“Listening with my Heart” by Gabi Garcia is a beautiful story that touches on kindness, empathy, and self-compassion. Esperenza spreads kindness to others but when she falls and forgets her lines during the school play, she is hard on herself for her mistakes. The story presents self-compassion in a kid-friendly way so that they can see how hard Esperenza is being on herself for a simple mistake.
Kids can be competitive and when they fail, they internalize the message that their worth is attached to accomplishments. They may feel that mistakes or messing up is something to be ashamed of. Reading the story of Esperenza and seeing what a kind person she is reminds us that we must treat ourselves like we treat our friends. Esperenza’s mistake is one that anyone could make, and she deserves the kindness that she so openly gives to others.
Skills to teach with “Listening with my Heart”:
- Point of view
- Character development
- Positive self-talk
Here are 5 meaningful activities to accompany “Listening with my Heart.”
5 Favorite Activities for “Listening with my Heart”:
1. Including others
In the story, Esperenza notices Bao sitting on his own during recess. Bao is new to school and does not speak much English. Knowing that communication with Bao is limited, Esperenza kicks him a soccer ball to initiate a game. They then use hand signals to communicate with each other.
This shows how thoughtful Esperenza is because she thinks of a way to include Bao when he is sitting by himself, and it did not include any dialogue. Brainstorm ways to include others. Just as Esperenza invited Bao to play without asking, think of different ways to include others if you notice someone is left out or on their own. You can have students share their ideas and keep a running list on an anchor chart so that they have a growing list of ways to be inclusive.
2. Making connections
Esperenza proves to be even more thoughtful and kind when she then borrows the teacher’s English-Vietnamese dictionary so that she can communicate better with Bao. This shows that she has made a connection to Bao, Esperenza is truly a great friend and is trying to get to know Bao better.
Students can think about ways that they can make connections with new classmates or new friends. Making a list of their own hobbies is a great starting point. When they sit and think about their own likes and interests, they can find ways to connect with others.
3. Being hard on yourself
As the story goes on, the reader sees Esperenza’s kind spirit. At the school play, she has her mishap and is very hard on herself about it. She feels she ruined the play and was disappointed in herself.
Having students write about things that they may be hard on themselves for can be a beneficial exercise in recognizing their self-compassion.
4. Giving love to yourself
Sometimes praising our own talents is hard to do. It may seem like we are bragging or being conceited. But teaching kids to be proud of their talents and abilities is so important. Have them write notes of encouragement to themselves as if they were writing to a friend, praising their hard work, talents, or character. Positive self-talk is an important skill to instill in kids to teach them their worth, and encouraging notes is a great way to do so.
5. Being a friend
As you talk about pride in your own abilities, you can also discuss being a friend to yourself. We do not need to be so hard on ourselves. We can appreciate what we have to offer the world while also recognizing others’ strengths too.
Have students write ways that they will be a friend to themselves. Whether it be taking pride in something that they have done, acknowledging something that they did or a good choice that they made, treating themselves to something as a reward for reaching a goal…anything that shows their own self-love! You can share if students are comfortable so that they have a whole vault of positive ways to talk to themselves in the future.
Listening with my Heart is a really great story that will help you talk to your students about the way that they treat others as well as the way that they treat themselves.
I hope you and your students love it!
You can grab a free one-page guide for using this book in your classroom here:
You can find more of my favorite read-aloud books HERE.
And read more about why I think reading aloud is so important HERE.
You might like this blog post about self-love.
Check out all of my favorite read-aloud books and grab free guides for reading them aloud HERE.
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