I discovered Julia Cook and her books last year thanks to a mom of my most difficult student at the time. I was telling her about his latest struggle with putting hands on other people (not necessarily in a mean way, just always touching which drove my kids with autism bonkers!). The mom heard about a book and handed it to me to see the best way to use it. That book was Personal Space Camp and I've been hooked on Julia Cook books ever since then!
I knew I loved her books and that they teach a wonderful amount of social skills, so this is how I chose to start my school year. We have a social skills curriculum called PATHS, but it takes awhile for it to cover all of the skills my kids need. At the beginning of the year, I want my kids knowing behavioral and social expectations PRONTO! What better way than to use Julia Cook books?! Then we started our Step Up to Writing curriculum and the whole beginning of the year focused on responding to text.
What does this mean??? INSTANT SOCIAL SKILLS IMMERSION! I found a way to use the ideas and curriculum I already need teach, plus cram in all of the important stuff I wanted my kids to know right away! The kids were seeing, hearing, writing, and discussing social skills! My kids would hear a different Julia Cook book every day or two, then practice written response.
Take a glimpse into how my class ran during our social skills cram sessions with Julia Cook books by seeing how we used her adorable book Sorry, I Forgot to Ask!
First I would pull out the book and the kids would all cheer, "YAY!! It's another RJ book!!" because they know the books so well. The boy on the cover is named RJ and many of Julia's books feature him as the main character. I have a class of 11 boys this year (and zero girls!) so he is a very easy character for my class t connect with. In every book he does some sort of social mistake, then learns how to do better next time so he doesn't get in trouble any more.
In this story, RJ gets into trouble when he does a whole series of things without asking permission first. It has a bunch of real life situations that kids might do such as playing games on the internet and choosing to walk home with a friend instead of take the bus like he should. Most of my class agreed that skipping rocks in the frog pond was the best part! Others preferred the part where he ate the chocolate cake!
In the end, RJ learns how to ask permission, accept "no" as an answer, and apologize when he makes mistakes. All of these are ESSENTIAL features of my classroom and things my kids were struggling with when we started the year. Now, I pull out this book any time my kids need a refresher on these concepts. The bonus is that they love to books so much that they cheer instead of grumble when I read a story a 2nd or 3rd time!
Responding to the Story
I read the story, now what?
- First I read the story using the "stop and think" strategy with the kids along the way to increase comprehension. Then we talking about the book and how RJ could have done things differently in the beginning of the book so he wouldn't get in trouble.
- The kids shared with their partner a time when they made a mistake by not asking permission and got in trouble (these are super funny to listen to while they chat!)
- Next, I had the kids write about the story and draw what happened in the beginning and the end of the story.
- Another option I've done with other Julia Cook books is to draw the sequence of events. Take a peek at the adorable pictures below when the kids responded to Thanks for the Feedback, I Think (another fabulous Cook book).