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Mindful Mr. Sloth by Katy Hudson

Summer is behind us. For some, this is the first or second week of school. For others, it’s a prep week. For me, it’s prep, as well as Kindergarten orientation and screening. Like some of my colleagues, I’m most comfortable with a solid set of plans to start the year. This year, as always, I researched my book list, neatly organized my stacks, and printed my plans. Well, screening began on Wednesday, and the order of my first week plans went right out the window. You know what? I’m happy they did.

During her screening session, Kaydyn was introduced to our class mascots. Permit me to preface this story with a little history. During the last presidential election, Kindergartners insisted that we vote on another class mascot to serve as “a friend and helper” for our first mascot. Our first mascot is an elephant. Kindergartners voted in a sloth as the “vice mascot.” When Kaydyn saw the sloth, she shared the story of this amazing book she read with her family about a sloth, “who is sooooo slooow and thoughtful.” Kaydyn suggested that it would be a great book to read to friends in kindergarten, and offered to share her copy with us. After sharing the story with her mom, I received the book that same afternoon. Thank you Mrs. Callum!

The story chronicles Sasha’s many interests and adventures. Sasha is busy, very busy. She literally races through her activities, often not stopping to enjoy them in their entirety. Well, that’s until she meets a sloth 🦥 who’s accidentally fallen from his napping branch in the tree above Sasha’s treehouse. Sasha immediately befriends Mr. Sloth and drags him off from one activity to the next. When Mr. Sloth finally gets a word in, “Stoooop”, Sasha takes note. The story culminates with the following lesson.

What an apt lesson! Kaydyn, thank you for sharing your story, and this treasure. I may not have discovered it, if not for you. Thank you Katy Hudson. Your work is an inspiration. This is a wonderful mentor text that can be used across subject areas.

It’s an excellent text for Read Alouds as it’s sure to capture your students at their listening level. As educators, we are always looking for innovative and engaging ways to introduce and expose our students to language patterns, new vocabulary, and complex ideas. Add this book to the list of your resources.

During writer’s workshop, as students learn their writers’ craft, teachers can begin by sharing the power of illustrations. Hudson’s illustrations are arguably more powerful than her words. This text perfectly confirms the message that words and illustrations are complementary. We need not be verbocentric to share our stories. Our goal is to foster enthusiastic readers and writers. When students are able to use their art to inform and support their burgeoning writing skills, it’s amazing how quickly they progress from orally retelling their stories to labeling to adding sentences to their work.

During Social Studies or Morning Meetings, it can be used as a bridge to the discussion about friendship and respect for each other and what that looks like. From the time they meet, Sasha decides that Mr. Sloth is her best friend. As the story evolves, Mr. Sloth shows and tells Sasha what he needs in order to make their relationship a true friendship.

Finally, it’s a lesson in mindfulness; not simply what it is but, how and why it needs to be an instructional practice. We use our senses to connect to the world around us. When we “stoooop” long enough to think 🤔, to ask ourselves, “Why do we carry on the way we do?” The process of changing any undesirable habits can begin. Sasha does EVERYTHING so fast, she misses out on life’s joys and treasures. Mr. Sloth literally teaches her to stop and “smmeeellll” the flowers; to engage her entire self in what’s presently before her.

As we begin a new learning journey as parents, as educators, as students, let’s take a moment to breathe, put things in perspective, and whole-heartedly enjoy the process. Why? Because, the understanding and complete processing of the whats, the hows, and the whys makes the sharing of our stories, and this personal learning journey memorable and authentic.

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