We all love The Invisible Boy – it tugs on the heart strings whether we were invisible as students or the ones who overlooked other students. I’ve historically used this book with 3rd and 4th graders but this year, my co-counselor and I decided to try it out with our 2nd graders as part of our social skills and friendship theme for the year. With the big kids, we create an anchor chart and then do an inclusion and discussion activity. This wasn’t gonna go as great in 2nd though.
We try to avoid worksheets, we never do coloring sheets over K (and rarely there), and our goal is always to incorporate an applied or practice component to our skills-based lessons. This can be a real challenge in early 2nd grade where we have many students who cannot fluently read sentences, who have not yet done groupwork, etc. Kudos to my co-counselor for her great ideas for this lesson.
First, we do a “stand up sit down” activity. Students sit in a circle (I let them do their knees instead of criss-cross for this) and ask them stand up if they connect with a statement. We start with two simple examples so students understand (stand up if you’ve ever eaten pizza, stand up if you’ve ever felt nervous on the first day of school) before moving on to the deeper ones.
- Stand up if you have ever felt invisible (in our heavily EL rooms, we have to specify that we don’t mean this in a superhero way)
- Stand up if you have ever felt lonely
- Stand up if there was a time when you didn’t have someone to play with
- Stand up if you ever felt left out
- Stand up if you have ever left someone else out (the kiddos are surprisingly honest about this)
After, we ask “What did you notice as we did this activity? What did you see?”. Sometimes we have to prompt, but the goal here is for the students to acknowledge that feeling left out affects the majority of the class at times.
Next, we read the story. More so than in other lessons where we read a story, we try to use the interactive read aloud format our ELA teachers incorporate and our literacy coach models. This book is just incredibly ripe for discussions on illustrations, inferencing, character motivation, character change, etc. As we read, we make sure to ask:
- How did the illustrator make Brian look different than the other characters? Why?
- What just happened? Was JT trying to hurt Brian’s feelings? Did they get hurt anyways?
- How do you think Brian feels being left out?
- Why do you think he draws superheroes with the power to make friends wherever they go?
- What did Brian do for Justin? How did this make him feel?
- What’s different about Brian in these pictures? Why does he have color now?
- Why do you think the author wrote this story?
- How could Brian have used Talk it Out with the other students? (*“Talk it Out” is a big deal at our school – I detail that in a different post)
- Why do you think sometimes students are invisible or get left out?
The kiddos then move back to their desks and I project a piece of paper with room for 4 statements/questions. I ask the students to brainstorm with me “What are some things you can say to
someone to help them feel included?” and/or “What are some things you can say if you’re feeling left out?”. The students did awesome with this! We practice reading them all together a couple times. Then we explain stand up/hand up/pair up: students stand up, hold their hands up, find partners, put their hands down once they’ve found someone, and then respond to the prompt. Because this is the first time most of our second graders have done an activity like this, we model it very explicitly, including some self-talk with things like “Hm, I like to be my friend’s partner but she’s way over there. I see Mark right there and his hand is up. I should ask him to be my partner” and “I found a partner, I’ll put my hand down now.” We do four rounds of these so that students are able to practice each prompt.