What a wonderful morning it was in Mrs. Ness’ library at Zapata Academy in Chicago, Illinois! I was very excited to meet the 4th grade students for an author visit. They have been studying about the Power of Words, and extended their learning through the read aloud of One Thousand and One Words. They began the day with a vocabulary word sort of words from the book. They separated them into three categories of Words I Know, Words I Think I Know, and Words I Want to Learn. Some of these words included: slithered, nimble, mock, timid, and bristle. In small groups they discussed and sorted them, ready to look out for them, and find clues of their meaning in the book.
As the read aloud began, I felt excited to see the connections the students made to their own lives. One of the most profound insights a student shared was in response to the question, “Would you want to be friends with Theodore?” The majority of the class responded with a strong, “NO WAY!”, but one student stood against the grain. Offering up his lone hand he shared, “I would want to be his friend so I could show him how to be a better friend.”
Wow. How powerful and mature to not only have the frame of reference, but to also have the courage to speak up.
As we read through the sequence of Theodore’s cruel interactions with his peers, we came to a page where he writes a nasty note to a classmate. “Who has ever gotten passed a mean note?” Reluctantly, looking from side to side, a few kids raised their hand. One student chimed in how sad he felt when he got a note like that. This prompted another student to share how he felt really angry. Another student commented that he didn’t really care, and just laughed it off. All of these responses were valid feelings, and authentic expressions of themselves. There was a truly wonderful dynamic among this class that they felt safe in the space to share their own experiences.
These conversations only reinforced for me why I believe so much in One Thousand and One Words and its power: to create a dialogue and a platform for discussion.
It was an honor to spend the morning with Mrs. Ness and her 4th grade students.