Students in early elementary often find it easy to connect with characters they meet in stories. Making connections with books is a skill that can enhance comprehension, so it is a good skill to practice with your students. In each of the stories used here, there is a underlying theme of “Be Yourself!” Students will listen to a different story each day and apply the theme to each. Teaching from a self esteem curriculum helps students begin to recognize how everyone around them is unique and that everyone in the class has something special to contribute.
Great Stories to Use
Day 1: Dylan the Eagle Hearted Chicken by David L. Harrison is the story of a chicken who is separated from his mother when she takes a break from her nest. He is raised by an Eagle and is expected to eat and grow as an eagle. Dylan’s mom spots him high in the eagle’s nest just as he hatches and is able to convince him of where he truly belongs.
Invite students to share how Dylan chose to just be himself. What did he do that was particularly brave?
Day 2: Stellaluna by Janell Cannon is the story of a bat who becomes lost and is being raised by a bird. Stellaluna is expected to behave like a bird, but is all along fighting her natural urge to act like a bat. Her mother finds her and reassures her that her behavior is natural to her species. She is reassured to find out that she was just being herself all along.
After reading the book, discuss with students how Stellaluna was fighting the urge to be herself. Students can share stories about how they have acted differently to make others happy.
Day 3: Monique Unique by Maria Rousaki is a story about a young girl named Monique who attends a private school where she must wear uniforms every day. And not just any uniform, the ugliest uniforms ever. To try and maintain her uniqueness, Monique wears different accessories to school, only to find that her classmates copy her every attempt. Finally, one final, more permanent change, has her beaming at her uniqueness.
Discuss how Monique failed to be unique, even when she tried her hardest. Do students know of any fads that are around school where they see students dress similarly? Share how this makes them feel.
Other books that are beneficial self esteem teaching materials include:
- I’m Gonna Like Me by Jamie Lee Curtis.
- Smack Dab in the Middle by Anita Riggio.
- Being M__e by Julie Broski and Vincent Vigla.
Activities to Try
After you have finished reading several of the self esteem themed books to the class, hand out a copy of a Venn Diagram so that they can compare and contrast two of the books. Depending on the level of your students, you can either assign two books, or let them choose the two books they want to compare. They should write the title of each book above the corresponding circle and then fill it with similarities and differences between the books. If there is time, share the diagrams with the class. You may even provide a Venn Diagram on the board or an overhead for the students to fill out.
To help students share their unique qualities, have each make a Unique poster. It will be titled “Unique (name of student”) and will include a picture of the student. Around the picture, students will write words that describe how they are unique. Encourage even simple things like their hair color, likes, dislikes, skills, talents, or a family situation. Encourage them to include details in their picture that match their words. So, if they write that they are good at basketball, they can add a ball in their hands or a hoop in the background.
These activities will help your class to not only recognize how they are unique, but how their classmates are also unique individuals and all have something to share and contribute.