Build Strong Children: Teach Perseverance, Courage, and Compassion with Literature for Grades PreK-6
Social emotional topics such as perseverance, courage, and compassion can be taught in enjoyable, meaningful ways when engaging children’s literature, such as these recommended titles, are shared and discussed with students. Each of these six titles were chosen because of the beautiful textual qualities, endearing illustrations, and strong message within each book.
Jamaica loves to draw and her teacher, Mrs. Wirth, asks her to draw a fall picture. She closes her eyes to “think first, and then draw,” just as she’s been taught. Then her teacher asks her to share her markers with a little boy named Russell. Russell is a child who throws sand, often acts out, and makes a horrible blue streak on her beautiful fall picture. Jamaica feels so sad and goes home and tells her family about the mean boy and what he did to her drawing. When she finds out that Russell is moving away, she’s not sad and doesn’t want to make him a goodbye card. Jamaica learns a lesson about compassion and empathy when she finds out more about the little boy’s life and realizes that sometimes people need a little bit of extra kindness to get them through a difficult time.
Activity: Discuss why Russell acts the way he does, and how he reacted to his circumstances. Talk about better responses to a situation like this. Have students brainstorm and dramatize ways they can be a friend to someone acting this way. Students can also draw or write a sentence about a way to be a good friend on a construction paper cut-out marker for a meaningful display to celebrate the story.
This simple, classic story about a little boy who plants a carrot seed, patiently cares for it, and never gives up hope that it will grow is a perfect lesson in perseverance and cultivating a growth mindset. Young children relate well to the clear text and eloquent illustrations. They can identify with the little boy as he hears everyone around him say it just won’t come up and they cheer him up as he never gives up and at last a carrot comes up!
Activity: Ask students to discuss how the boy’s family is acting. Are they supporting him or hurting his feelings? What are some kind things they could say that would be more encouraging? Discuss the word perseverance. How does the boy show perseverance with his carrot? Help them come up with ways planting a seed is like setting a goal. For example, you have to believe in yourself and keep trying even if it’s hard and people don’t believe you can. Ask the students to decide on a goal and draw pictures of themselves working on their goal and what it would look like when they reach their goal.
They call her ‘Imani the Tiny’ but this young Masssai girl is determined to touch the moon.
Her mother shares stories of others who have overcome challenges and managed great accomplishments always reminding Imani that “it is only you who must believe.”
Activity: Have the students write a story about achieving something that might seem impossible, like touching the moon. They should have a beginning which explains what they want to accomplish, a middle which discusses the steps they will take to achieve it, and an ending that shows the final accomplishment.
Big Brown Rooster is sick of chicken feed so with the help of his friends, Turtle, Iguana, and Pot-Bellied Pig, he decides to make the most magnificent strawberry shortcake in the world. The only problem is that none of his friends know how to cook! But they persevere and work together to read the recipe. With help from Rooster, they learn how to beat an egg, measure flour, and even manage to keep the ingredients from Pig!
Activity: After the initial reading and discussion of the story, reread “Cook-A-Doodle-Doo.” Have the students work together to create a flow chart to sequence the events that Rooster and his friends took to successfully bake the strawberry shortcake together. Have the students then write a report with details telling how Rooster and his friends worked together and overcame obstacles to make the cake.
Easy Classroom Recipe: No Bake Strawberry Shortcake
2 boxes instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup strawberry juice
3 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 packages lady fingers
1 lb. strawberries fresh, hulled and chopped
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1. In a medium bowl whisk together the pudding and milk.
2. Dip lady fingers in strawberry juice and arrange in the bottom of 9x13 dish.
3. Spread half the pudding mixture over the cookies. Top with 1/3 of the strawberries.
4. Add another layer of lady fingers, the rest of the pudding and 1/3 of the strawberries.
5. Whip the cream and powdered sugar together until it is thick and spread over strawberries. Top with remaining strawberries and enjoy!
The future of the small town of Dillontown rests on the outcome of one baseball game and The Wildcats are not prepared at all for this challenge. Tom Gallagher, who would rather watch baseball than play, feels responsible for the outcome and wants to ask Dante del Gato, who is a recluse who once played for the San Diego Padres, but does not have enough confidence. A new player named Cruz de la Cruz arrives on horseback and claims to know Dante del Gato’s secret of hitting. Toms gains confidence from Cruz and The Wildcats prepare for the game with a much improved mindset. Several unexpected events leave Tom realizing he did have courage and was braver than he ever dreamed possible.
Activity: Ask students to think about the beginning of the story when Tom struggles with feeling confident. He is hesitant to talk to others and doesn’t feel like his ability to play baseball is good enough to win. Have the students work in small cooperative groups to come up with advice for Tom that would help him to feel more confident. Also, have the students discuss and share the lessons they believe Tom learned throughout the book. What did he learn about baseball, himself, and life?
Number the Stars is told in the point of view of a ten year old girl named Annmarie Johansen. The story is set in Copenhagen, Denmark in September of 1943, the third year of the Nazi occupation of Denmark.
As the German troops begin their campaign to “relocate” all the Jews in Denmark, Annmarie’s family takes in Annmarie’s friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she’s one of the family. The heroism, pride, and human decency witnessed through the eyes of ten year old Annmarie during a time of terror and war is inspiring and eye opening for older elementary students.
Activity: Discuss the concept of ‘Peace’ with your class. Have them work in small cooperative groups to design posters that represent the things they believe are needed to achieve peace. For example, they might include kindness, compassion, understanding, and empathy. Have each group share their posters with the whole class and explain why they included each item. The posters would be great to hang in the hallway to inspire more kindness within the school community.
We work hard everyday to maintain a growth mindset and recently we were fortunate enough to be blessed with very happy mail. These items ( books and journals) were part of a DonorsChoose project and we are so grateful to Krista Carino, Melanie McConnell, David Marshall, and the Zimmerman’s for their generosity in helping it reach its goal and making our dream come true! The children love these new books with the beautiful messages within and the journals have inspired a great deal of goal setting!
If you are a teacher and would like to get started on DonorsChoose, sign up here, and let me know if you need any assistance with creating a project or getting it funded. I’m happy to help in any way possible.
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