Our recent blog, The Snow Walker, concluded our three-part winter-themed blogs (for this year!). We are hopefully moving towards warmer temperatures, as we begin April. April also begins National Autism Awareness Month. In light of that, throughout the month, our blogs will focus on the development of feelings, perspective taking, theory of mind, and empathy. The Story Grammar Marker® provides a visual, explicit way of analyzing the motivations, feelings, thoughts/mental states and plans of characters (and of people in real life situations).
Picture books are excellent resources for helping to develop children’s emotional literacy. As educators, we know that combining visual images and text plays a significant role in working with our students. In an article in The Reading Teacher (Vol. 67, Issue 4, December 2013/2014), Maria Nikolajeva writes that “picturebooks are perfect training fields for young people’s theory of mind and empathy.” In this blog, we are going to use the book Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Paul Yalowitz to begin to demonstrate feelings, theory of mind, perspective taking and empathy.
Let’s start with some basic talking points:
The ability to identify and name feelings is important. We cannot take it for granted that children will automatically do this. Identifying feelings and feeling words and their meanings must be explicitly taught. Why characters feel a certain way determines their actions. The SGM Heart icon encourages conversation about our own feelings and others’ feelings, body language, tone of voice and gesture.
Baron-Cohen (1995) coined the term “Mindblindness” to Characterize the difficulty that people with autism have with reading the mental states of others: thoughts, feelings and beliefs. (Baron-Cohen, S. (1995). Mindblindness: An essay on autism and theory of mind.) The “Theory of Mind” is the ability to reason about the thoughts, feelings, and intentions of self and others. (Premack & Woodruff 1978)
Researcher Gordon Moskowitz of Lehigh University says: “We must be able to stand in the shoes of others, see the world through their eyes, empathize with what they are feeling, and attempt to think and react to the world in the same way that they think and react to the world.” (Moskowitz, 2005, p. 277) Perspective taking plays an important role in academics and in life.
The use of The Story Grammar Marker enables us to look at our own perspective regarding an issue as well as another’s perspective by way of the Critical Thinking Triangle®. This is the essence of MindWing’s methodology based framework. “The ability to take another’s perspective, ponder others’ feelings and plans, and to think about cause and effects (consequences) of actions is vital to student’s success in the future.” (Moreau & Fidrych, 2008)
“If we ask, ‘what are the characteristics of a capable, successful learner?’, one view that is gaining increasing currency among educators is the notion that successful learners are knowledgeable, self-determined, strategic, and empathetic* (Jones 1990). That is, in addition to having: (1) knowledge, including critical and creative faculties; (2) motivation to learn and confidence about themselves as learners; and (3) tools and strategies for acquiring, evaluating, and applying knowledge; successful learners also have (4) insight into the motives, feelings, and behavior of others and the ability to communicate this understanding—in a word, empathy.” (School Improvement Research Series: Developing Empathy in Children and Youth, Kathleen Cotton.)
To begin this series, our first selection will be Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli and our focus will be on feelings. This book was one of many featured in East Meets West for the Holidays and Important Life Events. It is a book that can be read and enjoyed by students any time of the year!
Below is an analysis of the narrative structure (macrostructure) of Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch using the SGM icons, Story Sparkle for microstructure analysis, and maps focusing on some of the expository structures found in this book. You can see the actual pages from East Meets West Vol. 2 here. We have added Mr. Hatch's perspective to the Third Kick-Off (shown on pp. 52-53), creating an Interactive Episode.
This story has an embedded episode within the first one, with two kick-off events and a second plan and a second series of attempts with a final resolution.
Character: Mr. Hatch, a lonely man who did the same boring things everyday and never noticed anyone around him
Setting: the town where Mr.Hatch lives
Kick-Off: He gets a valentine package in the mail.
Internal Response: Mr. Hatch feels delighted. (His body language shows this.)
Mental States: “Mr. Hatch thinks that somebody loves him.”
Plan: He wants to find out who sent it.
Direct Consequence: He has hundreds of friends and everyone likes him.
Resolution: He is happy and enjoying himself.
The mailman returns, telling Mr. Hatch that the package he delivered 3 months ago was a mistake. It belongs to someone else, but no one knows who. He needs to give back the empty heart-shaped candy box and the little white card that says someone loves you.
Character: Mr. Hatch
Setting: His house
Kick-Off: The mailman returns and asks for the candy box and card.
Internal Response: Mr. Hatch is very sad.
Direct Consequence:He returns to his old routines, not talking, not looking up, and not interacting with other people.
Character: The Community
Setting: Mr. Hatch’s town
Kick-Off: Everyone notices the sudden change in Mr. Hatch (old routines, not talking, not looking up, not interacting with people).
Internal Response: The community feels distressed. They remember how good Mr. Hatch was to them.
Mental States: “They remember how good Mr. Hatch was to them.”
Plan:They want to show Mr. Hatch that they love him for being himself and that he will have those friends again.
Direct Consequence: They have made Mr. Hatch happy again.
Resolution: The community feels good.
Character: Mr. Hatch
Internal Response: Shocked, surprised at the party planned for him
Plan: To enjoy himself
Attempts:…Dabs a tear: …”Somebody loves me after all.”
Direct Consequence: He laughs, smiles, and goes to be with all his friends.
Resolution: Feeling content, loved
We have found it very helpful for children of all ages to have the teacher map the story out on chart paper using the SGM icons or present on sentence strips on a pocket chart. The teacher then should model retelling the story with the SGM Teacher Marker as the children follow along using their Student Markers. Instantly, students become mindful of the SGM icons. This also serves as a listening lesson, as students must pay attention to the speaker and be on the same icon as the storyteller. We have found it very valuable to have two adults demonstrate what this would look like: one adult retells and the other listens. It is a perfect time to practice moving from icon to icon on the marker as a story is retold and being respectful of the person talking.
Students then work with partners to retell the story using their student markers. Again, modeling how this looks is important. This ties in with pragmatic lessons on speaking and listening that you may be doing with your class (side two of Pragmatics Mini-Poster shown at left). Children may refer to the chart paper/pocket chart of Mr. Hatch story as needed during this task. Ask for volunteers (divide up by episodes, or in the third episode, by perspective) to retell the story.