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a day in first grade-23
Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books
2 Sep, 2018. 1 Comment. A Day In First Grade, Back to School, First Grade, First Grade Language, First Grade Writing, Guided Reading, Kindergarten, Kindergarten Language, Kindergarten Writing, Language, Reading, Reggio Inspired. Posted By: Kristen Smith

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

Hello everyone and happy September! Man, it has been a very long time since I have last blogged and for that I apologize. I am happy to say, I am back and can’t wait to start sharing more about what is going on in our classroom! This year, for those of you who have not heard via Instagram or Facebook, I am looping with my class from last year.  Therefore, I am teaching first grade again!

To begin our school year, I started with an author study of Mo Willems (which I will blog about soon!).

a day in first grade-87Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

I really focused on some of Mo’s beloved characters and dove deep into identifying characters in a story. With that background, during the second week of school, I used the essential questions, “What emotions can we feel?” “What are emotions?” “How can learning about emotions help us understand characters?” and used the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day as our mentor text.

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

The first time we read the book, it was a simple read aloud. We talked a bit about Alexander and his emotions but didn’t do much with the text. Once we finished briefly talking about emotions, we played a game of quiz quiz trade using Emotion-oes.  For this game, I gave each child a domino and the sentence frame, “One time I felt ____ when….”. My students mingled around the room partnering up and sharing a story about a time when they felt like one of the emotions on their domino.

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

After a few minutes, my students handed me back the cards and we talked about the Story Workshop stations that were set up for the morning. As our over arching theme for the week was to better understand characters, at each table I had set up an invitation for my students to explore something that would better help them understand characters and emotions.

One table invited students to explore how colors can represent and express emotions.

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

Another, had students explore how our faces and bodies change depending on what we are feeling.

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

Another invited students to build their own characters out of Legos.

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

My students really enjoyed these activities and used art, play, and drama to internalize how emotions can be expressed, portrayed, and explained. They also looked deeply at characters and how they interact throughout books.

After 30 minutes of exploration, my students cleaned up the invitations and came back to the carpet. At this time, we created a list of emotions that we can feel and revisited Alexander. I read specific pages and we talked about the emotion Alexander was feeling and how that affected how he acted.

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

My students were very thoughtful in their reflections. One boy remembered us reading The Invisible Boy last year and said, “Remember that book we read last year? About the invisible boy? I bet that’s how Alexander feels. He feels invisible– like no one cares about him at all.” We discussed if we had ever felt the same as Alexander and then wrote about a time when we felt an emotion in our journals.

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

My students wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. They wrote about BIG emotions and how they felt and what their feelings “made” them do. They used specific vocabulary that named their emotions and processed why they felt that way. I walked around the room conferencing with the my students and reflected on what had just happened. It was like one of those magical teaching moments when it all clicks and you think, okay, how can I make this happen again?! After thinking about it, the reason why my students were so into characters and emotions was because they were able to process them through play and art. They explored big concepts and were able to make specific schematic connections to not only our story and character but to their life experiences.

The next day, we kept going where we had left off. We reviewed what we had discussed the day prior and that day, I introduced the book Beekle to my students. I told them that sometimes authors make up characters out of their imagination to star in their books. My students turned and talked sharing some of their favorite characters (Pigeon, Gerald, Piggie, Fly Guy) and I then read them the story of Beekle.

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

Boy. Did. They. Love. Him.

When the story was over, I told them that today during Story Workshop they were going to create their own character out of their imaginations. They could find their characters at the Lego table, through clay, and through art. My students eagerly set out to find the stars of their new fiction books. With Beekle at the forefront of our minds, my creative young learners started to create.

Two of our stars included:

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

 Snake-a-choo (a friend of Pikachu)

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

and Cat Boy- who can fly really high!

It was really great to listen to my students create their characters. As they were creating they were helping their friends come up with names for their characters, their abilities, and they were able to explore how their characters would interact with other characters.

After 35 minutes, we saved our characters and came back to the carpet. We discussed how characters have personalities and attributes and wrote a bit about Gerald and Piggie.

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

My students also helped me come up with attributes for my character, Moony.

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

They then set off to their journals to write about the attributes of their characters.

Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books Teaching students how understanding our emotions can help us better understand characters in books

Through playing with their characters, my students are starting to get to know them. They are figuring out who they are, what they like, what they would do in certain situations…. much like Mo Willems. We had watched a video about Mo where he talked about his process of getting to know his characters and through playing with theirs, they were doing just what Mo did when he created Pigeon, Elephant, and Piggie.

Our journey on characters and emotions is an on going one and is not yet complete. I will blog more about our characters and the books that we write with them soon! I hope that everyone is doing well.

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One Comment
  1. Ana -

    Kristin,

    I love your idea of combining emotions and fictional characters in this way – it is so non-threatening and allows children to make important connections! I can’t wait to try some of these ideas with my first graders (so excited you’re back in first!) and to hear more about where you and your class go with this! As always, thanks for sharing! Have a wonderful year with your looping-up kids … I did that once (for 3 years with some of mine) and it was glorious!!! <3

    Ana

1 Comment

  • Ana -

    Kristin,

    I love your idea of combining emotions and fictional characters in this way – it is so non-threatening and allows children to make important connections! I can’t wait to try some of these ideas with my first graders (so excited you’re back in first!) and to hear more about where you and your class go with this! As always, thanks for sharing! Have a wonderful year with your looping-up kids … I did that once (for 3 years with some of mine) and it was glorious!!! <3

    Ana

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