BOOKS

creating caring classrooms book cover
Creating Caring Classrooms: How to Encourage Students to Communicate, Create, and Be Compassionate of Others
Kathleen Gould Lundy and Larry Swartz. Markham, ON: Pembroke Publishers, 2011. 159 pages, $24.95
*****
Reviewed by Catherine West

This is another in an outstanding series of publications from Pembroke Publishers by two highly respected Ontario authors. The book “asks teachers to consider the diverse needs of their students while they maintain high academic expectations and use resources that support high achievement,” or, more succinctly, “what it means to teach fairly in an unfair world.” The book is organized around “5 Cs:” Community, Communication, Collaboration, Compassion, and Confronting the bully. Each “C” is presented in a philosophical and theoretical framework and then unpacked through practical and thoughtful strategies including games, activities, lessons, teaching tips, literature resources (picture books and novels), other resources, reflection, and assessment.

This author team is known for providing busy teachers with useful models and prompts, along with a multitude of examples. Generous sidebars throughout provide powerful anecdotes supporting the ideas developed in the main text. The friendly format encourages readers to dip in anywhere and flip between chapters as they would with a magazine, always landing on a compelling idea or story.

I suspect that many teachers will look to the last chapter on bullying first. The chapter contains 12 ready-to-use lessons in which students clarify their understandings by representing relationships with shapes, defining the word, completing a questionnaire, adding text to a comic strip, completing sentences, improvising drama scenes from short prompts or scenarios, and so forth, followed by a process for the “so what?” section at the end of each activity. An appendix provides an extended list of anti-bullying resources including professional reading, reading for students, scripts, picture books, chapter books and novels for different age groups, anthologies, films, and websites.

The book is useful for any age group and directly relevant for Ontario teachers as part of the current focus on anti-bullying and character education. Many of the activities can be integrated with the regular curriculum, especially for language arts, drama, and visual art.

Catherine West is a member of the Elementary, Teachers of Toronto.

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