I know I have mentioned this many times before, but a big skill we’ve been working on in 1st grade is building healthy friendships. More importantly, understanding that what we do and how we act can effect our friendships. Children say what’s on their minds and they act with impulse, they are resilient to the consequences of their actions, which is actually a quality for which we should commend them. Yet, when your behaviors, actions, words are hurtful to others, children must begin to recognize how this effects the relationships they are building or breaking.
To help my 1st graders understand this, I made up a game and read to them a book that a dear former 1st grade student gave to me on my first day at my old school.
The New Bear at School
Topics Covered: Interpersonal Relationships, Communication Skills, Responsible Behaviors, Trustworthiness, Self-Confidence Development
True to form, I started my lesson by reading a story, The New Bear at School by Carrie Weston. In the story, the teacher, Miss Cluck, tells her students that they will be getting a new student, a bear. The students draw pictures of the new student and depict him as a teddy bear, a pink bear, and a bear that looked like Paddington. But when the bear comes to school, the students are surprised at just how big, hairy, and scary this new bear is.
They began to judge the bear by the way he looked and never bother to see his kind heart. In the end of the story, the bear protects the students against the “rat pack” and they are able to finally see his kind heart.
It’s a lesson with which we all struggle. How do we get past first impressions to see and understand the person underneath? Why are we always so quick to judge, and judge for the worst, at that? I wanted the boys to see just how their actions and words could be hurtful to someone that they were too quick to judge without understanding them first.
We talked about whether or not the animals were mean to each other or if they were just to scared to get to know the bear based on how he looked. Did the animals stay mean to the bear? Did they finally give the bear a chance to show his kind heart and make new friends? Did they eventually include him in their school family?
After the discussion, I allowed the boys to play a “Monster Friends” game that I adapted from a game board I found on Marissa’s blog. As the boys rolled the dice and moved around the game board, they answered various questions regarding friendships, behaviors, actions, and words. They shared their experiences and worked together practicing their friendship, patience, and tolerance skills.