A counselor friend of mine recommended the Weird! book series to me, and I am so glad she did. I could go on and on and on about this series, but the testimony really comes from my students. Each month I do a book giveaway for great behavior and after reading the second book in the series, one of my boys asked me if I could “please buy the books for the giveaway.” Even though he has a 1 in 900 chance of winning, he was that into them! He’s not the only one, even my most hesitant and challenging students are totally into these books. Why? I have my theories. First, the illustrations by Paula Heaphy are youthful yet mature. Second, the topic is totally relevant to every student. Third, they are so well written. Author Erin Frankel, who is also an educator, makes these books so relatable perhaps in part from her own experience of being bullied. Yet, for me the books are easy to read, catchy, and intriguing. Lastly, the series makes you want more. Like a great movie you can’t want for the sequel and feel sadness when the trilogy ends.
So let’s talk about the other “W’s”.
What: The Weird! Series is a three part series that focuses on bullying. The first book, Weird! is told from the point of view of the target. (*note: I think it’s very important to use the term target and not victim. Anyone can be a target, but not everyone has to be a victim.) The second book Dare! is old from the perspective of the bystander or the person witnessing the bullying. To wrap it up you get to hear from the bully in Tough!.
Where: The books take place in the school setting. At some point our students will be a target of bullying, a bystander to bullying, or the bully themselves. As a School Counselor, I use these books in my classroom guidance lessons. Teachers can use them in their classroom when talking about respect, during a class meeting, or as a book/author study.
When: Don’t try to read these books in one sitting. I see my students once a month, so it’s taken us three months to get through the series. This really keeps them on the edge of their seats. You should really plan to spread the books into a 3 day, 3 week, or 3 month series. Don’t overwhelm- let it sink it, settle, and stew. I really believe that if you the students marinate with the books, it allows them to take it to a deeper level.
How: So how can you use these books? There are so much you can do with these books, but here’s what I did.
Introduction: First, I showed the students the cover of all 3 books and asked them to make observations about each. I then read the back cover and we discussed how each book was told from a different perspective. This lead to a short discussion on point of view which included them making educated guesses on which book was told from what point of view.
Reading the story: Heads up- have a chunk of time to read these books. My classes are 45 minutes and they used every second of that time. Some students even panicked shouting out that we only had 5 minutes and would we get to the end? Even though these picture books are short the student’s love making observations and connections to the story. I really started with three simple prompts:
1) “What do you notice about this page?” or “What did you notice about the illustrations?”
2) “What connection can you make to the story?”
3) “Tell me what you think will happen next” or “Make a prediction about what’s going to happen.”
The discussion was really student lead from there. Everyone, and I mean everyone, had something they wanted to point out, a story (with names changed to protect the innocent) to tell, or a guess about what would happen to the character. I didn’t write down all of discussions and where they went, but I can tell you that each class really let it morph to where they wanted or needed to go.
Additionally, if you have taught your student's the Olweus definition of bullying (that it's repetitive, intentional/aggressive, there is a power imbalance,etc.) you can ask students to prove, justify, and explain how the example in this book meets the definition.
Need more? You can also access the leaders guide here: http://www.freespirit.com/files/OTHER/Weird_Leaders_Guide.pdf
Follow up: With our few remaining moments I had them complete one portion of our bully triangle. It's from the "Stand Up Against Bullies: Grades 3-5" work book by Marco Products. Since each book is written from a different point of view- I am having them fill in the triangle based on the point of view from the main character. When they were done writing we either did partner talks or whole class sharing (depending on time) to discuss their answers.
One more “w!”
What’s next: the dynamic duo of Erin Frankel and Paula Heaphy have also written Nobody!: A Story About Overcoming Bullying In Schools. It’s on my Amazon wish list, because I have no doubt it will make the perfect follow up.