Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Laugh At Me

In 3rd grade guidance this week we are reading the book "Don't Laugh at Me". Don't Laugh at Me is program developed by Operation Respect, an organization founded by Peter Yarrow. Operation Respect aims to establish school climates that reduce the emotional and physical cruelty some children inflict upon one another by behaviors such as ridicule, bullying, and in extreme cases, violence.

In guidance we are reading the Don't Laugh at Me book together, and then watching a "music video" Peter, Paul, and Mary where they sing the Don't Laugh At Me song. The kids love singing the song, and after this lesson I usually have requests from students to play it again throughout the rest of the year!

Part of our professional development this year has been focused on vocabulary development. I have included this into my lesson by introducing four "feeling" words before the book at movie that I want students to identify on the faces of people. We are working on expanding our feeling vocabulary beyond "happy" and "sad". Before we read the book I introduce the words "humiliated" and "ashamed". We discuss the meanings of these words, and the students identify pictures of people in the book expressing these feelings. After reading the book, we work on the feelings "courageous" and "proud". During the video I ask students to pick out people who are expressing these feelings. Using the vocabulary instruction also helps students to connect with and emphasize with the characters in the book and video, which is the goal of Don't Laugh at Me.

The video for Don't Laugh at Me shows individuals with mental and physical disabilities, and I always have to be careful to prepare the students in the right way for the video. The first time I showed this video, I assumed since we just had a lesson on how it is not right to laugh at others because of their abilities or the way that they look, that the students would not point or laugh. I have now learned that I must emphasize this one more time before I press play, otherwise some students will be disrespectful. Other than that issue, I love this book and lesson! We connect it to the Purple Hands Pledge after the book by talking about how body language (laughing, pointing, staring) can hurt people just as bad as hands and words can. This will be a great launching point for 4th grade when we talk about bystanders and bullying, how laughing at a joke a bully tells can be bullying too. The curriculum that goes along with the book is available for free on the Operation Respect website, as well as all of the songs and videos related to the program as well.

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