Better BFFs

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.2

What You Need: Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes; The Recess Queen, by Alexis O’Neill; Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson; chart paper; markers

What to Do: “The most important thing I teach my little ones is how to be a good friend,” says Haley O’Connor, a first-grade teacher at Freeman Elementary School in Irving, Texas. O’Connor, who blogs at My Silly Firsties, begins this important lesson at the start of the year by creating an anchor chart with her class.

First, she reads Chrysanthemum, The Recess Queen, and Enemy Pie aloud. (All three books address friendship and bullying.) As she reads, she asks questions like “Is it nice to call friends names?” and “What are ways these characters could be better friends?” 

Then, O’Connor writes the essential question of the lesson — “What does a good friend do?” — on a sheet of chart paper. As her students share their ideas, she asks them to explain their reasoning and she lists the strongest answers on the chart. O’Connor makes sure to include the following: “doesn’t hit or kick,” “plays fairly,” “forgives,” and “is not a bully.” When the chart is complete, she posts it on her wall and encourages kids to refer to it throughout the year.

Color Me Silly

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.6; SL.K.5

What You Need: My Many Colored Days, by Dr. Seuss; chart paper; marker; white oil pastels; thick white paper; small brushes; watercolor palettes

What to Do: Teaching kids about emotions — and how to express them — helps to create a productive classroom environment. To begin, read My Many Colored Days, a story that illustrates various emotions by assigning each a color. (For example, sad is purple.) While reading, prompt students to take notice of each color and how it might relate to that emotion.

Then, ask your class to choose four or five emotions from the book, such as angry, silly, sad, and happy. On chart paper, create columns for each emotion. Prompt your students to share what makes them feel each of these emotions. For instance, “I get sad when my friend won’t play with me,” or “I get angry when I can’t have an extra dessert.” Record the answers on the chart.

Next, invite your students to explore their emotions through art. Hand out painting supplies and ask what “color” day they are having, using the color relationships in My Many Colored Days as a key (red for happy, pink for silly, rainbow for mixed up, and so on). Ask your students to draw and label their chosen emotion on a sheet of white paper with a white oil pastel. Their drawings can be abstract (think Rothko-esque blocks of color or chaotic, angry swirls) or representational, like the drawings in the book. Then, have students paint over their drawings in the color or colors that ­match their emotion. The white drawing will appear like magic beneath the watercolor paint!

To extend the activity, ask each student to share why he or she feels happy, scared, silly, or angry. As you share, talk about strategies for managing emotions, such as telling others how you’re feeling or by taking a short break, and record these strategies on the chart.

Get a Cue

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.3

What You Need: Black markers; one 7-inch square of white paper per student

What to Do: Julie Voigt, a retired art teacher, used portrait drawing to teach facial expressions and help her youngest students learn to recognize emotions. Before the lesson, Voigt, who has taught across the United States and in Hong Kong, had her students draw the outline of their faces on a seven-inch square of paper, focusing on the shape of their head, neck, and ears, while leaving out facial features. She then labeled her students’ drawings with their names and made four photocopies of each.

During the next class period, Voigt told students they would learn about four emotions: happy, sad, angry, and scared. She handed them the four copies of their drawings, keeping them stacked face up. Then, she described an emotion, such as happy, and asked her students to turn to one another and make a happy face.

“Act out being happy along with the children, exaggerating your facial features,” advises Voigt, who blogs at Art for Small Hands. “Ask questions like ‘What shape is a smiling mouth?’ ‘Do the teeth show?’ ‘Do the eyes change?’ Then, ask the children to take the first copy of their face outline and their marker and draw a happy face.” When her students had completed their drawings, she would ask them to put their markers down and wait for the rest of the class to finish.

Voigt repeated this process for the three remaining emotions, asking questions such as “What shape is a sad mouth?” “How do the eyes appear?” or “What shape does a mouth take when it screams?” “What might your eyes look like if you saw a ghost or a monster?”

Once their four drawings are complete, encourage your students to look out for these facial cues when interacting with their classmates.

Inside Your Head

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.1.b

What You Need: Chart paper, marker, safety scissors, white paper, colored construction paper, glue sticks, magazines and catalogs            

What to Do: The foundation for a great school year begins with a strong sense of classroom community. Set the tone by encouraging your students to learn about one another. Amy Stults, a homeschool teacher from Columbus, Ohio, gets a window into her younger students’ worlds by creating collages with her homeschool groups.

To begin, Stults finds an empty wall space and traces silhouettes of each of her students’ heads in profile on a piece of white paper. If you have a large class, reproduce one silhouette for each student or pair students and ask them to trace each other’s shadows. Cut out the individual silhouettes. Then, use a glue stick to mount the silhouette onto a colored sheet of construction paper. (For larger classes, have students complete these steps, too.)

In class, Stults hands out the individual silhouettes and tells her students they will create a collage depicting their thoughts, emotions, and interests. She then brings out magazines and catalogs, and kids cut out images and words from them to paste within their silhouettes. To complete the project, encourage your students to share what’s “in their heads” with the rest of the class.


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Photo: Courtesy of Haley O’Connor