First Days of School, Writing

Classroom Lesson on Uniqueness and Inner Beauty

Sometimes, the best lessons don’t come from books…

A Lesson From Mother Nature: The Individual Beauty of Seashells

Last year, while walking down a gorgeous beach on Captiva Island, a lesson idea popped into my mind. As I gathered shells, I noticed the individual beauty of each one. The color, shape, and design of each shell was unique. I immediately thought of my students. Each of them were as diverse as the shells I collected. As I looked further, I noticed the imperfections of each shell. But to me, those imperfections were what made them special. Those blemishes were the tales and journeys each shell had been on. This made me reflect on the individual journeys each of my students were on. Their own life story, experiences that shape who they are. And from those thoughts and reflections, a lesson was created.

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Seashell Lesson

Lesson Materials

  • Shells of different shapes and sizes. Some shells should have imperfections, try to find ones with holes, broken parts, and discoloration.
  • Writing notebooks
  • Post-It Notes
  • Chart Paper
  • Poem/Quote

Setting Up

Before the lesson, have a chart with the quotes “Your imperfections make you beautiful, they make you who you are” and “Your journey and experiences make you beautifully unique”. Leave room for Post-Its to be placed around.

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In the meeting area, each child will need a clipboard, a copy of the quotes, one Post-It, and a pencil. I usually set these up before the lesson.

Lesson Procedure

  1. Set shells out so the students are able to view and touch them. Ask each child to choose one shell and come sit in the meeting area. Ask them to choose the shell they like the most. (Yes, kids will not always get the one they wanted, we review that concept before they start). If you hear kids saying “I don’t like this one, it’s ugly”, that is perfect! This lesson will hopefully change their mind.
  2. Once in the meeting area (or desks), have the students turn and talk with a partner about why they chose their shell. Tell them to be specific about their decision, what did they like about the shell? Listen in, what they say will be helpful in your whole class discussion. (2-3 minutes)
  3. After sharing their reasons, have the students draw their attention to the chart you will have hanging. Read the quotes to the class. This is a fresh read, do not stop and discuss.
  4. Next, hand each child a clipboard. The clipboard will have a copy of the quotes, a post-it, and a pencil.
  5. Have the students get with their writing partner to read over the quotes. After reading the quotes, the students should write what they think the quotes are trying to teach the reader on thier post-it. They will put their post-its on the chart surrounding the quotes, and come back to the meeting area. (5 minutes).
  6. Have a few students share their post-its and thoughts with the class. (2-3 minutes). The goal is for the students to observe that the quotes describe beauty as a person’s journey, not what they look like on the outside. Beauty is being unique.
  7. This is my favorite part, I ask the students to think about the shells, and what they thought made them beautiful. Did their ideas change after reading the quotes. You can say something like this, “Think about that perfectly shaped pink shell you chose. From the outside the world may call if beautiful, but without a single crack or hole, it’s journey may not be exciting. For all we know, it has never left the beach I found it on. Now look at this shell, yes its misshapen with a hole in the top, but imagine the journey it has been on. Think about the places it has seen, the animals it has come across is the vast ocean. The shell could be older than me. I find the uniqueness of this shell far more beautiful than one that has no imperfections. What do you think, turn and talk with your parter.”
  8. Now give the students one more chance to choose a shell. “Now that we have had some really great conversations about what really makes something beautiful, I will give you another chance to chose a shell. Once you chose your shell take a seat in your writing spot”.

Writing Activity Ideas

Writing About Your Shell’s Journey

“Now that you have your shell, notice it’s imperfections. Think about where that shell has been to get those holes, those marks, that discoloration. Write about where you think your shell has gone and what it has seen on its journey in life”

Writing About What Makes You Beautiful and Unique 

“Like the shells, your unique journey makes you beautiful. Write about what makes you beautiful and unique”

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