This is a book I use every year. It’s one of my favorite go to lessons because it’s engaging and thoughtful. Brian, our invisible boy, feels left out and ignored. Instead of telling the students he’s bullied, I ask them if they think it fits the definition of bullying. We have long discussions about whether the students ignore him do it on purpose, the power that one person can have, our feelings, and more.
Before Reading: Do a “science experiment.”
Here’s how it works:
1. In a plate/flat container that’s full of water I pour in pepper. I ask the students to think of the pepper as people. We call them our “pepper people.” I ask them to notice that the pepper is floating together, almost like a family or a community This is a good place to discuss people coming together in the community, at school, etc. You can ask them to think of all the different ways people work together.
2. Then I introduce the “soap.” Put the soap in the middle of the pepper. In previous lessons I have introduced the soap as a “bully,” however this time I asked them to just think of the soap as a person.
3. As you will notice when you put the soap in the water the pepper immediately darts away from the soap. I asked the kids to tell me why the pepper would be running away from the soap. Some said that the soap was a bully, others said it might be someone who is scared, etc. This time I asked them to imagine the soap was not a bully, perhaps a new student or even a student they have known a long time. I then asked them again, why would the pepper run away?
4. This was a good place to introduce our vocab. words of the day: exclusion and inclusion. I explained that the pepper were all off by themselves and the soap was left alone. We discussed the word exclusion here, when one student noticed that some of the pepper had stuck to the soap. She commented that if the soap were a bully perhaps they were joining the bully or maybe trying to stop him. I asked them to discuss why else the pepper might stick to the soap.
5. Next we talk about inclusion and that it’s important to include everyone and it just takes one “sugary sweet” random act of kindness to make a big change. As I talk about this I pour the sugar where the soap was and slowly you will see the pepper coming back together.
Next I read the story, stoping frequently to ask the students to make connections between our experiment and the book; looking for pepper people, the soap, and the sugar. I also asked them to make text-to-life connections. Many of my students really opened up!
Next we played Ask, Ask Switch using the discussion questions in the back of the book. I had a student demonstrate with me how to play and model how to restate an answer. I asked everyone to show their listening skills by restating what they heard and repeating it each partner. They did a great job, I loved the “I heard you say that you think…” or “So you are saying that….” It was amazing. I also added a few like: “What do you think exclusion is?” “Do you think exclusion is bullying?” and “What food have you tried from other countries?”
Share the students this awesome video: