This lesson allowed the 3rd grade boys a chance to think about a Special Place in their life. I adapted the lesson from an idea I saw on the Teaching Tolerance website.
Topics Covered: Interpersonal Effectiveness, Communication Skills, Self-Confidence Development, Decision-making
I started the lesson by reading the boys a book my mom gave to me my first year of teaching, The Forest Has Eyes by Elise Maclay and illustrations by Bev Doolittle.
The Forest Has Eyes is a Native American poetry book that really helps illustrate the Native Americans’ passion for their land and animals. Through poems, the book illustrates a mountain man passing through Indian territory, a brave Native American boy searching for his animal guardian spirit, an Indian’s call for the buffalo spirit, and these are only a few among many other beautiful poems. Bev Doolittle is known for her exquisite paintings that camouflage hidden pictures into historically accurate artwork.
So, while the boys were interested in the Native American stories, they were also mesmerized by the hidden pictures and stories in each illustration.
After reading the book, we held a discussion about the important place the land and animals had in Native Americans’ hearts. I told them that during this lesson they were going to get to think about a place that held a special place in their hearts.
With all of the boys back at their seats, I handed out a blank sheet of paper. I never usually specify whether or not their name needs to be on it. The work we usually do is only to help the boys process, not normally a production piece.
I used Teaching Tolerance’s questions to guide our exploration.
Once the boys had listed many places (based on the questions above), I had them choose just one that they could regard as their “Special Place.” I had them think about why this one place was more important than the rest and what this specific place says about them, as a person.
Next, I had them flip their papers over (hopefully the back side was still blank, but with a room full of boys there was no telling . . luckily I had some extra sheets of paper) and on the back, I had them describe their special place to me through a drawing. They could do the drawing however they wished.
This is how far I got with both of the 3rd grade classes. If I had some more time (which I always wish I had), I would have had the boys volunteer to show their drawings and explain what made this place more special than any other.
I think the reason this lesson was so powerful was because it gave them a chance to only think about their lives, what made their special place unique, and how lucky they were to have memories from this special place. I bet their parents would have been surprised to see just how simple their special places were, because let me tell you it wasn’t Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands, or Italy.