Learning Life Skills through Picture Books

Amy Evans

Every day, my Grade 2 students come into the classroom with smiles on their faces and a question on their minds: “Whose bucket will I fill today?” The children join me on the carpet as I take the attendance. They are eager to share how they plan to fill each other’s bucket. This concept came from the picture book by Carol McCloud called  Have You Filled a Bucket Today?  and emphasizes authentic community service. Emily says, “I want to fill Elaine’s bucket by helping her with her spelling.” Daniel says, “I am going to fill your bucket, Ms. Y., by being a good listener.” As some students share how they would care for others, more hands go up. The quiet ones now have something to share and are eager to help out. One student says, “I will make sure that our class library is organized.” Another says, “I will say thank you to those who help me with my work.” One by one, the students share their ideas. The positive energy created in the classroom is palpable and this energy has become our “code of behaviour.” We set our intention each morning to do our personal best … no bucket dipping allowed!

Since the first week of September we have been using  The Journey to Excellence  program in our classroom.  The Journey to Excellence  is a uniquely different character education program that teaches children the true meaning of “personal best.” It develops a child’s self-esteem by teaching character from the inside out.  The Journey to Excellence  consists of seven life skills that, when explicitly taught, build a child’s self-awareness, self-appreciation and self-love. Students are invited on a journey of exploration to uncover their unique qualities, passions and talents. This exploration begins in Kindergarten and continues throughout their school career. The seven life skills are not an “add-on” to the curriculum. After the skills are explicitly taught, they are easily integrated into all areas of the curriculum. Students are encouraged to build a portfolio to house personal artifacts and activities completed throughout the year. The integration of the seven life skills creates a positive emotional climate within the child, within the classroom and within the school community.

The seven life skills in  The Journey to Excellence  program include

  • Uniqueness
  • Intuition
  • Reflection
  • Visualizing
  • Goal-Setting
  • Mentors
  • Community Service



empty elementary classroom

This September, after several years as a program resource consultant and a term as an acting vice-principal, I’m returning to the classroom

Students sitting at large desks in classroom

The point of talking about privilege is not to make people feel bad, or guilty; it is that recognizing privilege is the only hope we have of breaking down the system to make it fairer for everyone.