A new look at a back to school favorite: The Kissing Hand


The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, has been a long time favorite story to use for back to school. Especially for our younger students who deal with separation anxiety, often for the first time, this story helps teachers talk with students about their feelings. I loved using this story. But, in a special education classroom, we often have students who are with us for many years and were not as excited to hear this story by year 3. Sometimes, even the best stories can get stale. So, I wanted to share with you a new approach to this favorite story.

At the end of this post, be sure to download the free sorting activity add a new twist to this back to school story.

As our students come back to school, they are faced with many changes. Our students with social and emotional challenges can often find these changes more challenging than other students do. That brings me to the first new way to look at this story:

Dealing with Change

Photo of change ahead

The bravery of this little raccoon is the perfect way to address constructive ways students can deal with change and the emotions that come with it. Of course social stories are a natural fit, but also adding related activities to explore further ways students can deal with the stress are also important.

Pull out the resources you may already have on dealing with change, and work them into your literacy lessons focused on The Kissing Hand. Social stories, circle maps, sorting appropriate and less appropriate ways to deal with your emotions, and power cards are all great ways to teach students on how to deal with change. (To read more about using power cards, visit my blog post on how to use them HERE.)

A Nonfiction Study

photo of raccoon

I know it is the doctor (veterinarian) in me, but I love exposing students to nonfiction studies on different animals. That is why I chose to put together a short unit on raccoons to use with this story. Often, our students have an easier time comprehending nonfiction content.

Raccoons actually play an important role in our ecosystem. They are masters at adapting to the extreme changes humans make to the environment. Due to the fear of rabies, raccoons have earned a reputation of a potential hazard. Although they certainly can carry this disease, it is not nearly as common as people fear. More often than not when a raccoon gets too close to a home or populated area (like a campground,) they are simply foraging for food.

If you do not want to take the time to put together an entire unit on raccoons, look for some National Geographic or other wildlife magazines that feature raccoons. In the past, I have even just quickly printed out some google images to pass around and share with the students.

If you would like to grab this sorting activity I created to go with my Kissing Hand unit, click the button below. It contains photos of real animals, some of which are raccoons and some that are not. There are also some great suggestions for differentiating this activity even more if needed.

Free raccoon/no raccoon sorting activity
Click the button below

With all the changes and uncertainty in 2020, I went back and added digital activities to this unit so it could be used for distance learning OR in the classroom. Look below for the link to the new unit. I also wanted to offer the sorting activity above in a digital format. So, now when you click the button above, you will also get information on how to access this same sorting activity using google slides!!

Raccoon digital sorting activity

I hope this has inspired you to breathe new life into an old favorite. Yes, I still made the heart in the hand craft every year. But, these additions made the story seem new and fresh to my students who had been with my for a few years.

If you would like to check out my entire unit on the Kissing Hand CLICK HERE (print and digital activities included)


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