As Spring Break approaches, I find that my fifth graders are in need of some reminders as to what it means to be kind to each other. In general, they are sweet kids, but at times the words they use and actions they take, particularly on the playground, aren't the kindest.
Our read aloud for the month is Wonder by RJ Palacio so the theme of kindness fit right into our room. It just so happens that a new book, We're All Wonders by RJ Palacio, a picture book intended for younger readers to access the story, came out this week as well. So the timing was perfect. (the two links above are my affiliate links and will take you to Amazon to buy the books.)
I began by asking the students what kindness is. We brainstormed a list of ideas and created an anchor chart. Then I read the picture book to the students. Because we had just finished Wonder, they were so excited to read this new version. When we finished, I asked the kids to think of all the ways, in both the picture book and the novel, that people were not very kind to Auggie (the main character). The kids were able to fill our entire circle map in no time. It was easy to recall how people would scream in his face, recoiling at the way he looked. They remembered the names Auggie was called and the no-touching game that was played. The instantly told me about all the awful things that happened to him.
I then asked the kids to brainstorm ways that, if they were in the novel with Auggie, they could be kinder to him. Again, they had no problem thinking of ways they could be kind to Auggie.
Next, I asked the students to think about their own real life. I asked them to reflect upon how they personally treat others and how they personally could make better choices when speaking to others. Here is where things got a little challenging. You see, when students are talking about fictional characters, or reading news stories about OTHER kids they don't know being treated unfairly or unkindly, they know exactly what they would do if they were there. Because they aren't there. They know they never will be there. But when confronted with their own lives, and real possibilities for what they would have to do to step in or change situations, it is a bit harder for them. So I asked them to brainstorm 15 different ways they PERSONALLY could show kindness to our classmates. (I drew a lot of inspiration for this next part from Study All Knight's FREE Kindness unit, which you can grab here.)
The students then used tempra paint and painted 15 (or so) rainbow sunshine rays. They also drew their own Wonder-Inspired portrait. (I have previously done this before, but had them focus on precepts and writing....if you would like to do that, click here. It is one of my fav lessons too!)
The students then glued their Wonder portraits into the middle of the rays, used Sharpie to outline and write the 15 ways they could show real kindness in their lives (one way per ray) and were done.
They came out amazing.
What is better though, is that the past two days, my students are actively trying to be kinder to each other. They are watching their words. I have seen people purposefully go up to those who tend to wander during group time and invite them into the group. I have seen students smile at others just a bit more. It truly has been a Wonder.