Are You Connecting?

I am a firm believe in building relationships from the first day of school. If you read my blog post First Week of School Reading Success, you know that one way I build relationships with my kids is through reading to them.

One of my all time favorite books to read during the first week of school is Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco.

If you have not read this book, I encourage you to read it first before reading it to your students. I cry tears of joy every time I read it, I just cannot help it…it is a beautiful story. Today I am going to share a (free) activity that is great with this book and helping build community in your classroom!

Here is a YouTube video reading of it, if you would like to listen to it before your purchase. I do recommend actually reading it to your students, vs. the YouTube video though. The connection with your students will be so much better!

During the first week of school, I choose a day and I read this text to my students. Pulling them all to the carpeted area or in a group somewhere in your classroom is best for this activity.

The book is all about students with learning differences and personality differences. The overall theme of the book is “never give up.” I really impress on my students the importance of treating each other with kindness and to never underestimate what others can do.

From there, we move on to talking about seeing things as “junk.” But are they really junk? Could they be used for something else? Just because some things may appear to be useless, does not mean they are. We discuss how the students in the book took junk and made a rocket from that “junk.”

I pull out a bag and tell them that in the bag, I have some “junk” and we are going to brainstorm different ways we could use this “junk” so that it would be useful and have a purpose.

In the pictures below, you will see the bag, the list of items and the items laid out.

I pass the bag around to the students and they look inside. *Mentally* they choose one item they want to brainstorm about for the activity. The students do not physically take the items from the bag. They can touch them, look at them, even pull them out…but they have to put them right back in so every student can look into the bag at the items. 
After they have their item chosen, you pass out these cards to all of the students. 
Have the students fill in their ITEM that they chose, but nothing else! The students will probably be a bit confused as to what to write on the rest of the card. Next, show them the teacher example. This will help spark their ideas and get the brainstorming juices flowing. 
The students will take a few minutes to brainstorm their ideas for other ways their item could be used. (1-3 different ways is great!) I encourage my students to be creative and come up with funny and practical examples. (Example: The cotton being a pillow for a mouse would be funny, but the other two would be practical.)

After the students have completed their cards, they can share them out with the class. The kids love this part! They giggle, clap, laugh…it is just a great time for the kids to have fun and be creative!
Finally, once they have shared, we take it to a more serious note. I discuss with them the importance of (being like the characters) and never giving up. We all have differences, flaws, and make mistakes. We must keep going, persevere, and dream big! (The last page of this book is perfect for reminding them of this…and for making me cry.) 🙂 
I pass out their writing connection and send them to a private spot in the room. 
Much to my surprise the first time I did this, this writing connection becomes very personal for the students. I assure them before we “depart” to our private areas…that I will not make them share this, I will not post it around the room or in the hallway, and I will not discuss their writing with anyone else unless I have their permission. 
Why do I do this? The students need to know that they can write about personal things and not have it posted for the world to see. The students need to trust you. If you make this promise to your students, you will receive deep and thoughtful writings. If you do not, you will receive surface writing. Above all, whatever you promise your students…follow through! 
This book is gold; simply gold. This activity will help you connect with your students, see their insecurities, and from there…you are able to move mountains with them! 
The link for the activity is a google drive link…completely free and it is a PowerPoint version. In the activity, you will find all of the things I showed you, but also editable versions of the slides (and black and white versions.) On the editable ones, you can add your own texts boxes and change the things you want to (to fit the needs of your students!) Another way you can use the editable version is with iPads, chrome books or on the computers. If you have a tech-savvy classroom, the students can type on the cards and the writing prompt. If you don’t, no worries, the other cards, and items are provided for you as well. 
I truly hope you will use this in your classroom and let me know how it impacted your students! 
Click the Link Below for the Activity:
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