Jerome By Heart by Thomas Scotto
(also available in French as Jérôme par coeur)
This lesson was initially designed for and conducted in a grade 3/4 classroom (delivered virtually with the support of the classroom teacher). This lesson can be adapted for other grades, depending on the competencies educators would like to emphasize and the sophistication of the questions and the conversations.
Before reading, students revisited the concept of characteristics (or traits) and brainstormed some examples of familiar characteristics / traits.
During reading students were asked to consider:
- What are the characteristics or traits of the title character, Jerome?
- What is the evidence that demonstrates the characteristic or trait?
After reading students were asked to complete the graphic organizer (Jerome By Heart), indicating their conclusions about Jerome’s characteristics / traits and the evidence that supported their conclusions.
The outcomes recorded in the graphic organizer were then discussed, and then the conversations transitioned into a discussion about: Would you want to be friends with Jerome? Students were asked to justify their positions.
Students overwhelmingly indicated that Jerome had many positive qualities and that he would be an asset as a friend. After completing the conversation about whether or not they would like to be Jerome’s friend, we revisited the spread below, and considered the question…..
- If Jerome has so many positive qualities, and would make a good friend, why do Raphael’s parents react this way?”
This prompted a conversation with a number of interesting perspectives.
Some insightful responses included:
- “Raphael’s parents are tired and haven’t had their coffee yet”
- “Raphael’s parents have had a fight and they’re taking their frustrations out on Raphael”
- “Raphael’s parents are worried that he’s only focused on one friend (Jerome) and they want him to make other friends too”
- “Maybe they’re worried because Jerome is an imaginary friend”
Then a student raised her hand and commented: “I have a connection, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing it.”
There was a sense of both tension and anticipation as students waited for her to articulate her thoughts.
The classroom teacher worked with the student to see if the student was willing to write their connection down, or if they would be comfortable whispering the connection to the teacher and then the teacher could share the connection. After a bit of quiet conversation, the student volunteered to share her connection.
“I think that Raphael’s parents are afraid that Raphael doesn’t just like Jerome, he like “likes” Jerome,” she finally said.
At this point, many other students in the class nodded or commented, agreeing with her assessment of the situation. Consequently, another student shared a personal connection about her aunts getting married, and another student commented on his uncle having a boyfriend. Ultimately, there were six students (in a classroom of 24 students) who shared examples of same-sex partnerships in or connected to their families.
We then extended the conversation and considered:
- What are Raphael’s parents feeling? We discussed descriptors like “angry,” “annoyed,” “frustrated,” and “afraid,” or “fearful.” Students weren’t particularly surprised by some of the “irritated” descriptors but were curious about the ones connected to fear. So, we explored those a bit, considering: “What are they afraid of? Why are they afraid of that? This allowed for us to revisit the concerns raised previously (i.e. only one friend, imaginary friend, likes Jerome as more than a friend). We then linked the conversation to the term “Homophobia.”
- What is homophobia? This lead to an interesting conversation, including a tangent that included understandings that homophobia isn’t just about “fear of gay people” but the “fear of how gay people will be treated by others” and that sometimes parents are afraid of their child being gay because it could result in other people being mean to their child.
- The session ended on a question from students “How do we make sure that people treat others respectfully so that no one has to be afraid to be who they are?” There was also a concern about “How do we make it safe to talk about all the different people in our families?”
The classroom teacher was then able to continue the conversation and follow up with additional learning activities in subsequent classes.
British Columbia Curricular Connections
Critical and Reflective Thinking
- Questioning and Investigating – Students learn to engage in inquiry when they identify and investigate questions, challenges, key issues, or problematic situations in their studies, lives, and communities and in the media.
Personal and Social
Social Awareness and Responsibility
- Valuing Diversity – Students value diversity, defend human rights, advocate for issues, and interact ethically with others. They are inclusive in their language and behaviour and recognize that everyone has something to contribute. Their approach to inclusive relationships exemplifies commitment to developing positive communities.
English Language Arts
- Stories and other texts help us learn about ourselves and our families. (K-1)
- Stories and other texts connect us to ourselves, our families, and our communities. (2-3)
- Exploring stories and other texts helps us understand ourselves and make connections to others and to the world. (4-9)
- Questioning what we hear, read, and view contributes to our ability to be educated and engaged citizens. (4-9)
- Exploring and sharing multiple perspectives extends our thinking. (6-7)
- People understand text differently depending on their worldviews and perspectives. ( 8-9)
Physical and Health Education
- Personal choices and social and environmental factors influence our health and well-being. (4-5)
- Developing healthy relationships helps us feel connected, supported, and valued. (4-5)
- Learning about similarities and differences in individuals and groups influences community health. (6-7)
- Healthy relationships can help us lead rewarding and fulfilling lives. (8-9)
- Advocating for the health and well-being of others connects us to our community. (8-9)
- Develop and demonstrate respectful behaviour when participating in activities with others (K-2)
- Identify caring behaviours among classmates and within families (K-1)
- Identify personal skills, interests, and preferences and describe how they influence self-identity (2)
- Describe factors that influence mental well-being and self-identity (3-4)
- Describe and apply strategies for developing and maintaining positive relationships (3-7)
- Propose strategies for developing and maintaining healthy relationships (8-9)
- Identify and describe strategies for avoiding and/or responding to potentially unsafe, abusive, or exploitive situations (4-7)
- Propose strategies for avoiding and/or responding to potentially unsafe, abusive, or exploitive situations (8-9)
- Describe and assess strategies for responding to discrimination, stereotyping, and bullying (4-7)
- Propose strategies for responding to discrimination, stereotyping, and bullying (8)
- Analyze strategies for responding to discrimination, stereotyping, and bullying (9)
- Explore and describe how personal identities adapt and change in different settings and situations (5-6)
- Explore the impact of transition and change on identities (7-8)
- Explore and describe factors that shape personal identities, including social and cultural factors (9)
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