Respect and the Impact of Our Words

Respect.  It is such an important and integral part of a functioning classroom.  The beginning of the year is the perfect time to introduce lessons that reinforce for students what it means to be respectful of each other, of the classroom, of adults on campus, and of themselves.  So this week, I began my first in a series of lessons on respect with my students.

I knew my objectives (that the students would speak respectfully to each other and to adults) but I wasn't exactly sure where to start.  So I turned to my trusty friend Pinterest and I found these AMAZING posters from Digital Divide and Conquer.  They are free in his shop and so perfectly matched my thoughts on what I wanted to teach the kids that I just had to print them out.   For each letter of the word Respect, there is one correlating aspect.  I chose to center my first lesson around the letter R, "Recognize that everyone is different."

Inspired by this pin from the First Grade Parade, I pulled out the story Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.  This is a story about a little girl who loves her name, until she goes to school and people make fun it's unusualness.  Each time something was said that made Chrysanthemum wilt, I wrote down the text evidence (because we did have to make it more upper grade and common core aligned ;)) on a huge construction paper heart.  I then wrinkled the paper just a bit.  Sometimes, in my zeal to wrinkle the paper, it tore.  That was even better to illustrate my point.  People weren't recognizing that she was different, they weren't speaking respectfully, and Chrysanthemum's heart wrinkled.  We then went through the book looking for text evidence of where her heart was being built up and mended, where respect was shown to the little girl.  Each piece of evidence was written on a bandaid and, as I stuck it on the heart, I tried to smooth out the paper.  What we discovered was that it just couldn't be unwrinkled, no matter how many bandaids or how much smoothing we did.

I then gave each student their own heart and asked them to write some things that they have noticed either for themselves or heard from a friend that have wrinkled the hearts of others.  As they wrote the sayings, names, or feelings, they wrinkled their own little heart.  On the back, I then asked them to write ways they personally have tried to mend hearts.

Finally, the students wrote a two paragraph essay responding to the book and discussing how they themselves would be a heart mender from here on out.

All in all, I think the students understood the main idea of the lesson, that we are all different and need to be respected for it instead of brought down.  For the rest of the day, we discussed ways we were "heart menders" during class and on the yard.

Have you done this lesson (or a version of it) before?  What else have you done in your classroom to teach about respectful talk amongst each other?

Want to read about more lessons I have done encouraging respect in our classroom?

S -  THINKing Before We Speak

{I will add more lessons as I blog about them} 


  1. I love this! We have been talking about our diversity and how everyone brings something to the table. This would be a great lesson to do to carry that even further. Thank you for sharing!!
    Are We There Yet?

  2. Thank you for sharing this lesson! The students will remember the wrinkled heart forever.

  3. I do a lesson like this every year - I learned about it in a class I took years ago and found it quite powerful even as an adult. I start with a smooth heart and go around the circle - kids can share something hurtful that was said to them and I wrinkle/fold the heart. Then we share something nice; heart gets unfolded; we talk about why the heart changes. Great lesson!

  4. I love this! Thank you for sharing this idea.

  5. Love this book! Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful way to explore diversity!

  6. Superb lesson! I may have to try this one since Kevin Henkes is one of my favorite picture book authors (he has also written some upper grade chapter books). His "mouse stories" all teach life lessons! Wemberly Worried, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, and Julius can also be geared towards our upper grades!
    I love the idea of writing the evidence on a Band-Aid!

  7. Awesome lesson! Thank you for sharing! I would like to see what you do for the other letters as well What books and/or activities you use. So important to get kids thinking about these things in the beginning of the year. Now, I'm going to print the letters and change up one of my boards at school. We start Tuesday!!!

  8. WOW! I am blown away by your post! I am really looking forward to reading the rest of this series. I am going to try this activity tomorrow and the "Thinking before we speak" activity later in the week :) Thanks for sharing your super creative ideas!
    Chocolate Covered Classroom

  9. Heart Mender; I love this!! What a powerful, visual way to teach how our words can hurt. Chrysanthemum is one of my all-time favorite books; I have all Kevin Henkes' books!! Thanks for another awesome lesson!

  10. Chrysanthemum is my all-time favorite children's book! I'll definitely be adapting this lesson for my 9th graders next semester. Thanks!


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