With the end of the school year looming, many students are developing worries about the future. Their support system at school will be on vacation until August, their daily routine during the week will get mixed up, they won't see their classmates every day, they might go on vacation to new places, etc. I thought this would be a perfect time to read Wilma Jean Worry Machine by Julia Cook to our first graders. This book illustrates how a young girl catastrophizes her day, only to find that nothing goes wrong and everything goes right. We learn again and again that things work out for her, but she still continues to worry about the unknown. We all model her "pickle face" that she makes when she worries, and I enjoyed one students comment of how much I must be worried because I have a lot of wrinkles like Wilma Jean...
In the middle of the story I pause and ask students to write down one worry they might be having on a post-it. It could be a worry they have today, a worry about the future, a worry about second grade, any worry works! After they wrote down their worry, I had them place it on the chart (just as Wilma does in the story) to describe it as a worry they can control or a worry they cannot control. Worries we can control are flexible, like playdough. There are things we can do to make them better or prevent them. Worries we cannot control are more like rocks. No matter what we do, they can't be changed - like the weather, for example.
Most students start by putting their worries at the bottom of the chart, stating that they cannot control them. However, as we start discussing what we can control about each worry with suggestions from our classmates, the post-its start moving to the top of the chart just like Wilma's do in the story.
For example, what if we don't like the lunch that is served in the cafeteria? Well, we can take home a lunch menu to know what lunch will be ahead of time. We also can pack a lunch from home if it's something we don't like to eat. By focusing on the little things that we have control over, the worry begins to shrink and not matter so much.