Macungie, Pennsylvania is home, and ONE WAY TO THINK ABOUT IT is a blog by Catherine Gehman, educator. Her posts are designed to energize and inspire teachers in all stages of their career by simply giving - giving ideas that work for her, and by bringing attention to past and current expert voices in education.

One Way to Jump Back In After Holiday Break

One Way to Jump Back In After Holiday Break

January 3, 2019

I jumped back in yesterday after a beautiful winter break - full speed...sort of.  My kind of jumping back in includes soft music, low lights, a coffee mug in hand, and plenty of conversation with kids. Nothing earth shattering, just simple elements to make the room someplace you’d want to be. Returning to school after a long break isn’t easy for anyone, but for some the break is neither restful or happy, and it’s all the more reason to intentionally make the experience of walking through the classroom door as inviting as possible.

LOVE was next.  I'm referring to the book LOVE  by Matt de la Peña.   I picked up a copy at Target last week after a teacher/writer I had spoken with at a New Year's party reminded me of its powerful message.  


Here's how I used this read-aloud, and here's how you can use it too.

Once, the kids were unpacked and had a few minutes to do their New Year’s word search (they never seem to get old for 4th graders-gotta love it!), we gathered at our meeting area.  Kids nodded and eyes opened wide when I pointed to the words resolution and reflection on chart paper and asked if they've heard these words on television, social media, or from parents over the past couple of weeks. My narrative went something like this:

Resolutions are popular as we end one year and ring in another because as humans, we are inspired and motivated by the new year as we leave the past behind and begin anew.  A resolution is a firm decision to change something.  The idea is that we think about something we don’t like in our lives and make it better over a period of time so it becomes a habit.  Often we make resolutions to eat better or keep our rooms clean. To do this, we often take time to reflect , to think carefully about aspects of our life.  

I know I did that this past week, and while I tend to not make big resolutions for various reasons, I do take time to think about what was good in my life and in myself,  but even more, I think about what I want to change. I think about regrets I have and things I said or did that I wish I hadn’t. As I reflected on this past year, I realized that one thing I know I don’t regret are the times I chose to love, whether is was easy or not, or whether is was a good deed or a kind word.  For humans to thrive, we all need love. That’s for sure.

Below you'll find how I sequenced my lesson:

  1. I segued into a read-aloud of LOVE, stopping at a few places along the way to note the powerful language and illustrations.

  2. Following this, I projected a page that seemed particularly meaningful to the students, a scene that reminds students that love is often a small gesture, not always perfect, or can sometimes be overlooked. I went back to this page, because, as Dorfman and Capelli remind us,  “If we allow children to linger on the illustrations during a read-aloud, returning to them for conversation after the final words are read, or perhaps even the next day in writing workshop, we can help make the connections that will lead to meaningful writing." (Cappelli, Dorfman 27). And students did just that.

  3. I asked students to think about what stirred them as they studied the illustration. They shared their thoughts with their partner and then wrote them on a sticky note.

  4. We closed by having students post their note on an anchor chart around a heart with the word “love” inscribed inside and asked for several volunteers to read.

Tomorrow, students will place the sticky notes in the idea section of their writing notebooks, ready to use for a story, poem or essay.  

In the end, we jump-eased into a meaningful day.

Works Cited

Dorfman, Lynne R., et al. Mentor Texts: Teaching Writing through Children's Literature, k-6. Stenhouse Publishers, 2017.

Peña, Matt de la. Love. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2018.

The World Needs More Leos: One Way Empathy Changed Me

The World Needs More Leos: One Way Empathy Changed Me

One Way?

One Way?