#SOL15: Day 17, Seeing the Character in Us

I started read aloud, asking students if books took them places. Most students nodded. Then I added, “In books I love, I see myself in the character. I feel like they do. It’s like holding up a mirror, seeing a bit of me in them. Have you ever had this happen to you?”

One or two students nodded, but the majority looked at me like I was crazy. Even my most perceptive readers looked confused.

Then I dug around, giving them some examples from our past read alouds. Saying, “have any of you felt like …”

I was losing them, so I dropped it and pulled out Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose.

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In this story, Kid feels it’s his right and duty to crush Ant, but Ant begs Kid to see the world through his eyes.

I ask students, do you see bits of yourself on this page? Have  you ever felt this way? At first they identify with Kid.

Then Kid says, how can you feel anything you’re so small. Ant replies,

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I ask, “have you ever felt so small and asked this same question?”

“Yes! With my parents!”

Bingo. A shift from Kid to Ant. For a moment, they see themselves in this character. Ant is them.

We consider:

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Students have strong beliefs. “Ant should live! He has a family. They should become friends!”

I’ve spent the year reading books that revolve around kindness. Students could see it in the story. They know who’s the bully, and they don’t like him. But, then they’d go to the playground and call another student “Auggie.”

How could they not see they were being the bully they hated in the story? I hadn’t considered they didn’t see themselves in characters.

This week we will be practicing finding ourselves in picture books characters. Today students had a tiny aha. I had a big aha. Maybe more will be found if we just clean our lenses and look for it.

Thank you, Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey and Tara of Two Writing Teachers blog for hosting the Slice of Life March Story Challenge. Read other bloggers slices here. 11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

18 thoughts on “#SOL15: Day 17, Seeing the Character in Us

  1. Wow, I never thought about this. But they must connect with characters! Now you have me wondering is this is a huge misconception I have. Thank you for this post. I will definitely check into this with my kids as well! PS – I also love that book.

  2. I love how you KNOW your students. You saw you were “losing them” and switched gears in the moment! Seeing themselves is so important in books. Thank you for the reminder!!! 🙂 I think that will find it’s way into my classroom today. (Also, I need that ant book!!!)

  3. I love moments like this, when the classroom becomes a place where gentle explorations and conversations like this can take place – we address the whole child, consider those lasting lessons.

  4. Julieanne,
    I love how you NEVER give up although you do switch gears, change plans and restart! When kids “repeat the phrase or rote learning” it’s so not enough . . . we have to see their understanding in their actions. Thank you for the reminder of the need for this “stick-to-it-iveness” that means that students really do UNDERSTAND!

  5. Your idea to see ourselves in the picture book characters is good, Juieanne. Since I’ve been working on Point of View with my students, this is something I’ll ask directly to see what the older ones say.

  6. I can feel how interesting the discussion was for you and the kids. I’d like to stretch your idea and ask the kids “If you were a character in a book, what would people see you doing, feeling, and hear you saying, what kind of a character would you be?”

  7. Love these peeks into the lessons you deliver that guide your students into being the best person possible. These moments have the possibility to be life changing.

  8. This is why I read…to connect to the character. I asked the question “Why did the poet use the word you in the poem?”, and a perceptive student said “to connect to the reader.” Ah, they do see. Give them time. And keep reading!

  9. You are so smart, Julieanne! I love how you were able to reach for the perfect book for perspective-taking at exactly the right moment, and how you used this experience to realize that we sometimes “have to clean our lenses” and see things a little more clearly. Such good advice!

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