Create a List

List Name

Rename this List
Save to
Back to the Top Teaching Blog
July 30, 2018

The Power of Words: Teaching With The Dot and Ish

By Julie Ballew
Grades 3–5

    As teachers, we play a lot of roles: from coaches to counselors, from writers to scientists, but my favorite is that of an encourager. I want my students to hear my voice in their heads, cheering them on when something is hard. I also want them to learn how to be encouragers for each other; to understand that they have an opportunity and an obligation to lift up a classmate, every single day.

    Peter H. Reynolds has been one of my favorite mentors in this effort. His books are filled with characters who learn the power of words, both encouraging and discouraging. He celebrates creativity and expression through stories of working through struggle, and I can think of no better example to give my students.

    I read The Dot to my students early in the school year and paired it with a discussion about creativity and risk-taking. I have a lot of high-achievers in my class, and taking risks is not exactly their favorite hobby. They find it scary to try something new without knowing how they will perform.

    This month, we revisited The Dot. This time, I asked my students to focus on the words said to and by Vashti, the main character. Vashti is discouraged because she feels like she can’t draw, and she jabs at her paper in frustration. Her art teacher, however, manages to change everything with three simple words: “Now sign it.”

    After re-reading The Dot, I moved to Ish, another Reynolds title. Again, we have a main character, Ramon, who is feeling discouraged. His brother had some unkind things to say about his art, and again we see the power words can have. Eventually, Ramon gives up drawing for good, but his sister changes his mind when he sees how much she loves his “ish” drawings.

    I could tell after this read-aloud that my kids were ready to talk about the power of words. I began by asking them to make a personal connection to Ramon or Vashti and think about a time someone’s words had a lasting effect on them. Some of them remembered positive words that pushed them to persevere, and others remembered unkind words that caused them to feel defeated. The more students shared, the more connections we were able to make. I jotted down some of the words they shared as they told their stories.

    When the sharing began to wind down, we looked at the list I compiled and thought for a long time about the kinds of words that made us want to push forward. I asked them to think about how they could be encouragers for the people around them. In The Dot, Vashti takes the lesson she learned from her art teacher and pays it forward to a younger child. I told my students that they had this capability within themselves too, and they agreed.

     

     

    After our discussion, I asked the students to create a mini-poster with some encouraging words that had been powerful for them. We decided that they would decorate them in the style of The Dot, and we hung them on the windows to the hallway so that they could be reminders for us but also encouragement for anyone who passes by our classroom.

        

    My students absolutely loved this work, and I have heard them remind each other of their powerful words several times since then. They can’t get enough of Reynolds’s books, and they have already asked when we’ll talk about another one. That would be Sky Color, the third book in Reynold’s Creatrilogy! If you haven’t checked out books titles yet, click on the titles below to order from the Teacher Store. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

     

    As teachers, we play a lot of roles: from coaches to counselors, from writers to scientists, but my favorite is that of an encourager. I want my students to hear my voice in their heads, cheering them on when something is hard. I also want them to learn how to be encouragers for each other; to understand that they have an opportunity and an obligation to lift up a classmate, every single day.

    Peter H. Reynolds has been one of my favorite mentors in this effort. His books are filled with characters who learn the power of words, both encouraging and discouraging. He celebrates creativity and expression through stories of working through struggle, and I can think of no better example to give my students.

    I read The Dot to my students early in the school year and paired it with a discussion about creativity and risk-taking. I have a lot of high-achievers in my class, and taking risks is not exactly their favorite hobby. They find it scary to try something new without knowing how they will perform.

    This month, we revisited The Dot. This time, I asked my students to focus on the words said to and by Vashti, the main character. Vashti is discouraged because she feels like she can’t draw, and she jabs at her paper in frustration. Her art teacher, however, manages to change everything with three simple words: “Now sign it.”

    After re-reading The Dot, I moved to Ish, another Reynolds title. Again, we have a main character, Ramon, who is feeling discouraged. His brother had some unkind things to say about his art, and again we see the power words can have. Eventually, Ramon gives up drawing for good, but his sister changes his mind when he sees how much she loves his “ish” drawings.

    I could tell after this read-aloud that my kids were ready to talk about the power of words. I began by asking them to make a personal connection to Ramon or Vashti and think about a time someone’s words had a lasting effect on them. Some of them remembered positive words that pushed them to persevere, and others remembered unkind words that caused them to feel defeated. The more students shared, the more connections we were able to make. I jotted down some of the words they shared as they told their stories.

    When the sharing began to wind down, we looked at the list I compiled and thought for a long time about the kinds of words that made us want to push forward. I asked them to think about how they could be encouragers for the people around them. In The Dot, Vashti takes the lesson she learned from her art teacher and pays it forward to a younger child. I told my students that they had this capability within themselves too, and they agreed.

     

     

    After our discussion, I asked the students to create a mini-poster with some encouraging words that had been powerful for them. We decided that they would decorate them in the style of The Dot, and we hung them on the windows to the hallway so that they could be reminders for us but also encouragement for anyone who passes by our classroom.

        

    My students absolutely loved this work, and I have heard them remind each other of their powerful words several times since then. They can’t get enough of Reynolds’s books, and they have already asked when we’ll talk about another one. That would be Sky Color, the third book in Reynold’s Creatrilogy! If you haven’t checked out books titles yet, click on the titles below to order from the Teacher Store. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

     

Comments

Share your ideas about this article

Julie's Most Recent Posts
Blog Post
5 Tips for Building a Set of Anchor Texts

Anchor texts are books that you use as teaching tools over and over again, throughout the year. By reading them early and often, you are setting yourself up for success all year long.

By Julie Ballew
September 7, 2016
Blog Post
How Do You Measure a Year?
Whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed with all there is to do in the short time left, it always helps me to step back, take a deep breath, and spend some time reflecting on the year I’ve had. This year, I asked students and teachers to do the same.
By Julie Ballew
May 28, 2013
Blog Post
Real-Life Learning: A Primary Study of Life Cycles
If you were to walk into my school this week, you’d be greeted with two sounds: a chorus of chirping chicks, and at least a hundred first-grade voices excitedly talking about their newly-hatched class pets.
By Julie Ballew
May 13, 2013
Blog Post
Poems for Mom: A Perfect Gift
Last week, I visited Kathy Howie’s kindergarten class as they shared poems. This kind of work can be adapted for any grade, so if you’re looking for a heartfelt Mother’s Day gift, maybe you could encourage your students to write poems like these.
By Julie Ballew
May 6, 2013

Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
About Us