Mario and the crayon

How Friendship Workshop helped my students build social and emotional skills within in my literacy instruction.


Mario was a smart kindergartener who often exploded with anger when he was frustrated.  One day when he didn’t want to leave the sand table he angrily tossed a chair that bounced into a book stand that ricocheted into my shin…yoowza !  After a time out (for both of us) and a discussion of more respectful and helpful options we continued on with the day.

Later that afternoon at Writing Workshop I was sitting at Mario’s table as he was writing about his brother’s new blue car.  Mario had a blue crayon in one hand and his black pen in the other. He was sounding of the word brother and recording the sounds he heard as best he could.  He was focused and determined.

Across the table, Jessica was working on her story of going to the beach. She asked Mario if she could borrow the blue crayon.  That simple kind request sent Mario trembling. Literally trembling.   He was gripping both writing utensils with such ferociousness his body actually shook.

In that moment I realized something: Mario could either attend to the academic skill of hearing and recording sounds OR he could attend to the social skill of sharing and trusting he would get the crayon back.  He could not do both at the same time.

I had done a good job explicitly teaching Mario and the class how to stretch a word to hear sounds,  how to form letters properly,  how to use the word wall for tricky words.  They knew how to sketch complicated illustrations, how to staple new pages when their stories grew, and how to help each other check for capitals and periods.

I had not been as explicit in teaching them HOW to share,  HOW to trust,  HOW to handle frustration. I began developing lessons that supported those social and emotional skills.  I began to teach these skills because I thought Mario needed them. Soon I saw that ALL my students needed these skills.  Patience,  kindness,  responsibility,  perseverance…. these are internal attributes we know lead to healthier and happier lives.  We can use great Read Aloud to explicitly teach these skills and then embed those lessons into our reading and writing workshops to improve engagement, raise the level of academic conversation and just plain feel good!

I hope this blog will introduce you to new books,  new ideas,  and new joys of  teaching


Author: Mary Anne Buckley

Educator, Author, Consultant for Social, Emotional and Literacy Learning. Mary Anne currently teaches K/1 Multi-age in Victor, NY.

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