Monday, January 21, 2013

Teaching Empathy to Elementary Students Through a Charming Read Aloud

The Potato Chip Champ: Discovering Why Kindness Counts

- click here to see the book on Maria's site - 

Our second graders were lucky enough to have the super cute and insanely talented Maria Dismondy come into our school and speak with us about becoming an author.  Maria is an award winning children's book author, and she just happens to be from Michigan (yay!).   Her book, Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun is currently getting transformed into a play for the big stage - way to go, Maria!

When Maria came to our school, our children were so excited.  We have nearly 70 second graders between the four second grade teachers.  We all met in my colleague's room to meet and listen to Maria.  Every child was immediately captivated by her energetic spirit and engaging demeanor.  Maria knew exactly how to handle the group of 70 second graders; she is a former elementary teacher herself.

Backing Up... a Bit of Background about Bullying

Our school has a bullying program, and we are required to host class meetings.  These are a special part of our day where we really bond and share together.  We often use a meaningful book to ignite the conversation.  We have used all of Maria's books in our class meetings.  They're perfect!

When one of my students turned in a reading response that discussed one of Maria's books, I was over the moon.  The one book this girl shared was one that we had not read as a class.  I was excited to tell that student that I knew Maria.  This young (and precious) seven year old and I chatted about how amazing it would be if Maria could come to meet our class.  

I emailed Maria, and she graciously set up a date to come meet our class.  Super cool, right?!?

My kids new that Maria had a new book about to be released.  We were all hoping she would be able to share this with our second grade.

Here is a sneak peak of her newest book:

Maria Comes to Visit our School!!!

Like I mentioned earlier in this post, Maria had everyone's attention and you could feel the interest and excitement in the air.  Maria started by sharing who she was with the students.  Many had seen her on the news throughout the week as she was promoting her new book.  We had a celebrity in our room!

Her visit couldn't have been more perfect.  She walked the students through the process of becoming a writer and the importance of revision.  For our young writers, this was such a motivating part of her talk.  It was nice for them to see just how published authors also go through the same writing process.  She shared many pictures and personal stories with our kids.  

If you ever get the opportunity to have Maria come to your school, I highly recommend it.  She is a natural with children, and truly touches on the important aspects in today's classrooms.

Sharing her new story...
building empathy among our students

As Maria read The Potato Chip Champ, the students were active participants in this story.  They were making inferences, connections, and asking questions.  They really related to the characters in the story.  Most of all, it was really wonderful to sit back and see the seven and eight year old children tackle the concept of empathy.

This story really lends itself to 'putting yourself in other's shoes.'  As a mother and a teacher, I often ask children, "How would you feel if..."  This is a big question.

The Potato Chip Champ opens up the young heart and pulls on those emotional strings.  The children become cheerleaders for the main character and begin to get upset when he's not treated nicely by one boy.  Without being prompted, they naturally shared how the 'bully' should have reacted.  When he (the bully)  does have a change of heart, the kids were proud for him.  They forgave him for treating the main character in an unfair and unkind manner.  I was amazed with listening how their conversations were taking off - especially the boys.  What a wonderful story to build classroom culture!

Grab your Freebie for this Story!
- click here to download

Connect with Maria Dismondy


  1. THank you for an awesome post ERIN!!!!

  2. You're welcome, Maria!!

    Thanks for all YOU do!