines, have students find uncaptioned pictures to cut out and share. Ask them to talk about what the person might be trying to convey simply by how they’re standing or sitting. Are they opened or closed? What do their eyes say? What do their faces say? What does their posture say? Relate all of this back to friendships.