Teachers play many roles in the classroom: educator, counselor, and mentor to name a few. And while playing all of these roles, teachers are constantly wearing another hat: that of an encourager. Encouragement is infectious, so when your students see you constantly encouraging their classmates every day, they’ll understand that they too have an opportunity—and an obligation—to lift others when they’re down.
In Peter H. Reynolds’ Creatrilogy, which comprises his three classic books The Dot, Ish, and Sky Color, readers are introduced to characters who learn the power of words, both encouraging and discouraging. The stories are a celebration of creativity and expression through struggle—and set a beautiful example for students.
Read The Dot aloud with your students and when you’re finished, have a group discussion about the words said to and by Vashti, the main character. Talk about how Vashti’s art teacher encourages her when she’s feeling frustrated and is ready to give up.
In Ish, the main character, Ramon, is feeling discouraged after his brother says some unkind words about his art. Discuss the power of words with your students, and how they should be chosen carefully. Then, have a conversation about how Ramon’s sister changes his mind after he decides to give up drawing for good.
Finally, end the group conversation by asking your students to share memories of a time when someone encouraged them with positive words and a time that unkind words spoken to them made them feel defeated.
After the discussion ends, ask the students to create a mini-poster with some encouraging words that have been powerful for them. Instruct your class to decorate them in the style of The Dot, and when they’re done, hang them on the windows to the hallway so that they can be messages of encouragement for your students and also for anyone who passes by your classroom.
In Sky Color, the main character, Marisol, sets out to create the sky for a class mural, but discovers the blue missing from her paints. Use this book to spark a science conversation about the sky. Why is it blue? Why is it sometimes not blue? Why is it dark at night? When the discussion comes to a close, have your students work together on a group mural that you can hang on the classroom wall.