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Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Another suggestion: A picture book I used to begin the year---talks about teasing, name calling, and self-esteem---is Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.  A real eye-opener that will stay with your students if you do this activity to go along with the book.  I cut out a large 'model' of a student on butcher paper----make it generic, neither boy or girl, so kids don't attach a name to it.  As you read, each time you come to a part where Chrysanthemum's feelings are hurt or she is called a name, have a student go up and tear the paper doll.  Sit silently as they do, and when they finish, continue reading and selecting other students to 'tear' the paper doll. [Often you'll have one child who'll make a huge tear...waiting for your reaction. I just sit silently, waiting for them to finish. All I say is: You can make the tear as long as you choose, but don't rip her in two.  And I leave it at that. Most others will ooooo and ohhhh when this happens, immediately looking at you, waiting for a reaction. Sit stone-faced.] When you've finished reading, talk about the symbolism of tearing the doll and hurt feelings.  Question the students about their feelings while 'tearing her apart.' (the ensuing conversation will be very informational) 
 Now, read the book a 2nd time. During this read-through, each time something is mentioned that either builds up Chrysanthemum or if someone compliments her, have a student go up to the paper doll and put a piece of tape---preferably masking tape---on ONE wound.  Continue reading and repairing.  When you've finished reading, all of Chrysanthemum's wounds will be mended.  Now continue the discussion.  All of her wounds were mended, but is she the same as when she began?  Harsh words or making fun of someone cuts deeply, and even though we say we're sorry and the person forgives us, the wounds remain.  This usually impacts the kids, and you can hear a pin drop when they realize how hurtful words are.  I kept her hanging in some conspicuous place all year, as a reminder of how words hurt and leave unseen scars.