I am very energized coming from my morning reading and program with the students at North Shore Academy Elementary in Northbrook, Illinois. The K-5 students shared fantastic insight and connections to Theodore and his growth with his new-found friends. The topic of “bullying” and what it means to bully organically came from the discussion of Theodore’s behavior. I have been greatly impressed by the honesty offered by the students, and the students at NSAE was no exception.
As I designed the interactive readings, I intentionally chose to ask open ended questions versus leading questions, or questions with only a “yes” or “no” answer. This ultimately invites all sorts of answers from students, challenging them to think differently, to think analytically, and hopefully authentically.
This is where the real teaching comes into play.
These are real responses from kids, honestly expressing themselves. Kids get mad, hurt, and sad, and all of these emotions are expressed differently, and through various outlets. As students explored the emotions of the characters of Kristin, Jonathon, and the new kid, they compared and contrasted how they would feel if put in the same situations (or how they have felt having been in their shoes before). Every student had a different reaction and rational. Together, we affirmed their feeling, reinforcing that no feeling was “right” or “wrong”.
From there, we explored the growth of the friendships in the book, and connected them to friendships that the students have in their own lives. Together, we brainstormed a list of ways that Theodore learned how to be a kind friend. Then, it was their turn to share ways that they are kind friends. In this exercise, we saw how each person has different ways of expressing kindness in a friendship, from playing tag at recess, to sharing a video game, to teaching someone how to swim, to baking cookies together. Each gesture reflected a little bit about each student, and brought to light the significance of having, making, and keeping a friend.