Wednesday, August 15, 2012

10 Days of Back to School Frenzy: Day 6

Today's Back to School Frenzy idea is inspired by the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. This is one of my favorite books to read at the beginning of the school year because there are so many things you can do with it.

If you haven't read the book before, here's a brief summary. It's about a little mouse named Chrysanthemum and how she thought her name was beautiful and special until she started school. At school kids would pick on her because her name was so long and she was named after a flower. Chrysanthemum goes from loving her name to wanting a different name. The story goes on until something happens and then Chrysanthemum goes back to loving her unique, special, beautiful name.

This is a great story to help students appreciate and embrace the unique and special differences we each share. I also use this story as one of my bullying prevention lessons. I have a paper with the image of the character Chrysantemum. As I read the story, I tear the page or crumple it every time someone says something hurtful to Chrysanthemum in the story. As Chrysanthemum starts to feel better towards the end of the story, I start flattening the paper and taping it to put it back together. After the story, I start a discussion about why I was tearing the paper. Then I show the students the how the paper looks after I tried to fix it and they will notice that there are still wrinkles on it and no matter how much we try to flatten them out, they are still going to be there. That's when I explain to the students that the words we say have the same affect. Sure we can be sorry and apologize for saying hurtful things, but the wrinkles or scars of those words will stay with us. That's why it's important to respect one another and be careful with what we say.

Well, besides that great bullying prevention lesson, I use Chrysanthemum to have students focus on their own names and what makes them special. Last summer, I found an AWESOME activity from one of Scholastic's Teacher Bloggers, Alycia Zimmerman. She shared her What's in a Name? Back to School Literacy Unit last August and I used it along with Chrysanthemum. Check out her blog post and the great printables she shares there.

In addition to that, this year I thought about using Wordle to further emphasize how unique and wonderful our names are. If you've never used Wordle before, I recommend you go to the Wordle website, play around with it, and see what you can create. Well, I want students to be able to create their own Wordle using their names. Students will include the meaning of their names, where their names came from, and other interesting bits of information about their names. Here's a Wordle I created as a sample using my name:

After students create their Wordle, they can print them out, and then I can give them some construction paper to frame it for display in our classroom. I'm currently working on a printable to go along with this Wordle activity but because I'm busy getting ready for the opening of school I haven't had a chance to finish it yet. No worries...I'll try to have it completed by the end of the week.

By the way...I also wanted to mention that Alycia Zimmerman also states on her post (comments section) that her students prefer using Tagxedo which is similar to Wordle but she says it's more customizable. You can give it a try by visiting

So I hope you have enjoyed today's Back to School Frenzy idea. Come back tomorrow for day 7. Have a wonderful, whimsical, Wednesday!

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