Our Feelings Books
Family Literacy Project
This year was filled sadness, change, anxiety and an endless amount of zoom meetings. But it was also filled with new experiences, long walks in the park and more to-go boxes than our trash cans allowed. With all these changes to our daily routines and school, students needed space to process all that they were feeling. This was something we had never been through before and expecting students to just be okay was an unreasonable expectation.
I even found myself lying on my bed for hours with a lack of motivation to even turn my lights off. How was I to expect a 6 year old child, who hasn’t seen any of their friends for 365 days, to be okay? This was the birth of my literacy project: Our Feelings Books.
The preparation for this project began with small conversations. Zoom conversations were structured very differently than the classroom, but nonetheless, the students were given space to share their favorite breakfast foods, super heroes, article of clothing, and school activity. These responses were included in an informal survey I would take and let students share as much or as little as they felt comfortable. I proceeded to ask the question “What do you want to be when you are a grown up?” This question helped guide the guest speakers I wanted to welcome into the class. Although, my co-teacher and I were unable to get all their requests, we still got some vibrant community members that got to share their stories.
We learned about what a good interview looks like and how we can be good interviewers. We would point our homemade toilet paper microphones into the camera after we ask the question. We have interview questions prepared, but also write down others after listening to their story. We show the speaker we are listening by looking at them while they speak. We wait until they are ready to answer questions instead of interrupting. These were all skills that might be second nature to an adult, but to first grade students practice was necessary.
One particular speaker we had in the classroom was an author and a yoga instructor. Through this guest speaker, we were able to learn to her story about how she began writing at the age of only six. This not only surprised but seemed to encourage our scholars. They found themselves connecting with the speaker and sharing that “We’re authors! We also write books!” She continued to share how she always wrote about her feelings. Good feelings, sad feelings and bad feelings, they all went into the book. This book was the beginning of how she would later document her experiences and become a published author.
The student feelings books was mirrored from our speaker’s book with a different spin. Throughout the course of the year, we practiced naming feelings, writing full sentences, adding details, and matching pictures to sentences. All these skills were practiced in their feelings books.
We focused on naming feelings about how our family made us feel. We answered the question: What are some feelings you feel when you think about your family? With this framing question in mind, the sentence frame we used were “I feel _______ when __________________.” An example would be “I feel frustrated when my brother takes my goldfish.” It was a way for students to express their emotions in a very confusing and frustrating time. As we had to navigate through a digital school year, we created these books through zoom using platforms like Seesaw, Zoom and Google Slides.
Students were required to complete at a minimum of 5 pages, but were encourage to add as many as they wanted. Each page were to have at least one sentence and a matching picture.
In order to complete the project, physical materials were sent to student’s addresses to have the most uniform end result as possible. Although students still deterred away from the uniform look by using other materials in their homes, they still ended up a feelings book.
Once all the books had been completed over a few months, we had a digital gathering in which all families were invited as all the students got a chance to share their projects with everyone. During this time, students shared different memories that either brought them joy, frustration, confusion or excitement.
This family literacy event was one that had never been executed in such a manner. However, despite the circumstances of this past school year, we were still able to celebrate our scholars and their accomplishments, while supporting and validating their emotional state. With all these different components, I look forward to making sure I include this into future years!