Those Shoes (Boelts, M. (2009). Those shoes. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.) is a great story about a boy who desperately wants the same shoes as everyone else at school. He lives with his grandmother and she simply can’t afford them. This text really hits home for my students as several live with their grandparents or relatives other than their parents. Every day they make tough choices between “wants” and “needs.” This text could be used several ways: it could help extend lessons about individuality, the acceptance of others, or bullying. I use it to teach about the power of friendship.
After coming together in the meeting area, I ask students if there were ever a time when they really, really wanted something. I typically get a lot of the same responses: “I really wanted ____ video game or I really wanted _____ toy.” Then I ask students to tell me how they felt when they got what they wanted. Many tell about the excitement they felt opening the package for the first time or the joy of showing it to others. “OK,” I tell students, “Now let’s talk about how you felt a month later. You played with it every day for weeks - were you still as excited or did your feelings change?” Several students tell me, “I was so excited when I got it, but then after a few weeks of playing it, I wanted something else.” This is the exact type of response I’m looking for!
I explain to students that today they will listen to a story called Those Shoes, and I show them the cover. Using what we just talked about and the title as a clue, I ask them to turn and predict what this story will be about. After a few moments I ask students to come back and share some of the responses I heard. “I heard some great thinking just now. Some of you were able to guess that this book is about a boy who really wanted a certain pair of shoes.” Then I tell them, “With some creative thinking, he was able to get the shoes but along the way he found that there was something else more important worth wanting than the shoes. As I read the story, be on the lookout for the lesson he learned and how you might have learned a similar lesson in your own life.”
After reading the story aloud, I ask students to turn and share the lesson they think the little boy learned. I listen to responses and share a couple with the group after a few moments. I’m listening for lessons along the line of “He learned that the shoes weren’t really important after all. Having a friend - and being a friend to someone else - was much more important than a pair of shoes.” I continue by asking if there were ever a time when someone stood up for them or was a good friend to them. How did you feel then? We talk for a couple of minutes about which is more important: having things or having a good friend?
After our discussion, students begin a writing exercise. I created a response activity with different options and used graphics from Melonheadz Illustrating, Kevin and Amanda’s Fonts, and Teaching in a Small Town. There are several pages with boy graphics, several with girls, and one without a graphic that students could use to draw their own image of a good friend. I invite students to the front table to choose the page they want.
At the top of the page, I have them write an item they really want now (where it says, “Having a Friend is Better than Those…”). Then, students write about that object and why they want it. To model, I create my own page using bags as my example. I have just a small problem with bags - namely those from the Coach outlet store. So I describe to students, in full detail, my obsession affinity for Coach purses. I get really dramatic about how when I see one I love, I just have to have it! I describe what it looks like, how I could use it, where I could carry it, etc. I go on to let them know that even though its August, I add the bag to my Christmas list and make sure my husband knows just where to find it (okay, I don’t really do this - but the kids eat it up!). But then I get serious and talk about how that bag is really just a piece of leather that costs way too much money and if I were to buy it, it would end up sitting in my closet most of the year. Compared to having a really great friend, that bag just isn’t important! And if given the choice, as much as I love Coach bags, I would chose to have a friend every time. I show students how after writing about an object they really want, they then write about how a friend is better.
After most students have finished, I ask everyone to share their writing partners. I have them talk about what they really love, why they love it, and how they found that having a friend is better than “those _____.” I typically save this paper and include it in students’ writing portfolios.