A Very Special Relationship with a Grandparent

Grandparents can play an important role in a child’s life. My own grandmother was one of the strongest role models in my life. She taught me the importance of kindness and acting with integrity. She was an incredible, loving and independent woman. The grandmother in Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, by Sharon Creech, reminded me so much of my own grandmother. Creech brings to life the precious relationship between grandmother and granddaughter so beautifully. The time I spent reading Granny Torrelli allowed me to remember her and to smile. 

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Granny Torrelli Makes Soup (Guided Reading Level: S) is about the friendship between twelve-year-old Rosie and her best friend Bailey. Granny Torrelli serves as the voice of reason and experience throughout the story. Her actions and words are deliberate but subtle. She shares experiences from her own childhood with Rosie to guide her, rather than to tell her what to do. 

The role of food and cooking throughout the story, also reminded me of visits to my grandmother’s house. In Armenian households, much like Italian ones, food is essential to shared family experiences. Simply replace soup and pasta with dolma and bereg.

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup is going to be our first read aloud this year in my 4th grade class. I can’t wait to share this book with my students.

Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution in the Classroom

The last couple of months of the school year can be a tricky time in 5th grade. With state testing behind us and graduation looming, nerves about the transition to middle school sky rocket. This is the time of year when I find myself engaged in conversations with my colleagues about classroom community. There is such a strong emphasis on building community the first couple of months of the school year, but as the school year progresses this inevitably falls by the wayside. As the school year winds down, I realize that what my fifth graders really need to ensure the cohesiveness of our community is effective conflict resolution strategies.

A friend of mine recommended reading How to Talk So Kids Can Learn by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish, Lisa Nyberg, and Rosalyn Anstine Templeton. 

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This book is a great resource for student teachers or new teachers. It addresses the most common situations teachers encounter in their classrooms, including challenging behaviors, effective communication with students and their parents, and conflicts. 

The part of the text that I found the most interesting was the chapter about conflict resolution. It includes a series of simple steps to navigating conflict:

  1. Listen the the feelings and needs of the person/people
  2. Summarize their point(s) of view
  3. Express your own feelings and needs
  4. Brainstorm possible solutions (without evaluating)
  5. Make a plan, including a time to follow up

This process is so straightforward that in addition to utilizing it myself in the coming school year, I’m considering ways to adapt it for student use. 

In the coming weeks I am going to continue exploring conflict resolution and I will be sure to share what strategies I decide to implement this school year.

A Sibling Relationship Brought to Life

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies reminded me of my own relationship with my sister growing up. The main characters, Evan and Jessie live with their mother. Evan is a charismatic fourth grader, who has strong interpersonal skills. Jessie is academically strong, yet she lacks her brother’s social graces. The problem in the story is that Jessie will be skipping third grade and has been assigned to Evan’s fourth grade class in the fall.

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Evan worries that his genius sister will make him look dumb in front of his peers, meanwhile Jessie worries about fitting in. Each character’s insecurities build and result in the declaration of a lemonade stand war. 

The Lemonade War (Guided Reading Level: S) is great for readers in grades 3-5. The characters’ actions and reactions are very realistic. The real-life problems will engage readers, and they will want to keep reading to find what happens. Since teaching conflict resolution has been on my mind lately, I really liked that Evan and Jessie demonstrated ways to communicate effectively and to problem solve together. Each character is accountable for his/her actions and apologizes when appropriate.

One other aspect of the book that I found impressive was the tips for increasing sales. Real-life math problems were woven into the story along with business-aligned vocabulary (i.e. value added and gross sales).  

The Lemonade War ends with a cliffhanger, which sets up the sequel The Lemonade Crime. There are a total of five books in the series to date.