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Creating a Classroom Community

This week will be focusing on ways to help you create a Classroom Community where learners grow both academically and socially.  We hope to share ideas and activities with you that will help you create an environment where learners feel free to take risk and partnerships are fostered.  If you have ideas you'd love to share, please leave a comment.  Be sure to check back often...other blog hoppin' authors will be hoppin' in to share their ideas on this topic with you. 

Do you remember the old saying, "Sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me." ?
Well we all know that is not true!  Sometimes words can hurt far worse than a punch or a kick because words can continue to sting long after they are inflicted.  This is a great lesson to demonstrate the power of hurtful words.  To do this lesson you will need two hearts. 
One should say, Use Kind Words and the other one should say Words Can Hurt. 
 Before I begin the lesson I read,  Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.  This story illustrates the power of words so well!    After reading the story I show the students my heart that says Use Kind Words and ask them to help me think of some words that are kind.  As they come up with words I add them to the heart.  We do the same thing with the Words Can Hurt heart.  After we have charted the words we talk about how words can hurt us.  Then, I go back to the page in the book where it describes how Chrysanthemum felt (she wilted).  We talk about how she felt and why she felt that way.  Did her friends hit her or push her?  No.  They hurt her with their words.  Hold up the words can hurt heart and as you say each hurtful word that they listed fold the heart.   After you have said all of the words ask them what they notice. Then ask, "What kind of words could we say to help someone we've hurt?'  As they give you words, such as "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it" you will unfold the heart.  Show them that even though they said words to try to make it better the heart still has wrinkles.  Remind them that they should always think before they speak and use kind words so that they won't cause a wrinkle on their friend's heart. 


  1. I love this lesson! I make sure to do it every year with my first graders.

  2. I do this lesson after reading, "Words are Not for Hurting" by Elizabeth Verdick. :)

  3. I love this lesson, too! One of the things I do all year long to build our classroom community is hold morning meetings using the Responsive Classroom format. Each person is greeted by name, students have the opportunity to share something with the group, we play a game, and we talk about important news and announcements. It's a great way to start the day on a positive note!

  4. I love the way you do this lesson. A friend of mine used to do something similar, but would use a picture that the kids drew. A parent was irate that she would crumple her child's work. This is effective and kid-friendly.

    ❤Jodi from...
    ★★The Clutter-Free Classroom★★
    Helping Teachers Get Organized

  5. Ooo!! I love this idea, I will be using it this year:) Thank you!

  6. I always read Crysanthemum at the beginning of the year. I will definitely have to use the heart idea next year. =)

  7. This is such a powerful lesson. I have done it using a paper Chrysanthemum. During the second read we crumple her up when hurting words are used and unfold as we apologize. I hang her up for the year to refer to when hurting words are used. I really like the heart concept because it models kind words. Plus it is certainly easier to make a heart than a paper doll! :)
    The Write Handed Teacher

  8. I took the Responsive Classroom Workshop and love the community learners. We have a morning meeting and discuss problems and how to solve these problems. It's a great start to the day and the kids love it!! Gotta love the heart idea!!

  9. LOVE this and will definitely do this with my firsties next week when we start back! Thanks for the great idea!

  10. I love the idea of doing the wrinkled heart activity along with the Chrysanthemum story. I've always done both with my class {separately}; this year I will do the two together :)

    Primary Practice

  11. Deanna....I just wanted to comment again and tell you that I did this lesson with my first graders today and it was VERY powerful. I was so proud of the kids. It was funny that at first they did not want to give me any examples of hurtful words because they did not want to say words like stupid, dumb and ugly. Once we got rolling though, they came up with some really powerful words that were hurtful. After we folded the heart, opened it back up and discussed that it was still wrinkled, one of my boys suggested that we rip it up into little pieces to get rid of the hurtful words and just hang up the happy heart. That is what we did. Unfortunately I was not thinking with my blogging mind and had to take a picture of a pile of shredded paper for my blog!
    Thanks for sharing and I will be sharing this activity with my work pals!

  12. Deanna! Thank you! I did this with my class and they loved it. We crumpled it up, and tried to straighten it out.
    and now it is hanging in our room as well, as a reminder to watch our words, they matter!


  13. Anonymous11 June, 2012

    I love this lesson. I'm going to use it doing the first week when we discuss how to treat our classmates. I'm glad I found your blog. I'm your newest follower. Please check out my blog I'm new to blogging.