How we treat others matters, and one of the best ways to build character in the classroom is through literature. There are so many great books, and of all the picture books I’ve used for mentor text lessons, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson is one of my favorites. It isn’t a book that gives you a warm fuzzy, but it is one with an important lesson for life. It’s perfect for teaching theme with the many examples throughout. Students need to hear this book and talk about it deeply. This is important because how we treat others matters, and our students must apply the lessons in this book to their own lives.
Introducing Each Kindness
The first step in a mentor text lesson is to give background on the chosen book. In this post, I’ll be sharing ways to use Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson for teaching theme, but also ways to carry its theme through the rest of your year. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend you add it to your shopping list. You will want your own copy to revisit again and again.
The book is about how a young girl who joins a class after the school year has started. She is left out by her classmates because she’s poor and dirty. The children stare at her and giggle leaving her to play alone until one day, she suddenly doesn’t return.
Unfortunately, many children experience school the way this young girl does, and the powerful message for our students must be given. Children must be kind to each other because we don’t get second chances to do the right thing. We are ALL valuable. I was lucky enough to hear the back story first hand from Jacqueline herself at our state reading conference, and it truly made me love it even more.
Themes in Reading
Once you’ve given background, the next step is to explain the skill. Theme is a common standard no matter what state you live in, but kids often confuse theme with the main idea. You might contrast the two before moving on.
To begin this lesson, you might consider sharing or creating this anchor chart with your students. I love using printable anchor charts since I create interactive notebooks with my kids in our guided reading groups. We often refer to them later for independent work. It’s important to compare/contrast theme to main idea because there is a difference. Books can fit a theme, but each has its own independent main idea.
Connecting to the Text
Once you’ve introduced the difference between theme and main idea, then you might share various themes found in literature and see what books your students have read that would fit the themes you share as well as the text evidence that leads them to categorize in this way. After all, a theme builds through the plot of the text as well as through character development, right. With Each Kindness, you can use these text examples to discuss possible themes beyond friendship and kindness.
This free resource includes before reading activities, a brainstorming page for discussing various themes in literature, the main idea and theme comparison chart, and an application page for students. To download the freebie I’m sharing with you for this lesson, subscribe to my email list below.
Extended Teaching Options
[THIS RESOURCE] includes many other teaching options on the theme of kindness. You can use it at the beginning of the year, after winter break, at Valentine’s Day, for Anti-Bullying Week, or any time you need to address kindness in the classroom.
It is set up in a before/during/after format and includes materials for the book (vocabulary, comprehension skills, question task cards) as well as a Kindness in the Classroom lapbook project and a Class Book (Meet Us). To complete all of the activities, you could easily spend a few weeks or you can spread them out throughout the year too. To learn more, you can click HERE for TPT or the link to the left.
Download the Featured Freebie
Check Out Past Link Ups for your Favorite Fall Texts
The books we’re highlighting today are just a few back to school mentor text favorites, and if you like to teach with mentor texts, check out our Mentor Text Lessons Pinterest Board. You can follow it to access all of the great lesson ideas we’ve shared over the past few years.
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reviews in the coming weeks.