Sometimes It Just Takes One

“You could be like One and stand tall!” exclaimed Everett.

“Yeah, you could be One and change things!” added Josiah.

A second grader had come to our Morning Meeting and explained that one of our classmates had been kicking him on the bus…even after he asked her to stop.  Samantha admitted it, sheepishly, and said she heard him say stop but she kept kicking.  A few more questions and a few more silent moments and Samantha whispered, “The other boy told me to.”

Ahhh… the power words can have on us.

one    Kathryn Otoshi’s book, One, is a brilliant picture book that addresses bullying, fear, and community in simple language and illustrations.  It is a wonderful way to connect the literary work you’re already doing with the social and emotional issues of the classroom.

One is told through the voice of Blue, a joyful flowing blob of paint that likes being blue. Blue sees the brightness of Green and the Regalness of Purple but is happy being Blue – except when Red is around. Red taunts Blue with the phrase, “Red is hot. Blue is not.” When this happens Blue becomes a thin faint line that almost disappears off the page. The other colors do not stand up to Red, they too feel frightened and helpless. Soon the number 1 comes along and is able to say no to Red and help all the colors get along.

Samantha is really struggling to define what it means to be a friend.  She wants to be in charge, likes to dictate play and her go to protection mantra is, “You won’t be my BFF!” She pinches and shoves and she stick out her tongue.  She tries desperately to gather troops to her hurt corner with bribes and promises of extravagant playdates. Her classmates are confused by her actions because when things are going Samantha’s way she’s funny, lively and inclusive.  But at the drop of a hat things can spiral into angry retorts, stomping fits and physical outbursts.

During the first two weeks of Writing Workshop we had read and studied Otoshi’s, One, commenting on the simple illustrations that evoked joy, fear, sadness and courage.  We shared stories of being lost and feeling scared, jumping off the diving board and feeling proud, moving to a new school and feeling lonely.  We drew our stories and emotions using crayons, watercolors, and colored markers. My Writing Workshop goals for these lessons were:

  1. practicing telling a simple oral story
  2. using and caring for our various illustration tools
  3. creating expressive illustrations through use of color and lines choice (heavy, thin, fading, etc.)
  4. and choosing stories that make our readers feel something

The lessons were focused, fun and fostered risk taking as each of us shared our drawings and stories.

And then months later Everett connected Samantha’s bus trouble with the Main Idea from One!  There were no pointed fingers, no one muttered, “You’re in trouble.”  The class took Everett’s lead and shared stories and connections about standing up for what is right. A community of five and six-year olds making text to world connections authentically and powerfully. Addressing a very real and difficult situation with kindness.   The class offered ideas to Samantha on how she could apologize and she asked several of them to help her draw her card for the second grader.

As the year progressed there were other hurtful situations and angry outbursts, there always are. And by choosing quality books that addressed real and difficult situations we developed not just our reading and writing skills but our peacemaking skills as well.

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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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