What a Wonderful World: Literature, Illustrations, and Character Ed (and a Tiny Bit of Counseling)

Today, I worked with second graders on "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong as part of Jazz Appreciation Month. I basically didn't do much beyond telling the students a little about Louis Armstrong and told them they might have heard the song before. ("YEAH, it was on Madagascar!!!) As the kids listened to it, I showed them the illustrated book What a Wonderful World, illustrated by Ashley Bryan. They wanted to hear it two times. (And the inaugural class on this lesson this year was my rowdiest, roughest second grade, with several kids who have behavior issues.). One of these kids actually said "Can we hear it again? I find it so calming." And they were calmed!

As an extension, I told them to think about their wonderful world. I passed out papers and gave them a writing cue: "_____________________makes my world wonderful because________________. Most of the kids jumped right in there with their families, their pets, their favorite TV shows.............except one little sad boy who said he just couldn't think about what made his world wonderful. He said his mom never hugged him. He said his pet just died. He doesn't have too many kids to play with. I asked him what activities he did that made him smile. He said: singing............There is a song that he and one of his few friends like to sing all the time that makes him smile. I told him that things that make him smile are part of his wonderful world. 

I mention this because this is a great lesson in not only integrating the topic of illustrators, but also provides a cool writing prompt that can help you "get in the heads" of your kids, like I did this kid. It could also be a trigger for some problem situations that you can then bring to the attention of a counselor if needed. It also proved to be a great classroom management tool! Something about Louis's gravely voice IS calming, even if it isn't pretty. The kids were really excited when I told them I was going to put these up on the walls outside my room. This was an opportunity to provide a piece of themselves they often didn't expect with music. And I'm going to assume they're going to remember Louis Armstrong and this song for a long time to come...........

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