The second lesson in 4th grade’s Trudy Ludwig unit was around her book Better Than You (I wrote about our lesson with Just Kidding here). My interim counselor from my maternity leave used this for the first time last spring and I was excited to build on the lesson some more and deliver it myself this year. It was particularly timely as my 4th grade teachers shared that some of their kiddos had been feeling down on themselves lately.
The book is about a boy named Tyler whose friend Jake is constantly bragging/boasting/outdoing him. Jake comes off as insensitive, rude, and selfish (but oblivious). For the majority of the book, Tyler lets Jake’s words really get him down.
We started the lesson by jumping right in and reading the book. As we went through it, I asked them:
- (Layups page) How is Tyler feeling? Why do you think Jake is acting
- (Music player page) What just happened? How is Tyler feeling about
Jake now? (Tyler was excited about his SoundLaunch and Jake’s words
hurt and took the excitement away, Tyler doesn’t want to be with
- (Math test page) I’m noticing that Tyler isn’t very confident about
himself. He’s being really negative. What could Tyler have thought
differently when Jake said that? What could Tyler have told himself?
- (Laying on bed page) If needed, explain the two meanings of “the
- (Playing guitar page) What else could Tyler have done to help himself
• Baseball flashback page) What does Tyler mean when he says “maybe
it wasn’t my fault after all. Maybe it had more to do with him than
with me”? Tyler says “I feel like such a loser when I’m around him.” –
Is that how you want to feel around a friend?
- (Pufferfish page) Why would Jake feel like he needs to protect
himself? How do you think Jake feels about himself?
- (Niko’s cool throw page) Why doesn’t Jake want to learn a
new throw? What do you think he’s thinking and feeling right
- (Last page) Why do you think Tyler and Niko are going to be
In my first couple rooms, we tried a new short activity called “Spectrum Responses” after we finished with the story. I made (opinion) statements and students stood along an imaginary line in their room (from strongly agree to strongly disagree) to show where they stood (literally and figuratively!). We stopped a few times within to discuss. A couple of the prompts I did for this included “Jake knew his words were hurting Tyler’s feelings.” and “If you talk about something awesome you did, that means you’re bragging.” I loved this activity but I ended up scrapping it for the remainder of my lessons because it didn’t leave us with enough time for the next activity. Also, to be honest, it was tough to do it well with 26 kiddos – they struggled to control their bodies and voices in such tight quarters.
Like other Ludwig stories, this one was chock full of ideas and messages – and I wanted to cover all of them in the lesson. I stumbled upon an idea called “Conver-Stations” that I adapted to use here. Essentially, students went through 6 short centers with partners, having brief conversations at each. In a dream world, I could pose discussion questions and they would go turn into little philosophers and dive into the ideas. In the real world, my 9 and 10 year olds easily stray off task and haven’t yet mastered this type of conversation skill.
To help keep them on topic and on task, most of the stations were more specific, with some even task-driven. I also gave them all sheets in dry erase pockets in order to “keep track of their ideas” (READ: be held accountable for actually doing it). The conversations were:
- Which is it? (given scenarios, identify if they are sharing or bragging)
- How can you share it? (given example of something exciting/pride-worthy, match to example of how to share it without hurting someone else’s feelings)
- What can you say to yourself? (match positive self-talk to examples of rudeness/meanness)
- How can you respond? (select your 3 favorite ways of responding kindly when someone shares something exciting or pride-worthy with you)
- What is a good friend? (discuss what a good friend says, does, and how they make you feel)