"You Are Special", by Max Lucado is a sweet and wonderful think aloud to do with children of all ages. This is second in the series about cause and effect think alouds and a must-have for your repertoire.
This read aloud is a planned think aloud. Please read the first lesson in this series, Think Aloud: The New Read Aloud before teaching this lesson plan for it to make sense. In a think aloud, the teacher thinks about what he or she is reading aloud for students to hear; therefore, modeling comprehension.
You Are Special, Max Lucado, 2002
You Are Special is a brilliant story and chapter book for students of all ages. It is about small wooden people called the Wemmicks who put golden star stickers and gray dot stickers on each other all day long. The golden star stickers go to the talented, well liked, smart, and beautiful Wemmicks. The gray dot stickers go to the chipped, scratched, and uncoordinated Wemmicks, and to those who cannot speak eloquently. A Wemmick, named Punchinello, is one who receives gray dots all day long and is very sad about it. It is affecting his self-esteem and he believes something must be really wrong with him.
He meets Lucia, a Wemmick who is beautiful and talented, but has no stars or dots. Every time someone gives her a mark, whether a star or dot, it just falls off. When Punchinello asks Lucia about this phenomenon, she refers him to Eli, the woodcarver. Eli creates all of the Wemmicks and lives on the other side of the hill. Skeptically, Punchinello goes to meet Eli, where he learns that he is loved and accepted, no matter what other's may say his faults are. Punchinello realizes, after he spends some time with Eli who loves him unconditionally, the dots will not stick to him, because he is special too.
Modeling to Students
Read the book first for yourself and take note of the moments when Punchinello gets a gray dot. Receiving the dots causes him to feel sad. For example, Lucado writes (p.17):
- After a while he (Punchinello) had so many dots that he didn't want to go outside. He was afraid that he would do something dumb such as forget his hat or step in water, and then people would give him another dot.
I would flag this page with a Post-it and say, "Wow, Punchinello sure has a lot of dots and feels so badly about himself that he is afraid to go outside. Now he is even afraid to make a mistake and feels dumb. I would feel that way too if I was receiving all of those dots all day long. Sometimes I feel bad when I make mistakes or don't feel talented." (Teaching point: cause and effect- the dots are making him afraid to be himself.)
On the next page we learn (p. 18) that:
- "He deserves a lot of dots, the wooden people would agree... he is not a good wood person." After a while Punchinello believed them. "I'm not a good Wemmick," he would say.
Flag this page and think aloud, "Wow, Punchinello went from feeling bad and being afraid to make a mistake, to thinking that he is not a good person at all. He must be very discouraged and frustrated." I would also notice the picture on this page. We can learn about Punchinello's feelings through his body language. He is looking at the ground with a sad expression on his face; he has his hands behind his back, and is kicking a can. (Teaching point: cause and effect- what the other Wemmicks are saying, he believes.)
The next time we see a cause and effect situation, it is on the last page of the book, after Eli spends some time with Punchinello. From their meeting Punchinello learns that Eli thinks that he is special and that the stickers only stick if they matter to you. On page forty-six Lucado writes:
"Remember," Eli said as the Wemmick walked out the door, "you are special because I made you. And I don't make mistakes." Punchinello didn't stop, but in his heart he thought, I think he really means it. And when he did, a dot fell off to the ground.
Place a Post-it on this page and say, "Punchinello realizes that he is perfect and wonderful. See, when he believed in his heart that he is special, the dot fell off. I am sure glad that Punchinello realizes how special he is. Each and every person is special. No one is perfect, but that does not mean that we are not special." (Teaching Point: cause and effect- when Punchinello believed that he was special, then the dot fell off.)
Summarize with students. Ask the students the following questions:
- Do we give each other stars and dots?
- How can we learn to accept everyone's differences?
Describe what makes a person special: what he or she can do or who he or she is? Why?
- What do you think about Punchinello? Eli? Lucia?