Here is a picture book for you to consider for your upper elementary classroom, as well as an activity to drive the powerful message of the story home.
About the Book: Each Kindness is a picture book about a girl, Chloe, who is unkind to a new student named Maya. One day, Maya doesn’t return to school. After a lesson about kindness from her teacher, Chloe recognizes the impact of her choices to be unkind. She hopes Maya will return so she will have an opportunity to be friendly to her. But Maya doesn’t return. And Chloe doesn’t receive another chance. Instead, she is left only with the memories of her unkind choices.
Teaching Point: This book doesn’t have a feel-good, fairy-tale ending, but it shares a wonderful message: We don’t always receive a second chance. Sometimes we have to live with our choices and we don’t get a do over. On Jacqueline Woodson’s website she shares the following explanation for why she wrote this book: “At some point in our lives, we are all unkind. At some point, we are all treated unkindly. I wanted to understand this more. I think too often we believe we’ll have a second chance at kindness – and sometimes we don’t. I do believe, as Chloe’s teacher, Ms. Albert, says, that everything we do goes out, like a ripple into the world. I wrote this because I believe in kindness.” This is a truly great message that students are ready to hear in 5th grade.
Student Response to the Story: The pictures are engaging, and the characters are relatable. My students were moved as I read it aloud. They were, however, disappointed with the ending. “What?!” they blurted. “That’s it?!” But these reactions are great, because they lead to the teaching point – we don’t always receive a second chance. You’ll be left with an excellent opportunity to discuss kindness, second chances, and choices after reading this book. If you read this book with your class or child, ask them, “How did you expect it to end?” and, “How would most authors choose to end this novel?” After discussing the ending and the meaning of the story, their final impression shifted. As we transitioned to our next subject, I overheard students talking positively to each other about the book. “That was a really good book.” “It was sad, but it’s true.” Message delivered. 🙂
Kindness Activity: After reading the book, begin a daily activity inspired by the following lines in the story,
Ms. Albert had brought a big bowl into class and filled it with water. We gathered around her desk and watched her drop a small stone into it. Tiny waves rippled out, away from the stone. This is what kindness does, Ms. Albert said. Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.
At the end of each school day, have each student share a kindness. Through this activity, students become more aware of their choices and the impact they have on others. Sharing kindnesses is fun and promotes self-love as well. I enjoy seeing the pride on my students faces as they share, and I absolutely love the effect recognizing and sharing kindnesses has on the ambience of our room.