Being friends with really cool people can sometimes lead me down the “compare and despair” spiral of gloom. My husband is an artist. I’m not. One of my friends is a belly dancer. I’m not. Another friend is an organic gardener. I grow weeds. *sigh* So when I saw Pam Smallcomb’s book I’m Not with its adorable illustrations by Robert Weinstock, I knew I’d found the picture book for me. The main character (a crocodile? An alligator? A dinosaur with a little pink bow on her head?) is a bit jealous of her friend, Evelyn. “She’s not one single bit ordinary. And she’s a little mysterious. I’m not.” Evelyn is stylish, talented, energetic, and creative. (Most of my friends are Evelyns.) The croco-gator-dinosaur is not. But she makes yummy cookies, isn’t afraid of the dark, and is a good speller. Evelyn isn’t. And Evelyn needs “a true-blue friend”, which our main character most certainly is.
After reading I’m Not, put signs in three corners of your classroom: “I’m not”, “I am” and “I am, sometimes”. Start with a statement inspired by Smallcomb’s book: “If I were a car, I would get a speeding ticket.” Let students sort themselves into one of the three areas. Give more statements for students to sort themselves. You can turn these statements into the ice-breaker game of “Buddy Bingo” for a Self-Smart reading activity. Write the statements in squares on sheets of paper like a Bingo card. (To keep an upbeat vibe going, I’d choose all positive statements!) Tape a sheet to each student’s back, or give each student the sheet on a clipboard. Students can write their names in squares they feel describe them, but they should write only once on any sheet. See if your students can find enough different classmates to fill the squares, and let them choose one to fill in on their own page. Rather than focus on what we are not, encourage your students to focus on all that we are. I am!