LESSON

The Only Boy in the Ballet Class

To teach about the importance of kindness, I first choose a story in which children are putting down others— for example, The Only Boy in the Ballet Class, by Denise Gruska, or Oliver Button is a Sissy, by Tomie dePaola.
Grade Level
K-2

Before reading the story, the students talk about some of their differences. They might discuss some activities they enjoy and others that they don’t. I then give a student a large drawing that symbolizes the boy in the story (this is hand-drawn by me). While we read the story, the student rips a tear into the paper child every time the class hears something in the story that would be upsetting or hurtful. I usually need to help them think through how they would feel (focusing on the various situations in the book).

After reading the story, I ask the students how they think the child in the story feels with all of his tears and rips. The students usually say “bad” or “yucky.” I ask the students how they would help the little boy who has been ripped. They usually say they would hug him, talk to him, try to provide support, tell a teacher, etc. Then I hand out some little bandages for the students to put on the ripped child and they begin to bandage him. Now I ask them to observe how the little boy looks. They acknowledge that he looks a little better, but still not great. They say things like “he has lots of boo-boos.”

I explain that no matter how much “fixing up” you do, you never can completely heal the hurt and damage that has been done to someone’s self-esteem. I usually give them an example from my childhood in which somebody teased me or left me out of a game. I explain how I can still remember the hurt others caused me. I wrap up by reminding students that we need to stop and think before we say something because our comments could hurt another person for life. This is so moving to the students! I leave the little poster of the bandaged child in the room so that the kids can be reminded all year.

Betsy Jerome
Dallas Elementary School
Dalton, Penn.